By John E. McWeeney Jr.
I would like to start by publicly thanking Mike Quick for his leadership with our association over the past year. Mike has done a great job of tackling some very tough issues and I wouldn’t be in my role today without his strong leadership. I also want to congratulate Roger Bosma, our incoming chairman. Roger is one of my many new bosses with the association, and I’m confident that we’re going to do great things together. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.
Let me also thank the board of trustees and the search committee for the NJBankers. I really appreciate the trust and the confidence they have placed in me. I’m deeply honored by this opportunity and I promise I will not let you down.
I also want to thank Rob Tartaglia for the terrific job he did during this interim period. Rob really stepped up as a leader, and did not just hold the association in place, but he moved us forward. So Rob, thank you very much for your leadership.
I also want to recognize the other members of the New Jersey Bankers Association staff: Tim Doherty, Jane Swanson, Jane Eiseman, Sabrina Younossi and Mary Lou Hessman. This team really came together during a period of change and I’m looking forward to working with all of them. I feel fortunate to have such a strong team of professionals in place.
I want to say to our bank members: I’m one of you. Being a banker is all I ever wanted to be. I’ve spent my entire 28-year career as a banker. I’ve worked in many different lines of business, and in many geographic markets. I’ve always felt privileged to be a banker.
I think we work in a great profession, one where we can help make people’s dreams come true. What could be more rewarding than helping a young couple purchase their first home or helping a family educate their children? Or to see the look in the eyes of an entrepreneur as they start their first business?
I’ve been blessed to have a 28-year career with Bank of America and its predecessor, Fleet. It’s been an outstanding experience. It’s a great company with tremendous leadership, and great people. I’ll always treasure my years with Bank of America, and I’m very happy that I’ll have the opportunity to continue to work with Bank of America in my new capacity, because they’re an important member of our association.
When I had my first meeting with our staff a few weeks ago, after we introduced each other, the first thing I said to them was “Everything starts and ends with our members.”
We exist to serve our members and if we ever lose sight of that important mission, we don’t deserve to be in existence. Everything we do, every single day, should be from the perspective of serving our members.
New Jersey Bankers Association is here to serve all our members, large or small, northern, central and southern New Jersey. We’re also here to serve our affiliate members, and I want to thank our affiliate members for their continued support. I look forward to working with all of them in the future.
We serve our members in many different ways, through advocacy in Trenton and Washington, D.C., through our professional education and development programs, by providing networking and social opportunities, and – something that especially interests me – through finding ways we can help our members drive incremental revenue growth and improve their operating efficiency. We are a powerful association, and if we can leverage the power of our membership, then we can help our member banks improve their operating performance.
The last point I want to make to our members is this: You know better than we how the New Jersey Bankers Association can serve you. My personal commitment to each and every one of you is that I’m going to be out on the road visiting our member banks, your senior management teams, your directors and key officers, and I want you to tell us how we can serve you better. I want to do a lot of listening.
Let me spend a few minutes giving you my vision for the New Jersey Bankers Association.
My vision is that we are part of a strong partnership with the New Jersey League of Community Bankers, to form one united and powerful voice for the banking industry in New Jersey and to serve our mutual members.
One of the first things I did when I was appointed was to reach out to League President Jim Silkenson to introduce myself and to pledge my support to working with him and his team at the League. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know Bob Monteith, the League’s chairman. I really look forward to building on the relationship that exists today between NJBA and the League.
My vision for the New Jersey Bankers Association is that we will be recognized as the premier state banking association in the country. When people at other state banking associations are looking for new ideas and best practices, and they call our friends at the American Bankers Association, I want the ABA to tell them to “call the New Jersey Bankers Association, because they’ve got it figured out.”
My vision for the New Jersey Bankers Association is that we become one of the premier business associations in the state of New Jersey, taking a backseat to no one, but participating in strong partnerships with other state associations.
I want what the New Jersey Bankers Association thinks about policy issues to matter in Trenton, to the governor, to his administration and to the Legislature.
My vision is for a New Jersey Bankers Association whose membership goes much deeper and broader than just the senior management of our banks. I want young bankers, women bankers and minority bankers to look to NJBA for professional development and guidance on career development.
Lastly, my vision for NJBA and its member banks is that we become recognized as the leader in giving back to New Jersey citizens and communities through our charitable activities and sponsorships, through our community development efforts and through the volunteerism of our employees. I think we already do that today; we just have to tell our story better.
Since I was appointed in April, I’ve been reaching out to people in the marketplace to let them know about my new responsibilities and to form or build new partnerships with them. One of the people I reached out to was Phil Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, one of the largest trade associations in New Jersey, with more than 23,000 members.
Phil said something to me when I spoke to him that really hit home. He called the New Jersey Bankers Association a “sleeping giant.” I agree with Phil, I think the New Jersey Bankers Association is a sleeping giant, but when you look at the breadth and strength of our membership, when you look at the leadership provided by our board of trustees and when you look at the strength of our staff, I think the future of the NJBA is very, very bright.
In closing, let me say that I look forward to working with all of you, in partnership, in the weeks and months ahead, to build a strong New Jersey Bankers Association, together – as a team – and I look forward to working with all of you to awaken the sleeping giant.
John E. McWeeney is president and chief executive officer of NJBankers. This column is adapted from John McWeeney’s remarks at the 2007 NJBankers Convention in Palm Beach, Fla.