Banking / Financial

Emerging Leaders in Focus

Attracting and retaining next generation financial leaders.

Many current banking leaders remember the days of passbook savings accounts and in-branch gifts to spur CD deposits. The next generation contemplates opportunities and risks associated with new technology and competition from alternative lenders and FinTechs.

In these transitional times, what can future leaders learn from the experience of senior executives? Are next-gen bankers sharing ideas and inspiration with their peers? How can New Jersey’s financial institutions attract and retain the best and brightest individuals to the banking industry?

The answers provide an intriguing look at an evolving balance between traditional, personalized, relationship banking and online, digital platforms, plus an understanding of the motivations and challenges of some of the emerging leaders in New Jersey’s banking community.

James S. Vaccaro, chairman, president & CEO of Manasquan Bank, says his institution has an abundance of mentors, teachers and supporters. “We view those roles to be a critical responsibility of our entire management team,” Vaccaro adds. “The next generation and current leaders share more similarities than differences. They are both primarily motivated by making a positive institutional impact; financially, socially and intellectually.”

Nick Martin, marketing coordinator and assistant treasurer at Manasquan Bank, notes that he can draw upon the lessons learned from many mentors in his career path, including Vaccaro. “In our organization, Jim [Vaccaro] has inspired a lot of us to wake up every day and want to reinvent ourselves,” Martin states. “His passion for our industry and our brand has allowed a lot of the younger bankers to truly want to continue to excel in the banking industry and strive for continued organizational innovation.”

Martin was named among the 2019 Independent Community Bankers of America’s 40 Under 40 and is a member of NJBankers’ Emerging Financial Leaders Group.

Formed in 2018, the group provides opportunities for emerging leaders in the banking industry, ages 21 to 40, to take their careers to the next level through educational programming and networking opportunities. In addition, the Group provides support to local communities through philanthropic activities and outreach.

With sponsorship support from Fulton Bank, NJBankers’ launched the Emerging Leaders Program designed to enhance the organizational, performance and leadership skills of highly motivated managers who have the potential to become future leaders in the banking industry. The nine-month blended learning program, which requires online participation and attendance at full day programs, is designed to develop the next generation of financial leadership. Focuses include areas like leading change, maximizing team development, talent development/performance management, communication effectiveness, strategic banking and individual development planning.

NJBankers also recognizes up-and-coming leaders in the New Jersey banking industry through its annual Rising Stars Awards.

Khanh Le, senior vice president, senior relationship manager, Bank of America, and also an Emerging Financial Leaders Group member, says he joined his peers because of the institutional age gap he recognized between generations. “There are not enough next-gen leaders to take over when current leaders retire,” Le points out, citing a lack of credit training programs post-recession and under-emphasis on careers in banking. “That’s why it was important for me to join the group and to push other young bankers to promote opportunities in banking.”

Bank of America Senior Vice President/Market Manager Michael O’Brien also notes the recession’s impact on the banking industry and applauds NJBankers programs designed to help attract and retain top talent. “Developing individuals, no matter where they are contributing to our organization, is our number one responsibility,” O’Brien says. “Bank of America is a great place to work; we believe it’s important to take care of people so they can take care of our customers.”

“When you see someone like Khanh Le, with a great education, locally hired and trained with a firm grasp on technological change, you want to help people like him grow in their careers,” O’Brien adds. “Leadership is simple; it’s about relationships and trust both externally and internally. Khanh is successful because he has cultivated and built relationships.”

“At our institution, we have populated a group called the ‘New Wave Advisory Council,’” Manasquan Bank’s Nick Martin highlights. “The ‘membership’ of this group is comprised of banking colleagues (Generation X, Y and Z) who, beyond their daily responsibilities, meet periodically outside of the bank to brainstorm and provide institutional guidance regarding a number of critical issues that will ensure the future success, relevance and sustainability of our franchise.”

“One thing about younger generations: we are willing to speak up and ask questions,” Bank of America’s Le says. “At the same time, young people can have all the education and training, but there is no substitute for experience. The knowledge veteran bankers have accumulated can’t be taught. When I’m stumped trying to solve a client’s needs and ask for ideas, they will share similar experiences, tell me what they did, what they should have done, and what they recommend in my situation. I rely on and value their input.”

“Future leaders need the skills to not stay stagnant and to have the ability to quickly adapt to the changing banking environment,” Martin says. “I think future leaders need to realize that some of the tools we utilize in our daily routines such as social media, or mobile payments like Zelle, are going to continue to drive our evolving economy for years to come. If you look at the digital age we are entering, you can hardly find a login that doesn’t possess some form of social integration. It is our news source, our interpersonal source, and our analytical source for future growth. “

The entire industry is rapidly transforming, Manasquan Bank’s Vaccaro agrees, to one that requires multiple and varied skill sets. Technological competence, he adds, must be integrated with interpersonal skills.

“The upcoming generations have to overcome negative personas that some individuals have labeled them with and demonstrate how they can prevail as a leader of an organization,” Vaccaro concludes. “Future leaders are energetic, eager to learn, inquisitive and are unwilling to accept the status quo. Those traits will be the drivers of success in the financial services industry.”

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