What is your company doing to improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Photo illustration by Leanza Abucayan, CNN

What is your company doing to improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? President Biden’s Cabinet serves as a model for workplace diversity!

Politics aside, let’s review President Biden’s cabinet picks: 50% of nominees for Cabinet-level positions are people of color including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the first female of Black and South Asian descent to hold the office of Vice President.

How diverse is the Biden Cabinet? By comparison, former President Barack Obama set the previous record for diversity with a Cabinet that was 42% people of color.

President Biden’s diverse cabinet appointments are a way of signaling broader initiatives and values – inextricably tied to policy, but also indicators of identity. Simply put his cabinet picks better reflect the American people – more than any other cabinet in history.

Diversity in the Presidential cabinet mirrors a similar, global workforce movement towards diversity at the management and executive level. Companies are increasingly striving to increase diversity because it better cultivates a sense of community within the company.

Studies show that higher rates of workplace diversity can help companies evolve, innovate, problem-solve, and be more efficient. Moreover, highly diverse workplaces offer employees a better sense of community, increased worker engagement, and a more positive corporate culture.

It’s a good bottom-line business decision, too! Companies with a more culturally and ethnically diverse executive team were 33% more likely to see above-average profits.

Above all else, employees are now demanding diversity in the workplace. Highly educated young professionals want employers to be equally committed to changing themselves. This includes hiring a more diverse workforce, helping employees of color advance through the ranks, giving them more decision-making power and facilitating uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism.

According to a recent Glassdoor survey, 76% of employees and job seekers said a diverse workforce was important when evaluating companies and job offers. Nearly half of Black and Hispanic employees and job seekers said they had quit a job after witnessing or experiencing discrimination at work. And 37% of employees and job seekers said they would not apply to a company that had negative satisfaction ratings among people of color. These numbers show that workplace diversity is driving how talent looks for jobs in the current economy.

Despite overwhelming evidence showing how diversity improves production, profitability, engagement and retention, many companies are still far from building a Management team and workforce that represents a proportionate number of women and people of color.

#HuffmanAssociates #HireAmbitiously #DiversityandInclusion #DiversityInLeadership #womeninmortgage #NAMMBA


How Banks Can Benefit from Fintech Partnerships

In 2020, few people view paying a friend or family member $20 for last night’s dinner over Venmo as something extraordinary. Actions like these, by now, already seem like an ordinary function of daily life, like starting your car from the warmth of your house, or your phone reminding you when it’s time to wish your mother a happy birthday. 

But it wasn’t long ago that the transaction mentioned above was, in fact, quite revolutionary. Since then, financial technology, or fintech, has steadily invaded more channels of modern life, changing the ways in which payments are made, finances are accessed, and disrupting the traditional financial and banking industries forever. 

Initially, it was reasonable and expected for traditional banks to view fintech companies as intruders and threats to be snuffed out. Today, though, there is a trend towards more diplomatic, collaborative efforts as some banks are cleverly strategizing ways to capitalize on the ever-expanding presence of fintech. 

We’ll cover a few of these below. 

Data and Identity Security

Headlines reporting major data breaches have become so commonplace that there is a level of desensitization among the public: privacy, perhaps, is viewed now as a luxury. 

But it shouldn’t be, and there’s much to be gained from offering a future where privacy and the protection of that privacy is a right.  

Several fintech companies offer services to help track and respond to ever-increasing breaches, making the process much more effective for both the consumers and the banks that possess their information. 

Breach Clarity, for example, monitors every reported data breach in the US and then advises consumers on the best course of action to take in response. Notifying individual consumers of these breaches proved to be an issue until Breach Clarity began integrating its data protection services into banks’ digital banking platforms. 

As identity protection continues to be an important marker of financial health, banks can continue to look towards partnerships like this to enhance their connectivity and trust with their customers and open up new revenue opportunities.

Brand Reputation

A study conducted by Accenture in April of this year yielded staggering results: only 14% of consumers who experienced a financially impactful life event in the past five years sought help from their bank. The precise reason for this low percentage of consumers trusting their banks is contested, but consensus suggests much of it stems from the fallout of the 2008 recession, and, over a decade later, only a third of consumers report having high confidence in their banks.

Conversely, 75% of consumers report trusting the technology sector. Here lies the opportunity for banks who connect with respected fintech companies to offer services. Partnering with a reputable fintech company for an app, for example, can help engender trust and loyalty among a customer base. 

Wealth Transfer Management

Consider this statistic from Cerulli Associates, a Boston-based global research and consulting firm: Boomers will account for 70% of the $68 trillion in wealth that will be transferred by US households over the next 25 years. 

As posited by Forbes, many banks may be far too concerned with losing management of a portion of that massive figure listed above instead of the opportunity of capturing the management of the transfer itself. 

Traditionally, the wealth transfer process is complex and arduous for consumers, and they’d prefer not to spend time and money just to get the money that’s coming their way. A few notable fintech startups, Atticus and Trust & Will, in particular, are set to remedy this pain point with simple, user-friendly, and affordable digital services for probate, estate settlement, and estate planning.

Forbes argues the benefits of bank partnerships with fintechs in this instance as twofold. One, banks help to generate a new stream of revenue. Two, facilitating wealth transfers can better position banks to further manage the money after it’s transferred.

This is but a brief overview of potential benefits banks can reap from smart partnerships with fintech companies, and, looking forward, it is likely that the number of opportunities will only increase. Currently, fintechs represent approximately $1.6 trillion in domestic payment volume, and the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of payment volume generated by fintechs is expected to soon exceed 80%

Find this article helpful? For a deeper dive into the relationship opportunities between banks and fintech, follow this link to a podcast on the topic from the PaymentsJournal Podcast.


How To Mitigate Unconscious Bias In the Hiring Process

Topics centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the workplace have skyrocketed lately: and for good reason. 

Besides the nationwide, humanistic push towards more just and inclusive communities, institutions, and organizations, there are real, demonstrable business reasons for having a more diverse workforce and leadership team. 

For as much as an organization can tout its commitment and steadfast resolve towards D&I initiatives, there is one confounding variable that can subtly but persistently obfuscate these efforts if left unaddressed: unconscious bias. 

Unconscious bias, after first being introduced as a concept to the public in 2006, is unlikely to be unfamiliar to anyone in the working world by now, but, for clarity’s sake, a clear definition is in order before we proceed. 

The traditional belief that we are guided entirely by explicit beliefs and our conscious intentions has been overturned, quite convincingly. The amount of influence that our subconscious mind contributes to our attitudes, thoughts, and ultimately decisions is much larger than we may care to admit. 

For example, when considering between two otherwise equal candidates for a position, you may recognize one earned a degree from a university of high regard. Unbeknownst to your conscious mind, your subconscious mind has instantly provided you with numerous positive (yet biased) associations that may cause you to automatically view that candidate in a more positive light. Thus, they’re more likely to receive an offer sheet, even though all other qualifications may be equal. Notice how even a positive bias can lead to unfair evaluation. 

This unconscious bias can extend to age, gender, race, and many other traits, immutable or acquired, and can actively work against your efforts to create a more diverse workplace regardless of how loudly you’ve championed your efforts. 

But luckily, there are clear, practical ways you can mitigate the inherent unconscious bias operating within us all and make your hiring process as fair as possible. 

Let’s take a look at a few of them. 

Partition Candidates into Different Categories (per Harvard Business Review)

In a study involving 121 experienced HR professionals who had an average of eight years of HR-related experience, researchers found that when candidates were categorized on a given dimension (gender, ethnicity, nationality, university, etc.) rather than randomly interspersed, people consistently chose more diverse candidates. 

For example, the researchers asked participants to download a folder containing 16 resumes from candidates who graduated from one of four top universities. In the control group, the order of the resumes was random and did not vary by university. In the other group, the resumes from each school were sorted alphabetically. 

The study found that, when resumes were randomly interspersed, 14% of managers chose candidates from all universities. But when the resumes were grouped by university, this number increased to 35%. The study found similar results when candidates were grouped by gender, ethnicity, and nationality as well. 

Grouping candidates together in the hiring process can increase the diversity of selected candidates without reducing the quality of candidate selected or the hiring manager’s ability to choose freely. 

Curate Job Descriptions to Eliminate Gendered Wording

Grouping the resumes you receive on specific dimensions won’t help much if there’s another variable at work affecting who submits a resume. 

Research has found that women are far less likely to apply for certain jobs if the descriptions are heavy in “masculine-coded” language such as “active,” “confident,” and “driven.” 

Simple processes like auditing your job descriptions to ensure they don’t contain biased language can drastically improve the diversity of applicants.

Utilize a Diverse Interview Panel

Increasing the number of interviewers has also been shown to dramatically decrease potential biases in the hiring process, especially if the interview panel is diverse across age, gender, and racial dimensions. 

Google has even gone as far as involving managers from unrelated fields to provide a “disinterested” party. 

Multiple interviewers from different backgrounds can create a “checks and balances” effect where the influence of potential unconscious biases are being diluted across multiple parties. A diverse interview panel can also help eliminate the “thin slice error” where an interviewer can bond strongly with a candidate over one or a few qualities while overlooking more important characteristics that better predict the candidate’s overall fit and suitability. 

Unconscious bias is a ubiquitous quality of humankind, and there’s nothing damning about realizing where it exists and how it operates within us. But, if left unchecked in your hiring processes, it can pose a real threat to your DE&I initiatives. Addressing its existence and mitigating its effect with intentional effort is a necessary and effective step to take as we collectively strive towards creating truly inclusive and diverse workplaces. 


Diversity in 2020: The Importance of Retention

Earlier this year, we wrote about the real benefits organizations stand to gain if they strive to create a more diverse and inclusive work environment

In the months since we published that piece, nationwide focus on diversity and inclusion has increased exponentially. 

By now, any given organization’s D&I efforts have long moved past PR sleight of hand to display political correctness—they are now a matter of financial viability. 

The body of literature providing real, measurable evidence for the causal relationship between diversity and performance seems to double every few years. 

As more and more companies become aware of the data-backed links between diversity and productivity, the number of board members and leadership teams in financial services committed to making real efforts towards fostering D&I within their own walls also grows.

And while this trend is incredibly important, especially in financial services where diverse representation and various diversity metrics are often below the watermark of other professional industries, these initiatives too often stop at the point of acquisition, or, at the very least, are skewed too heavily towards the hire and are not focused or thoughtful enough towards what happens after

Nearly one out of three industry executives within financial services report that they’ve successfully hired key diversity talent only to fail at retaining them due to a lack of inclusion or engagement after they were hired. 

Put frankly, there’s a retention problem for many firms in financial services. 

For firms that report healthy diversity metrics and retention rates, however, there is one characteristic of their organization that is nearly ubiquitous: employee resource groups or ERGs. ERGs are employee-led groups focused on fostering a diverse, inclusive workplace and identifying and executing strategies to support it. 

Organizations can have LGBTQ, female-focused, and cross-generational ERGs, which, at a high level, are focused on educating employees on the differences, highlighting the strengths, and supporting the inclusion of certain groups. 

ERGs are an incredibly effective and collaborative method to expose and address specific issues or biases that may be present within a particular organization. In this case, specificity is critical because, too often, organizations attempting to enact diversity initiatives use generic solutions or a standard set of D&I strategies rather than honing in on the unique pain points of their company. 

Raise awareness of your D&I efforts and poll your organization to identify volunteers who might be passionate about participating in potential employee resource groups. One is great, but the more, the better: having multiple ERGs can help engender inclusion and belonging and drastically improve diverse employees’ retention rates.

Beyond just ERGs, another component of a holistic D&I initiative is to help diverse hires gain access to mentorship opportunities. A study from the Harvard Business Review points to the correlation between mentorships and increased engagement and, thus, healthier and more successful workplace diversity programs.

Women and underrepresented minorities consistently report valuing mentorship as a crucial part of their career development, but often cite the difficulty of identifying mentoring opportunities. To help remedy this issue, leaders can intervene by communicating with new hires and helping pair them with potential mentorships directly or help identify mentorship opportunities within their own networks. 

Beyond a sense of belonging and inclusion, diverse employees want to feel valued for their professional ability at their organization. Communicating openly about and assisting with their career development is a fruitful way to address that desire for both parties. 

Fortunately, age-old barriers of entry to underrepresented groups are crumbling due to powerful social momentum and the genuine efforts of board members and leadership teams. As we continue to witness these barriers dissolve, the impetus is now placed on those leadership teams to adequately welcome, engage, and include their diverse talent—the work isn’t done just once the hire is made.


Finance and Accounting Functions in High Demand as Lending Volume Surges

Initially, the global pandemic dramatically disrupted virtually every existing industry worldwide. The banking and consumer lending marketplaces were no exceptions. Widespread layoffs, record unemployment spikes, and a highly uncertain future became the norm for consumers and small businesses.  However, banks and other lending institutions became inundated with the demands of forbearance requests, PPP loans, and a spike in volume due to the plummeting rate environment.

Many financial institutions quickly realized they were unprepared for such a shock to the system and scrambled to adjust strategies, adapt to a rapidly emerging new normal, and brace for further disruption. 

Several months removed from the onset of the crisis, however, across the board lenders are experiencing a continuing surge of demand month after month. Here are just a few excerpts that encapsulate the volume spikes we’re seeing.

An article published just a few days ago touches on just how starkly lenders are experiencing, frankly, explosions in demand. Rocket Companies (owners of Rocket Mortgage and Quicken Loans), a relatively fresh name on the stock exchange, recently released its Q2 results, reporting a “net revenue increase of 437% on a year-over-year basis to $5 billion. That was on the back of loan origination volume that more than doubled over that stretch of time to more than $72 billion—a new record for the company.”

Another article published recently by the Washington Post provides insight on the link between a 49-year low for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage (a record that has been set eight new times since March) and rising purchase applications:

“Purchase applications dipped slightly the last week of July, but have risen on an annual basis for an impressive 11 straight weeks,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and chief executive. “Homebuyer demand has remained strong all summer because of record-low mortgage rates and households looking for more space during the ongoing pandemic. Refinance activity was more than 80 percent higher than last year and has consistently outpaced year-ago levels.”

In an effort to not deprive you of sources, yet another article from Mortgage News Daily, provides more proclamations of unprecedented numbers for lenders, beginning with sharing that builders have reached a 32-year old record this August for confidence, measured by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

Providing additional context, the article reports:

NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz said the August reading is a sign that housing continues to lead the economy forward. The demand for new single-family homes continues to be strong, he said, and low interest rates and a focus on the importance of housing has stoked buyer traffic to all-time highs as measured on the HMI. Single-family construction is also benefiting from a noticeable shift in housing demand to suburbs, exurbs and rural markets as renters and buyers seek out more affordable, lower density markets.”

After initial efforts to proceed through and emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with their teams in tact, organizations are now struggling to keep up with the pace, close the books, and analyze information quickly enough to get actionable information to their originations teams so they can react to the market as quickly as it’s moving.  

Companies that buckled down by putting key strategic efforts on hold when the pandemic started are realizing that they don’t have the structure in place to keep up with the influx of business they are experiencing. For example, many finance teams are struggling to close the month end books and analyze information quickly enough to make it actionable for their originations partners.

Without the depth and experience in finance and accounting teams leadership doesn’t have the transparency they need to manage sustainable and intelligent growth. In order to responsibly manage, lenders must be provided accurate timely data quick enough for them to react before it’s too late.

Huffman Associates provides executive search services to the mortgage and consumer lending industry nationally. We help our clients keep pace with changing times by identifying and placing the leaders needed to scale and grow their business.


COVID and the Costs of a Bad Hire

It’s no secret that making a bad hire is one of the more significant fears hiring managers and the organizations they serve possess. But just how damaging can it be? How much does it really cost your business? How much does it hurt your career if you’re the one responsible for making it? 

Furthermore, how much more serious are the consequences of a bad hire as companies emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to look for new talent?

In short, the answer is probably much more than you think, and, while there’s never a good time for a bad hire, today’s unique economic landscape can make those costs count double.

In this blog, we’ll share some insights and statistics* behind the costs of a bad hire and tips on how you can ensure you avoid making one.

The Hard Data Behind Bad Hires

Few realize just how expensive and far-reaching the effects of a bad hire can be on an organization, or just how often these bad hires occur. 

74% of organizations report making bad hires every year. 

How these organizations classify their bad hires fall under several different descriptors:

  • 58% cite poor quality of work
  • 53% cite a negative attitude
  • 54% cite producing subpar work
  • 50% cite the inability to work well with others
  • 46% cite having attendance issues

Regardless of the specific reason that reveals how new hires reveal themselves as bad hires, often, it doesn’t take very long for organizations to realize they’ve made a mistake. 

20% of employers report they can spot a poor performer within just the first week

And this isn’t always just the employee’s fault: 74% of HR professionals admit to making a mistake during the hiring process. 

No matter the reason behind making a poor hiring decision, the costs to your business will manifest regardless. And they’re steep. 

74% of companies claim that hiring the wrong person costs an average of $14,900 per bad hire. 

While that figure may appear steep, and there’s, of course, a level of variance involved depending on the position, experience level, and characteristics of the organization, they can easily eclipse that figure:

  • Average costs for organizations with 500 or fewer employees: $11,000
  • Average costs for organizations with more than 50 employees: $22,000
  • Average costs for organizations with more than 1,000 employees: $24,000

Besides just the measurable financial losses a bad hire causes a company, there are additional symptoms that present themselves as a bad hire works within your organization:

  • 30% of companies waste over 50 hours hiring the wrong person
  • 39% of employees reported an increase in stress after working with a bad hire
  • 33% of productivity is lost when employees need to collaborate with a bad hire

Keep in mind that the above data was gathered before the coronavirus crisis. The current environment, with tighter budgets, leaner teams, and increased pressure, is even less forgiving. 

We implore organizations to tighten up their recruiting procedures, refine their interview processes, and approach their screening process with extra scrutiny as they begin to recover from the shutdowns and recruit for open positions again. 

Huffman Associates

Looking to make your next high-impact hire with confidence? Huffman Associates is here to help. Our team of veteran recruiters specializes in management and executive-level recruitment within the financial services industry.

Get in touch with us today to learn how our extensive network of proven candidates and 50 years of experience in search consultancy can help you overcome whatever hiring challenge your organization is facing. *

(all statistics gathered from ZoomInfo study)


A Time to Heal

We typically use our monthly blogs as a platform to discuss financial services trends and share our insights. But, frankly, this isn’t on our minds today. In fact, it’s far from it. Today, we want to narrow down our focus to the great humanitarian causes in which we are all engaged.

The past few months haven’t been frugal in their dispersal of hardship and tragedy. By now, few of us have been spared from some assault to the heart, body, or mind.

While we by no means would have wished the events of 2020 on anyone, we are hopeful that this will be a real opportunity for change. An opportunity to refocus on what matters. An opportunity to lift up our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and communities based solely on their innate human quality which we all share. An opportunity for goodness.

We are encouraged by all the ways in which we know you’re supporting the people, causes, and organizations that support and promote continued health, well-being, fairness,  equal protection and opportunity for the world at large. We encourage you to continue to do so, and we are inspired and pledge to do the same throughout this time of crisis, and, most importantly, after.

We look forward to the coming months as a time to heal, to look after and support our employees, neighbors, clients and friends and emerge from these times as better people than when we entered them.

We earnestly wish you the best and hope this message has found you well.


How to Maintain Productivity and Engagement With a Remote Workforce

As we march our way through a period of prolonged social distancing, working remotely has become the new standard for many organizations. While we work in an age more suited to this type of disruption than any before, still leaders are faced with the challenge of maintaining productivity and engagement with teams working primarily from their homes. 

Below, we’ll cover some best practices for ensuring productivity and healthy communication among your remote workforce.

Keep everyone updated: You’ve heard it one hundred times already, but these are truly unprecedented times. With circumstances being so fluid, consistent and transparent communication is the best weapon to fight uncertainty or uneasiness among employees. 

Keep everyone up to speed on the state of affairs to the best of your ability. As states slowly begin to reopen, share your safety plan you have in place to eventually get everyone back to working as usual. 

Set clear expectations and check-in regularly: While some people are more suited to being productive from home, many people can struggle with the distractions and lax environment working at home presents. Encourage healthy working-from-home habits, and help provide employees with everything they need to set up a well-equipped home office. 

Be sure to encourage management to check in with individuals as often as they can. Emotions are high for everyone right now, and some may be struggling to cope with personal challenges while balancing their workload. Make sure they have an avenue to air out any concerns and provide support in whatever way you can.

Collective goal setting: One thing we lose when we transition to working remotely is the collective buzz and energy of the office. One way to recapture that inspiration is to create a thread or channel on whichever internal communication platform you use where people share one goal they are aiming to complete for the day each morning. Any initiative that promotes a sense of mutual goal-completing can help recreate the buzz of connectivity present at the office.

Leverage internal communication software: Teams, GoTo, Slack, Zoom—whichever platform your company uses, lean in on it now more than ever to promote an office-wide sense of connectivity and purpose when nearly every other stimulus encourages disconnectedness. 

As much as possible, try to provide opportunities for everyone to get some face time with one another. Hold a weekly or bi-weekly all-hands meeting via video conferencing to update everyone on the latest news and acknowledge employee achievement. Encourage individual teams to have morning “huddle-type” meetings for colleagues to check-in on one another and update each other on projects or new developments. 

Small steps like these can help create a greater sense of cohesion and productivity while we all combat the current conditions and do our part to get back to business as usual.

Huffman Associates

Huffman Associates is a national executive search firm providing innovative solutions to help companies build leadership teams to meet their business challenges and navigate change. Over the years, our team of dedicated executive recruiters has partnered with great organizations to help them find the leaders they need to drive their business forward.

Get in touch with us today to learn more.


Best Practices for Hiring Management and Executive Talent Remotely

It’s likely already been over a month since your office transitioned to working remotely, and still, it seems, we may have several more weeks to go. While some states are already beginning initial steps to reopen, it’s unclear what that may mean regarding timelines for specific offices to open its doors and resume business as usual.  Many organizations will still have to make critical hiring decisions while being away from the office and unable to meet candidates in person. 

During this time of crisis, leadership is more consequential and necessary than ever. For organizations looking to add dynamic leaders to step in, one question hangs in the air: how can we hire senior positions confidently amidst such disruption to the hiring process?

From our experience assisting our clients during this time, we’ve compiled a list of critical benchmarks to address internally to ensure you can evaluate and hire leaders with your usual confidence. 

Prepare internal interviewing teams

The coronavirus has spared no business process the mandate to innovate and adapt. Be sure to prepare and educate internal HR and executive leadership on necessary changes to the hiring process. Set expectations and establish roles early on so nothing can fall through the cracks; for the organizations that are surviving this economic upheaval, there will be a wealth of candidates knocking at their door. Make sure you’re prepared to handle increased volume and have the repeatable processes in place to devote the proper due diligence to each prospect.  

Because we’ve lost the element of in-person communication, for the time being, all other channels of communication should be increased to keep engagement high. Consider assigning a dedicated coordinating role as part of the interviewing team to maintain consistent contact with candidates, communicate between meetings, and gauge how they feel about the process. Additionally, many are dealing with a considerable amount of personal disruptions while engaged in the interviewing process like closed schools, canceled events, and an unpredictable work-life. Be sure to be sensitive towards their time, needs for space and allow for breaks as needed as candidates deal with closed schools, canceled events, and other personal disruptions.

Evaluating management and leadership talent remotely

One of the most obvious challenges facing organizations is the restrictions on in-person meetings with candidates. For the time being, all of the usual vetting processes have to be facilitated virtually. 

Get comfortable with whichever video conferencing tool you use and leverage it aggressively to check as many of the usual boxes as you can to gauge personality and cultural fit. While the traditional staples like taking prospects out to lunch or dinner and a day spent meeting the team are put on pause, make it easier on your hiring team by diligently scheduling as many points of contact as possible with candidates throughout the hiring and vetting stage. 

Let technology empower your teams, ramp up communication, and get a little creative with how you engage with candidates. Virtual lunches, happy hours, tours of the office, and more are all perfectly acceptable and effective methods of establishing a personal report with prospective leaders, maintaining the human touch, and showcasing your company culture and empathy.

Setting expectations and maintaining transparency

In such uncertain times, consistent, transparent communication is your best tool to establish empathy and trust with candidates. Be direct and honest about how the coronavirus has affected your organization, starting with the very hiring and onboarding process in which the candidate finds themself. Let them know what to expect in the coming weeks so they can prepare accordingly as they are likely dealing with considerable disruption on their end as well.

 As you progress to defining expectations for the position itself, be transparent about how the pandemic has affected the state of the company, organizational structure, and the functional area(s) that they will be managing or leading. Candidates have likely already witnessed dramatic change first hand at their current or previous role and they’ll have a watchful eye for any details that seem dressed up or vague. In times of such tumult, honesty and directness about the state of affairs are valued above all else. 

Huffman Associates

Huffman Associates is a national executive search firm providing innovative solutions to help companies build leadership teams to meet their business challenges and navigate change. Over the years, our team of dedicated executive recruiters has partnered with great organizations to help them find the leaders they need to drive their business forward.

Get in touch with us today to learn more.


How Financial Services Leadership Must Adapt in the Time of Coronavirus

Though we all eagerly await a return to normalcy, business leaders abroad must prepare for both a radically different present and future in the wake of the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak.

With the US economy projected to contract 14% in the second quarter,  COVID-19 and the resulting waves it has made through every facet of the global market has the potential to “forever change the financial services industry,” according to Jeffries CEO Rich Handler. 

Serving as just one example, many of our senior-level loan servicing contacts in the mortgage industry share a consensus that payment defaults will most likely double across all products and credit segments.  Furthermore, though foreclosures may be disallowed for the remainder of the year, there will be loan modification programs available to assist individuals to defer some or all of their payments due to job loss resulting from COVID-19.

The question of how to respond during such unprecedented times weighs heavily on the minds of business leaders across all industries. Currently, though, the playing field is level. Unlike a major cyberattack, for example, the coronavirus outbreak is besieging all firms simultaneously, rather than just one or a few. 

How your leadership responds now is critical for both the present and future. Communication from your senior leadership is more important now than ever to preserve the integral trust and reputation among clients as we all navigate the uncertainties of these times together. 

Frequent, honest, and transparent communication is paramount to update clients, regulators, and employees on how your firm is responding to the situation. Organizations must be paying immediate, close attention to their leadership teams across their customer call center, collections, default management, data, investor relations, and loss mitigation teams to ensure they have the appropriate processes, technology, and people in place to service their customers above and beyond expectations. 

In such challenging times, providing maximum benefit to the customer while strictly adhering to government regulations, guidelines, and directives is vastly important. In order to keep and grow your valued customer relationships, how you engage and service clients now, when they need you the most, can speak volumes for years to come.

Cybersecurity is another key area to address. By now, with so many organizations operating as remotely as possible, there are more vulnerabilities and points of entry for malicious cyber actors to take advantage of due to such a significant increase of remote access to data and core systems. Organizations should begin to shore up their defenses immediately by:

  • Increasing awareness among staff about suspicious emails; phishing attempts are drastically increasing during the crisis
  • Utilize security tools to identify and remedy any potential weak points throughout your information systems
  • Strengthen your remote working policies; ensure employees are working from as secure a network as possible
  • Make sure all decisions and software are updated and patched

The coming months, though they may be racked with challenges, will be highly indicative of a firm’s standing for the coming years as we all eagerly await an end to the current economic and health crisis.  

With payments defaults projected to double across all products and segments in the coming months, and the importance of an organization’s response paramount, Huffman Associates can help you build the leadership team you need to address your readiness and navigate through these trying times. 

Over the years, our team of dedicated executive recruiters has partnered with great organizations to help them find the leaders they need to drive their business forward. 

Get in touch with us today to learn more.


Top Digital Transformation Trends Shaping Financial Services

The digital transformation is well underway, asserting its effects across virtually every industry worldwide. Some, however, seem to feel the effects more heavily than others. 

Emerging digital technologies continue to course through the financial services sector, and organizations are rallying to match increased competition and surging consumer demand for seamless customer experiences across a range of services. 

Traditional models for products and services are giving way to entirely new offerings fueled by new digital capabilities and demand for greater ease of use and convenience—and this trend is only seeing its momentum build in 2020. 

Below, we’ll cover a few of the significant digital transformation trends in financial services and what it indicates for organizations going forward. 

Digital transformation initiatives are a top priority 

The radically shifting financial services landscape has caused digital transformation efforts to be an absolute business imperative for organizations large and small, old, and young. 

Virtually all (97%) of financial services firms report being at some stage of their digital transformation initiatives, whether it’s designing initial strategies or at varying stages of implementing them. 

Regardless of how robust their current strategies may be, 21% of firms also report continuing to develop digital transformation strategies as their number one digital priority. 

Emerging technologies and shifting customer demands play significant roles in these findings, but a rapid swell in new, determined competition is no small contributor.

Where once the space was dominated by a few giant institutions, today, financial services are beset with “thousands of new players, spanning all sizes, revenue ranges, and services.”

It’s critical for organizations to make informed, intentional steps to embrace and leverage digital transformation to keep pace with their peers. 

Mobile banking

One of the more prominent of the aforementioned customer-centric services emerging in financial services is the continued push towards mobile banking. 

Today, customers aren’t concerned with how immaculate the carpet, how shiny the tile or the quality of treat dish on the counter at the bank is. 

In this digital age, most people want all of their services (applying for loans, transferring funds, depositing checks, etc.) accessible from the comfort and familiarity of their smartphone. 

As human contact trends towards becoming just a quaint memory from the past, organizations face cutthroat competition to offer more and more customer-centric service to the marketplace via mobile banking. And in this race, according to Forbes, the easiest app often wins. 

Mobile pay

Mirroring the rise of mobile banking, an increasing percentage of payments can be received via mobile pay as user experience, and on-demand convenience continues to be key areas of focus. 

While this is far from breaking news, the growth of mobile payments year after year is noteworthy. Having already eclipsed $75 billion in 2016, mobile payments are expected to skyrocket to $500 billion by the end of this year

With 30% of Americans already making zero purchases a week with cash, these figures are only expected to climb as organizations continue to innovate their services to meet the demand for contactless payments. 

Big data

The financial services industry certainly isn’t starved for company when it comes to grappling with the demands of big data. 

One of the byproducts of the digital transformation is an overwhelming amount of information at the disposal of organizations. Along with that data comes the pressing need to leverage advanced analytics, machine learning, AI, and cloud services to make actionable use of it. 

By now, most companies have refined and optimized their processes to gather and store that data. But the answer to the question of how to best maximize the potential value and boost productivity, efficiency, profits, and customer-experience is less widely known. 

For the foreseeable future, financial services firms will continue to need to invest more resources towards developing sound data analytic practices to discover new competitive advantages and drive new market opportunities. 

The road that leads through digital transformation, while landmarked with incredible opportunity, can be a challenging one. While some firms may already well-positioned to quickly adapt to this phenomenon and deploy innovative strategies, many still need to devote major resources to upskill their employees and modify their traditional processes to compete in the digital world.  

Huffman Associates

If you’re looking to add cutting-edge talent to help your organization navigate a tumultuous business landscape, Huffman Associates is here to help. 

For over a half-century, our team of dedicated executive recruiters has partnered with great organizations to help them find the leaders they need to drive their business forward. 
Get in touch with us today to learn more.


How Great Leaders Inspire Employee Retention

Innovative retention strategies have long been a hot topic across all industries. 

In today’s candidate-driven market, where talent is increasingly hard to come by, this topic has gained even more traction and populates more headlines (see above) than ever before. 

Most of the attention on the topic, though, has consistently revolved around topics like developing and promoting a strong employer brand, constructing competitive benefits packages, offering trendy work perks, and, of course, pay.

While all of these components are certainly important in the effort to retain top performers, they don’t quite tell the whole story. 

Too often, organizations underestimate their leading team member’s influence on overall employee engagement, and, ultimately, their desire to keep coming and working for you every day. 

Typically, it can be more useful to explore the link between retention and leadership by looking at the effects of bad leaders. A Gallup study of more than 7,000 US adults found that 50% of people leave their job directly because of a bad manager/boss/supervisor. 

Most of the time, as the saying goes, people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. 

We’d like to redirect the narrative, though, and shed some light on all the positive ways in which good leaders can inspire greater employee retention. 

Good leaders value innovation & agility and keep their teams open, engaged, and united

Not all teams are natural fits; some require a little direction and encouragement before they can begin to gel and function optimally. Even for the ones that are natural fits, good leaders can still play a critical role in the overall cohesiveness and camaraderie present among employees. 

Average teams can become good teams, and good teams can become great teams when a great leader steps in and leads.

Regularly practicing and relying on transparency and open communications in their interactions with workers help to promote an environment where people feel engaged and involved in a group that’s larger than themselves. 

Make sure to evaluate if your leaders are champions of communication and collaboration, or if they instead assume that those traits will manifest themselves without their influence. 

Good leaders build healthy relationships with (and among) employees

This may seem too obvious to include, but we can’t overstate how valuable this is. 

When workers feel they have a healthy rapport with leaders, they are far more likely to be content with their work environment. Effective leaders take time to cultivate their relationships with individual team members, and, even more importantly, help facilitate relationships between other employees. 

Not to be confused with micromanaging, this level of internal networking helps employees feel valued within a company. And an employee who feels valued is far less likely to look for greener pastures elsewhere. 

Good leaders help employees achieve their goals 

One of the most common reasons people cite for moving on from a company is that they felt there was not a path to advance their career, or management wasn’t supportive in helping them to develop themselves professionally. 

Great leaders help employees identify their goals and develop a plan that will help them to achieve those goals. Whether that’s helping them find a mentor, providing training opportunities, or even just meeting with them monthly or quarterly to talk about what they want to accomplish long-term—all of this helps promote a sense of value among workers and encourages employees to visualize their future at their organization. 

While a workplace will always need to have a cohesive company culture and offer competitive benefits and pay, it’s crucial for an organization to have the right leaders in place to encourage employees to stick around for the long haul. 

Huffman Associates

Looking to find your next retention-inspiring, productivity-boosting leader? Huffman Associates is here to help. 
Our 50 years’ experience in executive search consultancy allows our team of veteran recruiters to consistently identify and attract top leaders across multiple practice areas. Call us today to learn how we can do it for you.

Huffman Associates LLC