James Vaccaro

Change seems to be the single most constant in our society and the financial services industry certainly has no immunity from that dynamic. . Keeping pace with industry change may present a challenge, but by both driving and embracing it we can set a course for future success in our industry.  We, as bankers, must step outside of our comfort zone and begin to understand the prospective tools required to effectively attract, retain and engage a new generation of both customers and bankers. Effective and sustainable change begins with you and me.

We recognize the conventional industry pressures we must concern ourselves with each and every day. We have regulatory and compliance pressures, political stresses, risk management and cyber security demands just to name a few.  It is widely understood that these forces are imbedded in our chosen industry. While we may be the beneficiaries of some incremental relief in the near term rest assured that our industry will always face new regulatory, economic and market challenges.

We must take those challenges and transform them into market opportunities. We have an obligation to reinvent our business model and create an environment that results in an industry that is vibrant, financially successful and market relevant.  Without an open view of industry and a mindset of institutional transformation, we are at risk of losing talented, motivated and energetic people; the same talent our organizations require to ensure a successful future.

We have chosen and are privileged to be leaders in this industry. We fully understand the strong and entrenched underpinnings that have been the foundation for remarkable sustainability. We must now utilize and leverage that strong and enduring base to our collective advantage by attracting and grooming the talent that will be the next generation of leaders. I suggest that you add this initiative to your strategic plan and then ensure that the tactics are in place to properly execute.. It will also help you move forward developing your succession plan. This process is just as important as your business development efforts.

Bankers must accept that in order to make the industry attractive to this up and coming demographic, the Millennials, we must present ourselves differently. In order to do this, we need to lead differently. We need to disrupt the status quo. We need to learn about the next generation’s thoughts and behavior which are very different from past generations. We then need to educate a talented and motivated individual on why to join us and then stay with us. We need to be nimble, innovative and drive independent thought. We need to make a connection now.

Former Chairwoman Angela Snyder identified a need and spurred out thought process about emerging leaders. She led an effort to ensure the future of our banks and our industry by embracing a generation that would rather work in a conference room with peers than sit in a corner office behind a desk. Her vision for educating, mentoring and coaching emerging leaders is why the Association launched the NJBankers Leadership Academy. The Academy provides the tools for the upcoming stars in our respective organizations who will move your bank forward.

We, at Manasquan Bank, recognized this opportunity to benefit the bank and enrolled one of our up-and-coming stars who embraced the program’s challenges and is sure to make a long term, positive impact on our enterprise. You need to determine who your rising stars are as well. You will also need to recruit future stars. They will be catalysts for change and will impact the bank favorably.

Presently, our industry may not fully recognize the ingredients that are required to attract and retain Millennials. Millennials are just “different”. Many of us are aware that the next generation of leaders wants to do something positive and impactful in their lives. We need to communicate that as bankers, we positively impact people, businesses and communities we serve every day. If we want talent, we need to change the conversation.

Boomers, Gen X and Millennials will need to collaborate. We need cross-fertilization of ideas and approaches because doing so will ensure that our banks will thrive. . We can no longer reward stagnation but must reward innovation.

I was asked recently how we can prepare our organizations for the future. Clearly a new way of thinking must emerge.  Surround yourself with fresh ideas, energy and embrace change. Be the leader that is disruptive, inspiring and has an open mind. We need to respect the past and embrace the future. I advise you to take ownership of this transformative process. This will be the path for attracting and retaining a new generation of leaders and ensuring your bank thrives, your customers thrive and the communities you serve thrive.