Christopher D. Maher  

I am deeply honored to serve as Chair of the New Jersey Bankers Association for 2022-2023. On behalf of the entire team at NJ Bankers our sincere thanks to John Fitzgerald for his leadership as Chair during his term; certainly, John’s contributions are greatly appreciated and leave me with a high standard to meet.

While we are all well aware of the multiple issues facing our industry – including an inflationary economic environment and the stubborn persistence of Covid-19 – my early conversations with members consistently underscore our primary challenge in the current market: supplying our institutions with the talent we need to succeed today and prosper in an uncertain future. 

A Profession with a Purpose

There is much we can do to improve the effectiveness our our existing staff, but the key to our long-term competitiveness will be the extraordinary new talent that we attract into our industry.  Before we can promote our banks as an attractive career choice, we need to demonstrate that the industry is one of promise and opportunity for all.  When I joined the banking industry in 1986, I recall feeling that banking was a noble profession; one that required integrity, specialized skills, and was an integral part of the larger community.  Let’s see if we can rebuild the industry brand together.

It should not be hard to make the case that a career in banking might be the right path for someone seeking a job with a purpose. We all know that homeowners, businesses, non-profit organizations, and entire communities can’t exist without credit, savings, treasury, and other financial services. Bankers provide the conduit through which funding flows into their communities – expanding access to housing, building strong businesses, creating and preserving jobs, and financing vital healthcare, education, and charitable institutions. Of course, the satisfaction of providing an economic lifeline for one’s community is just one of the rewards of being a banker. At its core, banking is a business of human connections. It is about forming relationships with clients, getting to know individuals, families and business owners, and helping them realize their dreams.     

A Commitment to Diversity

In addition, the need to continue to advance the degree of diversity at the highest levels of our organizations is an important for the future of our industry.  While progress has been made, much remains to be done.  Over the long term, we simply must appeal to a much wider pool of candidates and cultivate a vastly higher number of staff that bring their unique backgrounds and experiences to our organizations.  Having a workforce and leadership group that more closely reflects our communities will enhance our credibility and encourage broad economic participation from all.

During my tenure as Chair, I’d like to build on the great work of those who have served in this role before me.  Let’s work together to strengthen and grow the ELN group, advance the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, and explore the opportunity to boost the industry’s profile among college students.

Collaboration to Make a Difference

I welcome your feedback regarding the talent and diversity challenges facing your institutions, and any ideas regarding how NJBankers might be able to support your efforts to recruit, develop, and retain talent in your organizations.  Along these lines, I have already asked the NJBankers staff to explore creating a multi-bank, shared internship program that would attract young talent into our organizations and allow the New Jersey banking industry the opportunity to gain the attention of college students pursuing opportunities in a variety of professions, including finance, accounting, technology, engineering, and public policy.  Such a program could include coordinated outreach to college career planning offices, a unified profile on career social media hubs like Handshake, content and training support, and a utility to allow college students to file a common employment application for opportunities with all NJBankers members.  It can be challenging to communicate the dynamic opportunity in our organizations separately – but together our voice will stand out.

Looking Forward Together

Before we look ahead, it is important to again recognize the extraordinary work of those who have come before us.  On behalf of the entire membership our thanks to John McWeeney for his tireless service to our industry as he retires at the end of June 2022.  And again, our appreciation to John Fitzgerald for his service as Chair from 2021-2022.

I look forward to working with Mike Affuso and the entire staff at NJ Bankers as well as our officers, board, and members.  Working together, I know we can make a difference and have an outstanding year.