Episode 23: Joe Sullivan
Navigating Change and Building Resilience in Banking with Joe Sullivan
Join us for insightful conversations on resilience in the banking industry with Joe Sullivan, an experienced consultant with a unique perspective on navigating change and building resilience in the ever-evolving financial landscape. In this podcast, we delve into Joe's journey, from the inception of his resilience project during the pandemic to its impact on the banking world today.
Discover how individuals, managers, and organizations can foster resilience, adapt to rapid industry changes, and find purpose in their roles. Gain valuable insights into the intersection of personal growth, empathy, and the future of banking in an era of constant transformation. Don't miss this engaging exploration of the strategies and stories that shape the resilient leaders of tomorrow.Click to Watch the Video
Joe Sullivan 00:00
Whenever I read something about our industry, I feel more connected to it. You know, whenever I read through something, a different point of view on something I learn and I feel more connected to it. So that takes away sometimes our fear of the unknown is if we just read and I think read anything, read stuff for fun as well, like pick a favorite mystery author, if that's your thing.
Jack Hubbard 00:24
I've had the privilege of being in and around banking for more than 50 years. Lots of changes during that time. We've gone from Ledger's to laptops, typewriters to technology. One thing, however, remains the same. Banking is a people business. And I'll be talking with those people that make banking great here on Jack Rants With Modern bankers.
Welcome to Jack Rants With Modern Bankers brought to you by RelPro, and Vertical IQ. Each week I feature top voices in financial services from bankers and consultants, to best selling authors and many more. The goal of this program is simple, to provide insights, success practices and to bring new ideas to the table that you can use to maximize your results.
I've been really looking forward to this program today because my guest is Joe Sullivan. Joe is a great friend over the past three decades, he's thoughtful, and a phenomenal consultant. Joe from an education perspective, and he's always learning, has a BA from Lawrence Technical College and an MBA from Loyola University in Chicago. He also has an MA degree in psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.
After a short stint with Crowe Horwath, Joe started his own firm about 30 years ago. It's called Market Insights. It's a Seattle based company that helps bring clarity to the complex choices faced by community based financial institutions. Joe's team has assisted more than 400 institutions across the United States with research and recommendations impacting their performance, their profitability, and their people. On this Jack Rants With Modern Bankers, we talk about personal and corporate resilience. It's my thought provoking interview with my good friend, Joe Sullivan. Here we go.
So as I mentioned in the introduction, you know, I've known Joe Sullivan for almost as long as he's been in business, and that's about 30 years. And whenever something happens around strategic planning, or branch citing or lots of other things like that, or a small business, somebody calls me, I refer him to Joe Sullivan and his team. So it's great to have you with us, Joe, as I always like to start the program. I like to start with telling me something good. And the reason I do that is because there's so much challenge in the world today. And our subject matter today is resilience. And so we're going to talk a lot about that but Joe, tell me something good.
Joe Sullivan 03:06
All right, here's something good. I have all the hope and all the belief that the younger generation is the future of this world in this industry. Just like during the Great Recession of 2008, we could very safely say that the millennials helped to pull us out of that. And I would say now and what we've been through in the last four or five years, it's Gen Z. So what makes me most hopeful is the mindset. And by the way, I'm going to say anybody under the age of 40 generally thinks they're not taking along that idea. We've always done it this way. But they say, let's figure out a solution. Let's be in the here and now moving forward and not look back. That's what makes me most optimistic, which is how I would say, tell me something good. (That's great. Joe) Great to be with you Jack, by the way.
Jack Hubbard 03:58
Ohh, thanks so much. And you have done so much in your career. But like a lot of us you've done a little bit of pivoting. And one of the things you did several years ago was to talk more about not you didn't stop doing what you were doing, but you're getting into some additional subject matter that are so important for banking and for the human race. And one of those is resilience. And I'm curious, before we get into this, how did this all begin? What was your transition to say? I gotta do something a little bit different here.
Joe Sullivan 04:36
So there's two ways to answer that question. First is during the pandemic, like many of us, we were grounded and not able to go to the airport and do our job. You remember that? Well, I thought, I arranged a small discussion group on zoom with a group of friends where I said if you'll be my guinea pig for four weeks, we'll meet once a week on Zoom. And we're going to talk about this idea of resilience. They said, I want you to give me feedback on what you'd think of this, whether it's helpful. So that discussion group turned into a couple of my bankers that, you know, being in the guinea pig group. And then one of them said, I want you to take this into my bank, because she said, we're having trouble with culture. So how this fits in is, this industry is not going to slow down.
I mean, Jim Bruce, from the financial brand said it better than I do. He said, you know, never have things moved as fast as they're moving today. And guess what, they're never going to move as slow as they're moving today. So that idea of, I want people to let go of this expectation that we're going to get back to some normal that was, we have to help people believe in their own resilience, their own ability to make changes and pivot. So myself and how that pivot came into play. You're right, we still study markets, demographic studies and acquisitions and planning and all that. But we have to help the bankers that we work with whether they're in the C suite, or a brand new hire, to believe that they can pivot to believe that the change is a good thing, and not something to be feared.
And I want to impact our mindset, because at the core of my company, is this idea of we want to help people shift the mindset, that's what's gonna happen in the banking industry, they can do all the technology, they can make the acquisition, they can open or close branches or hire new people but until we impart this idea of we can withstand, hardening, we can withstand and adapt to change. So what started out as a pet project, during the pandemic with a group of friends got rolled into my banks, it became a series of speeches and the Association of Women in Science was my first speech to talk about resilience. So I could go on and on, but maybe I will put a little bow on that and say, that's how the pivot happened.
Jack Hubbard 07:05
Interesting. So it sounds to me like what we're talking about with resilience is an individual resilience, a bank resilience and an industry resilience. But before we go any further, there are probably a lot of definitions of resilience. What's yours, Joe?
Joe Sullivan 07:25
You know, I'm gonna give you my official definition, it is the ability to withstand, adapt, and recover from adversity and stress.
Jack Hubbard 07:35
Interesting. And so why is this so important now, in banking?
Joe Sullivan 07:43
You know, people don't necessarily view banking as a rapidly innovating industry, but it is. Historically, banking has been kind of that place that was stable, where people could hang out for 30 or 35 years in a career. And then along 2007, before the Great Recession, the iPhone came along, and people became more self-serving in terms of using their iPhone for everything. But the bottom line, it's a nonstop diet of change. The speed is moving faster, old ways of measuring success, like taking deposits, gathering at a branch, which is almost an irrelevant measure, sometimes.
All these things that they thought were the way that banking worked or no longer. And so I believe that every client that hires market insights, yes, we're gonna help them analyze a business situation, or small business potential, or whatever the case may be. But we have to help them say this is the new normal, we have to make decisions faster. We have to let go of things that no longer work, we have to try new things, we have to be willing to innovate.
So this idea of resilience, and dare I say, it's become a little cliche, which bothers me. So I want people to go back to the basics. What do I need to do differently? I believe in my own resilience, that I can withstand these changes, these changes in staffing at my bank, my bank gets acquired or a core conversion, you name it go on and on. If we help them at the individual level, believe that they are resilient, they will take more risks, appropriate risks, of course, they will take more action. And in doing so the organization itself will become more resilient.
Jack Hubbard 09:37
Well, let me pick up that a little bit, Joe, because if you want an individual to kind of be innovative and know that there's a safety net, etc, within the guidelines of our industry, certainly, I would guess that you've done a lot of work looking at managers, whether they're sales managers or non sales managers, and in your work there. What have you found that managers are able to do to help people with this resilience?
Joe Sullivan 10:06
You know, I think of a bank in particular, but there's been many. They coach their people, and you know a lot about coaching, they see the whole human being. And that's what I learned during my project during the pandemic is that we have to see people, as individuals, that there's this blurring of the lines between the business life and the personal life. And I think that, and that's a good thing.
So I think that managers and the ones that we've seen that have had the greatest success are, if you are my direct report, Jack, I would know what's going on with you and your life, and maybe what you love to do on the weekends, and whether you'd like to go biking or running or playing golf, it is knowing those things. And I think that opens the door for the people that work for that manager, to feel seen and heard, and to be more excited about the things that they need to learn, because maybe they need new skills, and so forth.
So I think it boils down to that as a starting point. And you don't need to have a CEO job to be a leader. In my opinion, a leader is someone who listens and sees other people for who they are and takes them where they're at and I think that's what's missing in a lot of corporate America, and not just banking, not everywhere. There are amazing stories of leaders inside banking, doing great things.
Jack Hubbard 11:31
And I think that, you know, this whole idea around individualization of motivation becomes really important, you know, I just don't think you can motivate anybody to do anything but you can create an environment where they want to perform well, and they are fulfilled in whatever job they do because you understand what motivates them, you understand how you put environment into place when you coach them, that says, I want to help you be able to succeed at whatever level you want to succeed.
I'm curious if we go deeper on this, you mentioned the pandemic and how you kind of got started with your resilience there. As it relates to this whole idea of coaching and managing resilience. What effect has remote work had on this process?
Joe Sullivan 12:28
You know, I've heard, you know, just like you, I've talked to just hundreds of clients, I mean, all the time, and some people have done it really well. And some people have not managed it well. I think just the idea of work from home in general. And I think a lot of it's here to stay whether organizations want to hear that or not. I think… How do we want to say this?
Again, you've got to, you've got to have mechanisms in place to stay connected. This idea of human connection, which has long been a belief of mine. So if we've got an entire remote team, my team has been remote since 2009. And you've run a very remote team as well. And we know each other, we have regular systems for check ins, we have ways to have fun. So I think that you have to, we have to stop getting back to that everybody's going to come to the office and say roughly 30% On average, which is the number I'm hearing is going to stay in some kind of hybrid model or work from home at least a few days a week.
So how do we stay connected to them? Do we give them enough autonomy here? I hope to do their job given the skills and the technology that they need with the right connections to work from home. But we've got to have regular check ins, regular ways of having fun, regular ways of seeing each each other for the stuff that's outside of our day to day job and see them as people just like you I'm sure you've done everything from wine tastings to class reunions, you know all that stuff that happened during the pandemic.
Some of that taught us something that the face to face connection can happen in digital, I feel just as connected looking across the screen as you as if we were sitting across a table from each other. So I'm not sure if I answered your question directly on that one. Or not. So you can you can ask again if you need
Jack Hubbard 14:23
That was great. It was great. Let's go back to resilience. You've done a lot of research on resilience. And you found that resilient people also seem to have a strong sense of purpose. What's that connection?
Joe Sullivan 14:38
So we might think of “Oh, only purpose driven people like doctors or clergy people or teachers are the only ones that have purpose.” And so purpose can act as an anchor, steadying us in times of disarray and disruption. You know, one of my purposes is to not only to live fully every day, but to empower people to make new choices, etc. So I think that the idea of purpose, it's a reason to get up every day, you know, we're not going to get up every day to work at the bank or credit union to make money. That's a byproduct. But what are we there to do? We're there to impact people, we're there to get people into their first homes, we're there to help them make good financial choices for a solid future. If people choose a purpose, and you can decide what your purpose will be. It's that anchor point, when everything else goes crazy and haywire. I can go back to that.
So it's easy to think of a doctor or a psychotherapist or a clergy person or a teacher. But everyone can have a purpose. And so what I would invite the listeners here today is to decide what's yours. At the end of the day, what difference are you trying to make in the world? And at the end of the day, what difference is your organization trying to make in its corner of the world? Answering those two questions, not only helps you get up with a different point of view, you get up one morning and think like I really don't want to go to work today or walk to my den and get at my desk. But it gives you something bigger, you know, our passions are for us, our purposes. And there can be more than one for others.
Jack Hubbard 16:18
Well, that's a very good statement. I'll relate something that my doctor said when he talked about, late in June, he said, “You know, you're completely cancer free.” He said, “You're a walking miracle. We thought it was about 30% chance that you would survive. You’ve surpassed that. You're cancer free.” And then he said, “Now go live your purpose.” And, you know, it really makes sense to me now that the purpose is outside, not inside. And when I play golf, it's interesting how I go with such a different attitude. Now I see the birds where I didn't before. And I enjoy the wind where I didn't before. And it's just so so different. It's wonderful. But let's take a deeper dive.
Joe Sullivan 17:10
Can I say one more thing?
Jack Hubbard 17:10
Yeah, Yeah. Please.
Joe Sullivan 17:10
Purpose is that thing that keeps us alive, engaged, and vital. And you just described it and I am so thrilled at your health journey, how it is turning out. And that is no surprise because you have major work to do on this planet yet my friend, and in this industry. And I think that's one of the reasons and you could cite many others. But I think there's a driving force, that's what keeps people going. And that's what we have to help impart on people in the industry here.
Jack Hubbard 17:43
And I think it's really unfortunate if we step outside of banking, that there are so many people in the United States that don't feel that, that they feel like they have to get out of bed or they choose not to get out of bed. And there are certainly a lot of reasons for that. And that's unfortunate. Well, okay, so you gave us kind of an overview, this is really good. Take a deeper dive, Joe, what are some of the attributes of resilient people
Joe Sullivan 18:08
And I've got a few notes here on this, but they're authentic. And by that I mean, so there's really five, I'm going to talk about authenticity, flexibility, they're lifelong learners, they practice self care, and they're self aware. So really, what I mean by authenticity is, you know, life has humbled them, they have fallen down and they've got back up again. And they realize that they're still here to talk about it and live about it. So they're, they're not you know, they're not what I want to say, tripped up by something that happens in the immediate term. I'm looking for a couple of notes I have here on this subject. So they don't think failing makes them a failure. They learn as they go, they make course corrections and they keep going and realize that one of the best things I ever heard like Brene Brown say as an example is like, you know, give people permission to make a mistake.
You know, when I give a speech just like now, I'm no perfect, I check my notes sometime be radically authentic and realize you're going to screw it up and to keep going because to quote the gentleman whose name is going to escape me, Steve Shaw, the the now deceased leader of Quantic bank, you know, progress, not perfection. So the other thing is flexibility and this again gets that idea, we've got to be able to willing to make change. And what happens is when you run into people who are frustrated with having to change, this is where Job burnout comes into play, because there's so much fighting the way things were and they're trying to hold on to it. You could talk about that in banking, you could talk about that in your community. You could talk about that in the political, any of that our resistance and holding on to things and not being flexible to just let Part of that go for something new to come in. Because I personally believe the best in banking is yet to come. And we all of us who work with banks in this industry and credit unions need to help them on that.
They're lifelong learners. Quite simply put, if I need to learn something more about fed now as an example, then it's up to me to read as much as I can. So lifelong learners say, I've got a problem here, I need information. I don't have that information. Number one, can I read it acquire it? Or can I talk to someone who knows, or get some outside perspective, they're willing to do that, because they don't have all the answers. The next thing is self care. And I'm talking literally here, like, get out and go for exercise, 30 minutes a day, eat well, try to limit your coffee, which I don't do so well at, drink a lot of water. Basic self care is really, really important. Because we can run our bodies ragged, you and I both did that. We'd probably past in airports at one point where you're just going and going and going, and you have to take care of the vessel.
And finally, they're self aware. And by that, I mean, self aware people, and there's a lot of practices around that. But they realized that, that who they are at their core is still there. And what they're seeing in their immediate, like what's ahead of them in the next 60 days, or what's happening right now is not who they are at their core. So they don't internalize the challenge, the failure or anything, because at their core, they knew who they are, which gets back to your purpose. So I would say there's, there's probably many more if you hired or had somebody else talk on this podcast, they might say different things. But I think to be authentic, be flexible, be a lifelong learner, practice self care, and practice self awareness.
Jack Hubbard 21:49
I want to dive into one of them especially but let's go back to authenticity. There's a great book by a really good friend of mine, and frankly, to your point, Joe, on being on the Zoom and being on screen. He's become a really good friend, and I've never met him. Name is Larry Levine. And Larry wrote a terrific book called Selling from The Heart. And it's all about this idea of being authentic. And I'm sure other people have quoted this. But my good friend, Charlie Green, who wrote The Trusted Advisor, once told me, you know, it's when you're on a sales call, be yourself, everyone else has taken. And so that whole idea of authenticity is really important.
The second thing I love is what you said about lifetime learning, and being a lifetime learner, when I go down to when I teach at graduate school of banking or other schools, I'll ask when was what was the last sales book you read? Now, I don't get a lot of feedback on that. And the fact is that only about 12% of Americans have read a book last year. We need to do a better job of that. And it's not the job of the training department to train me to do everything. I have to be curious enough to find out what's going on. If there is like the Fed now, or chatGPT, or whatever it might be. If this might be of benefit to me, there's so many resources I can go to for free to find out what's going on. Go ahead. You had a comment? (That's right.)
I want to talk about self awareness. I just love this topic. What are some steps that people can do to grow their own self?
Joe Sullivan 23:31
Number one read every day? Is it Charlie Munger that works for Berkshire Hathaway, where he said, every day I want to go to bed smarter than when I woke up?
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Joe Sullivan 23:59
And there's something I don't know if that's the exact quote. So I've always been the kind of person, I read, I journal, I meditate. I had my meditation practice this morning before we got on our call here today. But I think reading every day, and you know, it's interesting, and this goes back to what I was going to jump in and say before, whenever I read something about our industry, I feel more connected to it. You know, whenever I read through something, a different point of view on something I learn and I feel more connected to it.
So that takes away sometimes our fear of the unknown if we just read and I think read anything, read stuff for fun as well. Like pick a favorite mystery author, if that's your thing. Keep a journal. You know, when I've done workshops like this, and I've done many workshops on this idea of resilience, but keeping a journal and some, you can even keep a worry journal sometimes before I go to bed, if I can't stop my mind, I'll just write everything I'm worried about, put it in a book and put it away and put it in the other room but this idea of five minutes a day is what I subscribed to, that if you can write for five minutes a day, just get this clutter out of your head, every now and then a good idea will come along.
The third is to practice some kind of mindfulness or meditation technique. And I'm not trying to be Deepak Chopra, and have you sit in the lotus pose on a cushion or anything like that. But I am saying five minutes a day, that can be a contemplative walk around your backyard or your neighborhood, where you're paying attention to putting one foot in front of the other five minutes a day. Because when you do things like this, and you do something simple as count to five on an inhale, and count to five on an exhale, and keep doing that. And what that does is it slows down the central nervous system, it calms some of the chemicals in our body that can wreak havoc like cortisol, and so forth. So I'm not saying bankers need to be meditators. But I am saying they can sit for five minutes in the middle of a chaotic day, and just sit and stare out the window if you want.
You know, I think also keeping a group of trusted friends around you, some of them might be in your industry, sometimes it's your friends, your family, but they know your blind spots, and they're gonna call you out on it. I mean, Jack, how many times if you had someone who's nosy, really well say Jack, you know, you're really barking up the wrong tree here on this one, because they see the things about you that you cannot see. But I think that we could go off on loneliness. But this idea of having a group of people around that, you know, you can count on to have your back that will tell you the truth. And you do the same for them, is probably the most important one here. And tell your story, you know, you can talk about your story with other people about ways you're resilient.
And what I don't want to have happened with this interview here. You know, it's the word, the buzzword of the day now is resilient, and I am a little bothered by that. So internalize it yourself, share the story with your neighbor, Jack, you're one of the most resilient people I know, not only with fighting and overcoming cancer successfully, but you have continued to reinvent your business model. And all the years that I've known you. And I think that is also resilience and sharing stories with other people, because you realize, Wow, I have more in common with that person than I thought I did.
Jack Hubbard 27:25
I’m wondering… You study this a lot. I'm wondering about social media, and what impact that might have on self awareness, resilience, things like that, overall, what do you see in there?
Joe Sullivan 27:44
Good question. I think it can go both ways. I think that, to the extent of social media, like I'll look through my newsfeed to see what stories are trending, I think that's a good thing. If we've heard a number of psychologists talk about our adolescent teens, and so forth, male or female, who are on a certain social platform, and all they've done is compare themselves to everybody else who's putting on a really big show. And that can be problematic. But I think that I think being aware of what's the purpose for going on social media, am I there to learn something? Am I there to lurk? Am I there to compare myself to others, because when we compare ourselves, we almost always end up on the short end of the stick?
So again, I'm not sure if I'm answering your question, but I think it can be a force for a great good and, and communication and spreading positive things. And it can also do the very opposite. So here's what I would say, pick a time, you know, say I'm going to do this for 10 minutes a day, or 30 minutes a day, I look through my newsfeed in the morning while I'm having my coffee after my meditation, and I see what's trending for the day. And then if I see a bunch of stories that are in the Wall Street Journal, I'll go look at those stories. But you can get a sense of it. So I use it almost as my newsfeed, etc. So did that give you an answer?
Jack Hubbard 29:08
Yeah. And let me probe this a little deeper. You talked about teenagers, and we've been discussing resilience on an adult level. And I think it's hard enough for adults to become self aware and to understand how to be resilient. We've got a lot of young minds out there who struggle from time to time. How do you see curricula in schools, whether it's grade school or middle school or high school? How is the curriculum moving toward helping people become more resilient as they grow in their lives?
Joe Sullivan 29:52
You know, Jack, to be really honest with you here. I don't know the answer to that question. I could take some guesses as to what I would hope because again, I don't have school aged kids, I don't have kids period. So I don't know what they're learning. I would suspect it's not anywhere to the level that it needs to be. So I would hope that there would be a course on more on psychology and not just STEM is great and all these other things. But I think we've got to prepare people to be in the real world, like, how to write a resume, and I realized that's not adolescent.
So I'm not sure if I have a really good answer to your question other than to say, I hope that there's some kind of curriculum in place. I don't think there is. And I hope I'm proven wrong. I think that that's happening on a teacher by teacher basis, I think there are teachers that have the ability to inspire. Now, there was one thing I was going to say, a couple sentences back or a couple questions back, that it'll come back. I don't remember what it was.
Jack Hubbard 31:00
But well, let's, let's move forward. We've been talking about individuals. Now. Let's move this up a level, let's talk about organizations. What about resilient organizations? Joe? What are some attributes of it?
Joe Sullivan 31:14
Jack? Before answer that question, I'd like to go back, I remembered what it was, I wanted to say to you, and this works not just for young people, but for any of us. So oftentimes, we start worrying about things that we have absolutely no control over. So I want you to draw a circle on a piece of paper, and everything inside that circle are the things that I have control over, write them down, what do I have control over what I ate for breakfast, how much social media I listened to, if I watch TV, or whatever, you have control over that you do not have control over the outside stuff, the economy or regulation, or what's going to happen to interest rates, well, not really, another pandemic.
So if we can start to isolate what you have control over, it starts to take away all the chatter on the other side. And which leads me to one other point within an organization. I have said at many of my speeches, regardless of what I'm talking about tomorrow, I'm gonna go to Austin, Texas, to speak on the demographic shifts, but I say to bankers, your job is so much deeper and so much more profound than whatever title is printed on your business card. Because bankers today are having to bear a lot of that societal thing where things have fallen down where they have to be better listeners, sometimes they almost have to feel like psychotherapist or parents, they have to be money managers, they have to maybe help people to make sure they're not getting evicted from their apartment.
So I'm inviting bankers to think of their job as much broader than it is that their purpose, if they really want to say we want to be a vital part of this community, is to take on more roles than just head of lending or deposit Operations Manager.
So with that, I think what you asked me was, let's talk a little bit about organizations. And, you know, I'm going to give you five, number one, they are adaptable. And I'll summarize these and come back, they have distributed the decision making authority. They're problem solvers. They're diverse, and they're inclusive, and they're innovative. So they're adaptable. We can no longer do this kind of take two years to make a decision. They think and act quickly, the status quo can no longer be in this industry. Jack, that's why you and I have jobs. I know, there's a lot of bankers, especially under the age of 40, working inside of banks that are frustrated with how slow things move.
So being adaptable is let me say it this way. Make a list of three things, make a list of the things you need to stop doing at the bank. Make a list of the things you need to keep doing, and make a list of the things you need to start doing. And that stop doing will allow you to get rid of things that have always just come along for the ride, make decisions quicker. Not everything has to be a committee, which leads me to this idea of distributed authority. Empower people to make decisions within the organization, it becomes more about the we, the community mindset of we're going to make these decisions. We're all in this together. And I realized that last phrase people got really sick of during the pandemic.
But this idea of let's make the decision, you know, we shouldn't have to go and talk to someone to get an override on an interest rate change. empower the people to do that, get some of these decisions off the plate and done to keep things moving. they're problem solvers. And I think what happens in problem solving is we're not seeing the real problem that's really in front of us. If a customer comes to us. You know we have a set of things that are offered based on the products. I want you to forget products, forget services and listen to what the real problem is. Listen to what customers are not saying directly.
But within an organization, what are the things that need to change? If, for example, the mobile app is slow, and you don't have the right tools in place to be able to fully open up an account and get it done entirely online without coming to the branch, that's a problem, then put the resources, identify four or five problem areas or areas of opportunity, and focus on them perhaps one at a time and make sure everybody knows about it.
You know, diverse, inclusive, DNI and all that. What I'm going to say here, relative to this, is that when there is a problem, when there is a solution that needs to happen, the more diverse the set of people talking about that within the organization, the better. People from different job titles, different economic backgrounds, different races, genders, and all of that, we could present one problem. And if you have 10 people in the room, chances are you're gonna get 10 different viewpoints as to how to solve it. But if everybody is just one race, one gender, one socioeconomic status, you're gonna get a very limited scope of solutions.
So that's my version of being more diverse, being more inclusive, and so forth. And finding innovation, I think that, again, can be a buzzword, finding new ways to do things. I think we have tunneled and preconceived notions about what needs to be done. And we need to almost in some ways, I've said to bankers, you need to forget everything you've learned about what it is to be a banker.
Jack Hubbard 36:40
I just love what you're talking about, I am going to throw a curveball at you here in a second around small business. And because it's something you said about how the banker has to look at themselves a little bit differently, but I'll come back to that, that you mentioned several, that an organization can do. What steps can they take now to be more resilient?
Joe Sullivan 37:06
Okay, so number one, acknowledge this new reality. And in some ways, that sentence sounds bad, but it's good, we have to really understand the world that we live in now. Only 14% of people use a bank branch. 81% of people would prefer to bank digitally, that means 59% prefer mobile as their first choice. And 22% online banking, we're not going back to this branch centric business model, number one.
Number two, another reality, we are living in a hybrid workforce, we can't call everybody back into the office, it's not going to work. We've seen that fail miserably with some of our clients who call people back in and others have bigger labor issues than they had before. But acknowledging that we live in this hyper competitive landscape, that a FinTech can bring a solution faster to the market than many banks can, because they don't have legacy core systems. Acknowledge that the core has always been a problem up to this point. But there are new ways there's going to be clout. Well, it's already here. But acknowledge that that new reality, look at where you're vulnerable within your organization.
You know, if I were to take an overview of some of my conversations in the last month, some of the clients that we've seen or people we've talked to are vulnerable around how weak their mobile app is, that it still requires some level of human interaction to get something done. That is unacceptable.
I think, vulnerability wise, this idea of, we need to stop hiring to fill a job title, and look instead at the skill set that we need now, what we're going to need 12 months from now, and what we're going to need three years from now. That's our vulnerability if we're not hiring data scientists and good storytellers, we're going to have a problem.
Joe Sullivan 39:06
I think fewer ideas, fewer initiatives, are taken on at any given time period, so that they can be fully executed on. Embody this idea of human connection, connect your team to each other, and then to the community and your customers but I think this idea of human connection, because what I've said oftentimes, that that the greatest gift that you can give to another human being is to let them know that they've been heard and listened to and understood. That is, dare I say the word a currency for success because people need to be listened to.
If every banker listening on this call today just said I'm going to do every day, everything I can to listen as carefully to my client as possible, not about remembering features and benefits of a product but to listen to what they're not saying directly, I think that's important. And finally, open communication. You know, I read something along, a guy from Busey Bank in central Illinois, I came across something that the President whose name is going to escape me.
And he said, as they were adding all this technology to make things more efficient, because he said, he realizes people aren't using our branches as much as before. And he said to his people, Look, we're not here to eliminate jobs. As a result of this, we're here to make a better experience for the customer. And we're going to need some new skill sets and some training that's involved. But I think sharing part of the story, a leader sometimes tries to hold everything until they've got it all figured out. I think you need to share as you go, communicate as you go with what's going on and what you're trying to do. So I could go on that one. But I think there's a lot embedded in that.
Jack Hubbard 40:50
There is… I'll jump on this communication one and throw my curveball, as you mentioned, how the banker of today has to be different than just making loans and taking deposits, that they have to be a counselor, the challenge of courses that we have, gotta be careful, we can't run the business. You know, we can't do that, that would be a challenge. However, as it relates to resilience, there are 1000s, millions of small businesses out there who are feeling really similar to what bankers are feeling. So how do we train the banker to be more empathetic to the customer to the small business? Because they're trying to be resilient as well?
Joe Sullivan 41:47
Yeah, that's a good question, because he brought up empathy. And I think that is the name of the game, but small businesses today, let's face it. So what is it 93% of businesses in this country have less than 20 employees? The only growth curve in businesses today is the micro business, which is annual sales of under a million dollars. They are also being very much impacted by FinTech type solutions. But I think so let me give some thought to that. How do we, you might have to re ask me the question. But I think what you're saying is, how do we teach our bankers? How do we engage with small businesses and the multitude of challenges and problems and opportunities that they have?
Jack Hubbard 42:26
Right, because you talked about listening, and you listen to talk, or you listen to understand, and what we're trying to do here is listen to understand not listen to talk. But when a banker goes out on a call with a small business, too often, they want to talk, they want to talk about their products, they want to talk about themselves, talk about the banks, but if they would just listen, they would really understand what they needed to do as a human being to help another human being be successful,
Joe Sullivan 42:55
which gets back to problem solving. So the first step would be to keep their mouth shut. And quite literally, you know, just to listen, and ask that business. Ask them, tell me about one problem or opportunity that you have that you're dealing with right now and how you think we might be able to help. So get them to open up about their business. So if they're a restaurant, they might talk about cash flow, and people and all that and the nonstop and the cost of rent and all that. But I think just, you know, always get them and you're the sales conversation guy here, but get the small business to talk first.
The other thing is when you can tap into people's passion, allowing the Small Business tell me what you do, tell me why you started your company. If you ignite their passion, you know, you talk to an entrepreneur out there about their business, they never want to stop talking about it, that opens up their heart.
Vertical IQ 43:57
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Joe Sullivan 44:12
And that's probably the place to start. Then talk to me about an opportunity that you have or a problem or a challenge you're having and how we can help. And then and only then should the banker step in and there might be a solution evident at that point but it has nothing to do with products and services. It might be something where the banker has to do some homework and get back to them. But I think open with the heart and the passion of the business letting them tell their story. Second part is problems and opportunities and how we can help. And third is figuring out if there's a solution there that the banker can provide. And looking at it as a long term. We are moving from transactional to relational.
Jack Hubbard 44:56
We indeed are and we have covered a ton of ground here today. And I'm so thrilled that you were able to be with me, Joe. But, and I'm sure we can talk about a lot of other things. But what else have we missed? What didn't I ask you about resilience that maybe I should have?
Joe Sullivan 45:21
I think we have covered a lot of material. So what I think I'd like to do is just say some other things in general. Resilience, and the kinds of things we're talking about kind of lead a little toward the emotional intelligence side of the scale. And I think that a lot of bankers or CFOs might think this is the fluff stuff. And I disagree, I think that the idea of investing in our people through time, and helping them change their own belief system will come back in terms of making a stronger workforce that's going to stick around longer with lower turnover, and more connection to the customer, and ultimately, the bottom line.
But I think at my core, I believe that the world that we have lived through since 2008. And it's only escalated since then,it is just demanding that all of us that work for and in this industry, help each other to become more resilient, and recognize that whatever skill they have in the job is one thing. But we show up to work with all these other things.
So maybe I didn't say that clearly. But I think that in these times, we live on the whole planet and multiple different industries, this idea of being more comfortable with change and the speed of change, and not be so resistant, because that's where Job burnout and depletion will come from. So I would encourage everybody here to make a list of five ways that they are resilient as, as an individual person, and come up with their own list of five of how their organization is resilient. And if it's not, what would you like it to be?
Jack Hubbard 47:05
That's outstanding, Joe. So you've been around for 30 years in your company, and you've seen a lot of changes. And banking has seen a lot of changes. And those two can come together if you work with a bank. So talk about how people can get a hold of you, if they are interested in any of the services that you provide.
Joe Sullivan 47:28
Sure, you can find me on LinkedIn. And as Joe Sullivan, I'm in Seattle, Washington with market insights, they can text me at 312-961-0188 or email me at JSullivan@formarketinsights they can find me on Twitter at mi_sullivan and literally those would be the ways I probably spend more time on LinkedIn than I do Twitter but any of those are good. And you can check my speaking roster. I've been on the podium 26 times already this year, booking a bunch of stuff for fall. And you can probably see me at a conference in your state sometime soon.
Jack Hubbard 48:11
Awesome. Well, Joe, it's always great to see you first of all, and thanks so much for giving your time and your talents and expertise today. We very much appreciate it.
Joe Sullivan 48:21
Jack, thank you so much. It's such an honor. And you know, the best part of this work also is relationships with good, long standing folks like yourself. So thank you very much.
Jack Hubbard 48:32
Thanks for listening to this episode of Jack Rants with Modern Bankers with Joe Sullivan. This and every program is brought to you by the great folks at RelPro and Vertical IQ. Join us next time for more special guests bringing marketing sales and leadership insights along with some ideas that will provide your bank or credit union that competitive edge you need to succeed.
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