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Be Humble. Be Hungry. Be Smart.

By Hazel Morrison

If you had asked me in college what I had planned for my career, bank marketing would have been far from the top of my list. Truth is, I planned to work in communications for a nonprofit. I wanted to help people.

During my first couple of years out of school, I worked as a marketing coordinator for a nonprofit hospital and loved it. I felt I was helping people by educating our community through events, developing patient education, interviewing doctors for articles, etc. However, my fiancé at the time (now husband) had just taken a job in Midland. I soon began my own job search and found a new marketing position as a media relations specialist at a community bank headquartered in Midland.

I knew as much about banking as your average person. I had a checking and savings account. Past that, I really didn’t know anything about banking, and I certainly didn’t know anything about marketing for a bank. After all, my goal was to find a career that would help people — that certainly wasn’t the banking industry. Banks simply held people’s money and made loans, or so I thought. Thankfully, the hiring manager saw something in me and took a chance on this naive marketer.

For years, one of my favorite quotes has been, “Be humble. Be hungry. Be smart.” I have it written on a sticky note that’s displayed on my desk as a daily reminder. It’s one of the first pieces of advice I give to people starting their careers in bank marketing.

Be Humble.

When I started in banking, I knew a little about marketing and nothing about the financial industry. Yet, I wouldn’t ask questions for fear of people finding out what a self-perceived “fraud” I was. I was young and afraid to look like I didn’t know what I was doing. However, without asking questions, you’ll never learn. I figured out that if I was going to make it in this field, I had to be humble enough to ask questions and admit when I didn’t understand something. 

What I soon found out, was that people didn’t judge me for asking questions. They actually appreciated the fact that I was showing an interest in how a balance sheet worked; how treasury management tools functioned for the customer; that I cared about what they cared about. Yes, it required me to be willing to admit when I didn’t know something and occasionally apologize when I had to ask someone to explain what an acronym stood for — for the tenth time. However, those occurrences provided me with opportunities to learn.

Be Hungry.

If you’re going to succeed in this field, you have to be constantly learning — whether it’s about new marketing trends or products and services. Bank marketing isn’t for those who are okay with being complacent. You have to be hungry to learn. 

Once I learned to be humble enough to ask questions, I quickly began reaping the results of my efforts. I showed interest in the internal operations of the bank, other departments, compliance regulations, and so on. I began learning, and as a result, I was able to do my job better. I understood products and services, customer pain points, internal challenges and strategic goals — all vital parts of becoming a better communicator and bank marketer. 

I showed that I was invested in the bank. In return, I was included in more meetings and more conversations. Not only did this provide additional learning opportunities, but it also culminated in marketing being seen as a valuable team player. 

Bank marketers cannot be complacent and still expect to do their job well. They need to search out opportunities to grow. Whether it’s taking on more responsibilities at the bank, volunteering for different projects, asking to attend training or taking advantage of educational resources through the Texas Bankers Association or American Bankers Association. 

You need to be hungry to learn and show initiative. Put yourself out there, even when it’s uncomfortable. That’s how you grow.

Be Smart.

You have to be hungry to learn, but be smart enough to know what you don’t know. I realize this is a cliché interview question, but there’s a lot of wisdom in being self-aware enough to know your strengths and weaknesses. It’s okay to ask for help and admit when you may need more training in one area or another. 

As bank marketers, we have a unique opportunity to work with every single department within the bank. We get to learn from other people with more experience and different perspectives. Be smart enough to take advantage of this and search for people who are high performers within your organization with whom you can develop mentor relationships. Listen to their wisdom to determine how to better overcome your own obstacles and weaknesses.

If you’re new to the field of bank marketing, welcome. It’s a special niche. It’s challenging — and sometimes overwhelming — but it’s also very rewarding. 

Bank marketers are a resource. We’re a support team for our customer-facing employees who work tirelessly to give back to our communities. We put together lesson plans for financial literacy to teach future generations of tomorrow. We’re the behind-the-scenes team helping make our lenders and bankers look great so they can make loans to finance someone’s dream. We’re the servants, assisting our internal departments so they can better assist our customers. 

Bank marketing has challenged me to grow more than I could have ever imagined. What I didn’t understand eight years ago is that as bank marketers and bankers, our whole purpose is to help others. 

Hazel MorrisonHazel Morrison, CFMP, is a vice president and director of marketing at West Texas National Bank, a privately owned community bank predominately serving communities in West Texas.

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