It’s been a big week—my first official week as Quontic’s Chief Empowerment Officer. The first thing everyone has asked me so far is “What is a Chief Empowerment Officer, exactly?”
It’s important to know that we believe that community banking can and should be different. That the culture and mission of a community bank should be one that is meaningful and vibrant. Part of our purpose as a CDFI is to bank the underbanked and empower them—and, at Quontic, we believe companies should empower BOTH customers and employees.
That’s where I come in.
My purpose in this role is to give you, our team, a channel to initiate change, participate in change, and cultivate change within our bank, our industry, and the world. My role is to provide resources and opportunities for you, our employees, to feel comfortable bringing your authentic selves to work, whether that’s through employee-led engagement activities, wellness resources, virtual appreciation events, or even fun, creative projects.
In short, I am focused on empowerment. This means working to create a sense of belonging at Quontic reflective of our D&I initiatives, and increasing our efforts in and around D&I. This has an even deeper meaning given our role as one of the few national CDFI banks, and our ongoing work to build more and deeper partnerships as a CDFI. And, of course, this means remaining focused on empowerment in terms of community banks, in building a path for the future of our industry to make us stronger than ever before.
Right when I started in my initial role as Vice President of Specialty Banking in April—that’s when COVID hit. As our team focused on reframing our thinking at the bank, one thing became clear: Quontic employees are like no other. I completely fell in love because Quontic’s leadership has a uniquely inclusive mindset. My team made me want to jump in and assist in any and every aspect of the bank that I was asked to, learning the culture of Quontic and practicing the core values daily.
So it was those experiences early-on that helped shape the pillars of my new role as Chief Empowerment Officer. A pillar is a tower of strength, a foundation. They all need to work together to uphold my mission in this role—just like Quontic’s strategic anchors and core values work together to uphold our mission to break the system for financial empowerment.
One of these pillars is culture development and nurturing. Our founder and CEO Steve Schnall, and our Chief Innovation Officer Patrick Sells have built a special culture at the bank. Part of developing this culture is making sure our employees are heard. So I’ll be in this ambassadorial role that sits between employees and leadership and brings your voice to the table, especially since we’re all remote and there’s no water cooler to chat around or offices to pop into and ask a question. It’s important that there’s an actual human, not just a suggestion box, to listen to the needs of our employees and figure out how to nurture and cultivate those needs.
Then there are internal & external corporate communications. Right now, we’re all remote workers communicating either through email or through video calls. We used to say, “Oh, we’ll just do it this way until we go back into the office.” Well, the reality is, we have very few roles that need to be in office. So part of my job is figuring out how to make the way we communicate fun and engaging. It can sound trite… but this year is different. We know people are logging on to train someone while caring for their children who are doing hybrid schooling. I can’t even begin to imagine the multitude of possibilities that we, as your employer, can do to make your lives so much easier. But we’re doing it. Whatever small tweaks we can make as a bank, we need to make it part of our DNA. Part of my job is to figure out how to do that.
Two other pillars to my job—CDFI and the idea of “True Digital”— represent Quontic’s role within the industry. Our status as a CDFI means that empowerment is at our core. Not everyone gets to get paid to make the world a better place. We do work that does good in the world, and I’m in a unique position to ensure that we’re empowering our customers. And, with the idea of “True Digital,” we’re empowering our competitors, too, in terms of building an ecosystem to better the community banking industry. I like to say that a high tide lifts all boats. If you don’t know where to start, we’re here to provide a roadmap. There’s enough business to go around and we all do specific things. One community bank in the Midwest may lean heavily into agriculture, but we’re from NYC… we’re not the right bank for that. But what we can provide is our digital framework, and it could serve as a jumping-off point for that bank.
With those, and a few other pillars to this role, I’ve been able to hit the ground running with initiatives focused on culture development and nurturing, social impact and community service, corporate communications, industry-wide collaboration and diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
And, a key part of those initiatives? They aren’t fluff. They’re tangible and they empower our Quontic family. For example:
- Paid time off to vote empowers our employees to use their constitutional right to have their voices heard.
- Training and development empowers our employees to have access to tools that expand their knowledge.
- Organized community service empowers our employees to give back to their community through impactful services.
- Connectedness and belonging activities and opportunities empowers our employees to showcase and share their unique skills or hobbies with other employees.
- Internal corporate communications empowers our employees to feel safe and included in corporate decisions.
To my colleagues at Quontic, these initiatives are just the start. I am thrilled to be in this role, in a position to push innovation forward not only for the bank but for everyone who’s worked through this pandemic with us, for the newbies, for everyone who’s hopped on a Zoom lunch or monthly all-team meeting with me.
To our peers in the banking industry, we are ready to do this with you. Collaboration is winning. Let’s do it together.