BAI Managing Editor Lou Carlozo
Lou Carlozo Nov 22, 2016

Happy Banksgiving: What a difference a holiday makes

The Fed and interest rates. The presidential election. The Chicago Cubs. The 2016 stories that grabbed readers, viewers and listeners by the lapels are known in media parlance as "breaking news." Yet the Philadelphia Inquirer's Gene Roberts—arguably the greatest newspaper editor of the 20th Century—preached a nuanced gospel of "stories that do not break, but trickle, seep and ooze."

And that's where Banksgiving comes in.

Banks made plenty of headlines in 2016. And 2015. And 2014. And 1886. But this Banksgiving, I invite you to consider how the industry changes lives for the better in ways that barely register a blip in our 24-hour news cycle. Herein lies an irony. Even the biggest headlines fade from public view. But the good that banks do will continue to reap a harvest for years to come. These are the stories, then, that trickle, seep and ooze with all the sweetness of a pass-the-cranberry-sauce holiday gathering. Let’s review just a few:

Fifth Third: Getting the job done for veterans

In Chicago, Fifth Third Bank hosted a Veterans Day hiring fair at Navy Pier, an event that connected 300 vets with more than two dozen area employers. To date, Fifth Third has hosted 1,000-plus veterans at three such events. More than 100 veterans have landed employment within 60 days, with 43 receiving on-the-spot job offers. In conjunction with this year’s fair, Fifth Third also served the military community by continuing its successful “Pets 4 Vets” program, launched last year. The brainchild of Fifth Third regional marketing director Andrew Arden Hayes, “Pets 4 Vets” underwrites the cost of pet adoptions on Veterans Day.  “The last two years we worked with Lakeshore Paws of Valparaiso, Ind. and helped get more than 25 dogs adopted by veterans and active duty military,” Hayes says.

Citi: Making help that’s mobile and motivational

Aiding the military was also the theme of Citi’s mobile initiative, in conjunction with Military.com. A free app called Transition helps military personnel prepare for civilian life by providing an interactive checklist and notifications to tackle the important and arduous military paperwork that begins some 18 months before discharge. Meanwhile on the youth side of things, the Citi Kids community-based initiative provides education and motivation for middle and high school-aged children in greater New York—while introducing them to top professional and Olympic athletes, as well as successful business leaders.

JPMorgan Chase: Can’t forget the Motor City

At a time when many still turn their backs on Detroit, JPMorgan Chase has the Motor City’s back. This year, it has invested more $1.3 million to increase the number of Detroiters receiving skills training for in-demand jobs, while bolstering partnerships between job seekers, local employers and training providers. The funds will support the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan and Corporation for a Skilled Workforce. Now, if that seems like a drop in the bucket, it is—but not in the way you might think. The $1.3 million represents just 1.3 percent of the $100 million JPMorgan Chase has committed to the city’s economic recovery.

The true meaning of Banksgiving: Everybody wins

A single strand connects all of these bright lights in banking: It’s all about strengthening relationships. Most of the year, we think of relationships in terms of what's best for business: superior customer service, mobile bells and whistles, responding to the financial needs of consumers ahead of the competition.

Yet in the race to impact those who might otherwise be forgotten or overlooked, everybody wins. To be sure, banks want to build goodwill and get noticed in the counties, cities and regions they serve. That's smart. But it's also wise—and generous beyond compare—when those in financial services care enough to pick a pressing or important issue, and take decisive action to address it. 

When that proactive passion eventually touches a person's life, just watch. The gratitude is genuine. At Fifth Third's Navy Pier hiring fair, Navy Petty Officer second class Anthony Jones Jr. exuded hope and excitement when he told CBS Chicago: “The best thing to do is to propel us in the right direction … so we will be able to use our skills and further excel and be a better member of society."

If we can use our gifts to help others reach those same ends, think of how much richer we will become. If nothing else, the effort will provide respite from snagging the gifts of another kind that beckon at ridiculously crowded Black Friday sales.

Speaking of ridiculously crowded, it's almost time for me to squeeze two kids, two adults and the accompanying baggage into a compact car for a 14-hour road trip to Philly. There, a loud, boisterous family gathering awaits: a bit like "Rocky" meets the food fight from "Animal House." We will be exhausted and crabby on arrival. And we wouldn’t miss it for the world.

No matter where home is or the season takes you, here's hoping your holiday weekend kicks off a season of prosperity, positivity and peace. Happy Banksgiving.

Lou Carlozo is the managing editor at BAI.

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