Best Employer

Independent Bank Corp. CEO Christopher Oddleifson devoted a significant portion of the bank’s 2019 shareholder letter to culture, specifically the “cycle of engagement,” a virtuous cycle in which engaged employees provide a higher level of service, leading to more engaged customers and stronger financial performance. This allows the company to invest those gains back into employees and customers, completing the cycle.

“That cycle doesn’t just happen, nor does it operate in a vacuum. It is formed, nurtured, cultivated and fed by our healthy culture,” wrote Oddleifson. He’s spent countless hours reading books, and listening to podcasts and speakers, focused on culture and engagement. “All my research has reinforced my belief that leadership with a purpose, focused on employees, builds long-term profitability,” he explained. “It is extremely dangerous to ignore the important role that employees and culture play in success.”

Yet, culture and engagement are concepts that can be hard to quantify. To analyze each bank’s reputation as an employer, Bank Director examined benefits and perks, and the depth and availability of training initiatives. We looked into culture, measured through engagement efforts, volunteerism and similar factors, and commitment to diversity and inclusion. We included employee ratings shared on Glassdoor and Indeed, two popular resources for job seekers. Finally, we considered how each bank supported employees during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to developing a strong culture, and offering competitive compensation and benefits, successful banks position themselves to attract talent in their markets; in relying on publicly available information, this category implicitly awards how each bank sells itself as an employer.

“The banks that have done well here have gone beyond creating a good environment — they want to be an attractive employer to top talent in the market,” says Crowe Partner Kara Baldwin.

Independent Bank Corp. ranks first, due in large part to its commitment to culture, including diversity and inclusion. The company’s training initiatives include diversity awareness; the bank has been recognized for LGBTQ workplace equality by the Human Rights Campaign since 2016. Training also includes professional development opportunities, leadership training and tuition reimbursement.

During the height of the pandemic, 86% of the bank’s non-retail staff worked remotely, and the company maintained compensation for full-time employees whose hours were reduced. It even managed to add staff by hiring virtually.

With banks forced to remote work, engagement proves even more vital.

“Think about working for a company where you enjoy being around the people that you work with, you enjoy the work that you do, you buy into the mission of the company — you’re going to be much more productive than if you don’t have those things,” says Independent’s COO, Robert Cozzone. That builds engagement, along with a culture that promotes inclusion, respect, teamwork and empathy, he adds. The pandemic and other pressures generate a tremendous amount of stress. “It’s all that more important to show [employees] care and empathy and understanding,” Cozzone says.

Bank OZK, at second, supported 900 remote employees and instituted a new paid leave policy during the pandemic. Its range of benefits include paid parental, military and bereavement leave. Community involvement is actively encouraged, with employees logging over 4,000 volunteer hours in 2019.

OZK launched an employee engagement survey, along with an exit survey, in 2019, to uncover how to improve the employee experience.

Community Bank System, at third, scored highly for diversity and inclusion. The bank requires employees to receive bias awareness and anti-discrimination training, in addition to other professional development. During the pandemic, Community Bank System instituted work from home, and expanded paid time off and health benefits.

Ranking fourth, Southside Bancshares gives employees paid time off — 20 hours annually — to volunteer in the community, giving more than 5,000 hours of time in 2019. Its extensive training initiatives include tuition assistance, leadership development and mentorship, and the bank was recognized by the Texas Bankers Association for its retail banking internship program.

Glacier Bancorp, at fifth, features a broad range of benefits and perks, including a financial wellness program, pregnancy support and profit sharing.

Glacier also scored well for supporting employees during the pandemic, by eliminating copays and coinsurance for Covid-19 testing, expanding its wellness program, offering flexible scheduling and extending employee leave.

“Banks that did well in this category prioritized their employees’ safety,” says Rick Childs, a partner at Crowe. It has been a challenging year, but a commitment by leaders to create a great place to work will serve well for the long-term performance of the bank — building its reputation with prospective employees, customers and the community.

How They Ranked: Best Employer

SEPT. 2020
YE 2019
CATEGORY WINNER: Independent Bank Corp. 4.75 3.95 1,348
2 Bank OZK 5.38 3.45 2,774
3 Community Bank System 5.63 3.35 3,038
4 Southside Bancshares 8.00 3.70 845
4 Glacier Bancorp 8.00 3.80 2,801
6 Lakeland Financial Corp. 8.13 4.30 568
7 Horizon Bancorp 8.38 3.50 839
8 WSFS Financial Corp. 8.75 3.15 1,782
9 First Financial Bankshares 9.38 3.35 1,345
10 First Capital 10.38 4.25 182
11 Prosperity Bancshares 10.63 3.20 3,901
12 The First Bancorp 11.25 3.20 240
13 Meta Financial Group 11.38 3.00 1,086
14 Stock Yards Bancorp 11.50 3.45 615
15 Greene County Bancorp 12.63 4.15 161
16 Hingham Institution for Savings 13.25 3.55 86
17 Eagle Bancorp Montana 14.00 4.10 298
18 City Holding Co. 14.88 3.40 918
19 Auburn National Bancorp. 16.13 3.25 163
20 Southern Missouri Bancorp 20.00 2.30 470

SOURCE: Glassdoor, Indeed, bank websites, filings and other public information