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July 10, 2012 by Ted Thames Ted Thames

Unsung Heroes

120710aI’m one of those people that gets all teary-eyed and emotional on the 4th of July (aw c’mon, I’m not the only one!), and as I waxed reflective last week in my Ford F150/wading pool, it struck me that it’s time to celebrate some of the truly unsung heroes of the financial services industry. We know these people; they’re the employees who make things work, really get things done, when all of the fancy idea guys get -done with their strategic thinking and cheese-moving. They are all around us, usually deep in the org chart, and if they’re lucky they get a 2% raise once in a while and a kind word from a selfish manager once or twice a year.

The names I use here are fictional, but I know you have all met these folks.

120710bWillie Appruhv is a consumer loan officer. He works in a branch during the week and often pulls lonely weekend duty to support the underwriting of weekend applications. The customer at the moment wants to buy a Porsche that is clearly beyond his means. Willie is hardly the kind of guy to look at the matrix and make a quick decline. No, that’s not how Willie rolls. He will find a way to make the loan, even if it means making a creative counter-offer, encouraging the customer to buy the Civic instead of the Porsche, and have some cash left over to buy those Euro-chic leather driving gloves.   A simple, common sense approach, but rare and worth celebrating.

120710cCharlene Vertex is a teller (not a seller!) in a branch in the ’burbs. She has two smart-mouthed kids and is struggling to make ends meet because her deadbeat ex doesn’t include “Make child support payments” on his To-Do list. She processes transactions until her break, makes sure there are dye packs present in any money handed out to armed thieves, and then images all the work herself. If she gets behind, she uses part of her lunch half-hour to catch up. Customers absolutely love her because she is always positive, always smiling and always treating every customer like a prized shareholder. She wants to move up in the organization but is having trouble getting noticed. Unsung.

120710dSusan Transpose′ works in accounting at a small thrift, where she primarily reconciles GL accounts and squints at her monitor. Her husband passed away three years ago, so she continues to work to support herself and a grandson she takes care of. Her job is easy but monotonous, and her schedule is smooth as silk until month-end when she has to pull through an ungodly amount of manual work. The bank’s GL platform is antiquated and does not integrate well with the core system or the ancient DOS mortgage lending platform. (It is cheaper for the bank to pay Susan overtime than to pay for integration.) This means Susan pays extra for babysitting while she completes the manual processes necessary to close. We won’t even talk about call reports. Too soon! Susan is yet another indispensible sled dog of an employee who tends to our crucial details in relative anonymity.

Charlie Provenir is a commercial loan officer who lost part of his left leg while stationed in Korea. Even with his physical challenges, he has developed a strong book of business by being involved in the community and the Special Olympics. He works diligently to understand the operations and financial nuances of his customers and has become a trusted advisor to many of them. Charlie always makes an effort to help the young punk lenders, even the ones who call him “Dinosaur.” He does not promote his own success. While Charlie’s loan portfolio holds its own, his true value to the company is the mostly unrecognized intangibles. 

120710ePaula Isitpluggedin works the I.T. help desk and takes calls from inside the organization related to data issues, forgotten passwords, how-to’s and break-fix problems. Paula has never once muttered “Stupid users!” under her breath (though it has crossed her mind a time or two). Paula has two daughters in scouts and volunteers regularly to go along on campouts. Even though she has a busy weekend schedule, she often stays after hours or comes in on the weekend to help out. She never complains, and her diligence is rarely noticed, let alone rewarded.

Anne Marie Steno is the executive secretary for the CEO and the Board of Directors. She has been with the bank for 23 years and has survived three CEOs with wildly different personalities and management styles. She is legendary for accurate note-taking, perfect legal submittals and keeping up with the needs of the CEO and Board members, some of whom think she works for them, personally. Anne Marie does all this while taking care of her aging mother who has special needs.  Anne Marie got a bonus. Once.

What do all these people have in common? The simple fact is we can’t run without them. They are always positive contributors. They’re always ready to take one for the team. Sadly, we often spend our time trying to motivate folks that are not as committed. While we don’t intentionally take them for granted, we often do. As we celebrate our blessings, let’s remember the unsung heroes within our organizations. Notice them.  Celebrate them. They are the most valuable assets we have.

While we are celebrating people, I would just like to express my appreciation and thanks for the support staff at Cornerstone. They are the best in the world.
-TT



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