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At Investors, learning the company culture starts on Day One

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Investors Bancorp CEO Kevin Cummings puts a premium on serving the community.
Investors Bancorp CEO Kevin Cummings puts a premium on serving the community. - ()

When it comes to highlighting companies that care, there are, inevitably, more New Jersey businesses than can fit in one feature.

But Investors Bancorp cares with a certain urgency that warrants mention.

Involved in that urgent caring is the Short Hills-based bank putting some newly hired employees to work in a soup kitchen sooner than some even get to sit at their desk for the first time.

The bank’s CEO, Kevin Cummings, will tell employees in his straightforward manner on the first day — if you’re less interested in serving than being self-serving, he’ll write you a $1,000 check and let you walk out the door.

Cummings, a well-known partisan of the sports analogy-makers, put it this way:

“We don’t want a bunch of A-Rods; we want a Derek Jeter who will help their teammates perform better.”

It all starts with the onboarding process at Investors, a bank with more than $20 billion in assets and a network of over 140 retail branches. During the first few days of employees’ orientation, the bank tries to immerse them in its touted values.

Having a heart
Besides its inherent value, Investors Bancorp CEO Kevin Cummings said he believes giving back to the community is also good for business.
“It’s part of our brand and it helps us differentiate ourselves,” Cummings said. “People respond to it.”
He said he also hopes it serves as a rallying call for employees.
The bank’s employees certainly responded last year, when more than 200 people showed up for a charity walk to support the American Heart Association.
It was particularly meaningful because the bank’s chief operating officer had a heart attack several years before and served as a chairman of the walk, Cummings said.

“We want to communicate a culture or attitude of continuous learning and being an outstanding banker, but also an outstanding person, during the onboarding process, because we want to have someone who gets involved and who comes to work with a sense of purpose and passion,” Cummings said.

Cummings believes the way Investors engages its staff proactively gets employees excited about coming to work each day.

“And we don’t just want employees to be good bankers — we want them to allow them to be the best version of themselves that they can be,” he said. “You spend probably 70 percent of your waking hours between commuting and working — why not make it your masterpiece?”

This approach arrived alongside a reshaping of the core values at the company in 2008, when the industry at large was quickly entering its most tumultuous period.

The lasting impact of the financial crisis on public perception has made championing values such as honesty and ethical responsibility even more important in the banking sector, Cummings said.

“Bankers, especially now, don’t have the best reputation — they’re almost as bad as lawyers,” Cummings said. “A bank? It was really a four-letter word back in 2009.”

The goal in those years was to change attitudes.

“Part of my spiel is telling employees (that) no one will care what you know unless you show them you care,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of truth in that.”

E-mail to: brettj@njbiz.com

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