Get to Know Nicole Martin, Senior Vice President, Deposit Administration, Benchmark Community Bank
2021 EBL Committee Chair
about why you became a banker and what has kept you in the
industry for the past 19.5 years.
I was a summer teller at a local community bank during college. Before I graduated, I accepted a position at a financial planning firm in Northern Virginia, but decided I could not see myself living in a big city. Two months after my graduation from Virginia Tech, I heard about an opening at Benchmark and I was fortunate enough to get the job. I have stayed in this industry, specifically with Benchmark, because I feel there is real value in what we do every day to help our customers. No matter the role I serve – and I have held a variety of positions within our bank – I know the people in our community need and trust in our team and in the services we offer.
In your opinion, what does it mean to be a successful
banking professional in today’s environment?
I think the confidence in knowing that you are giving all you can each day to your job, your bank, your community and the banking industry equals success. Given the turmoil of the last year and dealing with illness and absence, remote working, virtual learning for our children, and shutdowns, all while ensuring we take of our customers, keep our employees safe and keep our banks running (and successful) can be overwhelming. When I have moments of chaos, which happens frequently, I try to focus on all that I have accomplished, which helps to calm my inner critic. Then I can concentrate on my to-do list items. My goal is to give my best each day and forgive myself on the days I fall short; then start fresh tomorrow.
What would you tell someone considering a career in
banking are the best parts of the job? How can bankers work
with younger generations to attract them to the industry and
strengthen the pipeline of talent?
One of my favorite things about talking with the VBA Internship Program and Bank Day Scholarship Program participants is getting to highlight the many job opportunities available in banking. Tellers are the face of the bank, so I think some of our younger customers assume it is the only position available; but there is so much more – from retail to IT to marketing to compliance. I think it is our responsibility to continue to promote our industry to high school and college students as a profession to consider. I feel so blessed that I have made my career with a bank that values its employees and their input, provides growth opportunities, takes care of its customers and gives back to its communities – all while being able to raise my family in the same small town where I grew up. Our bank is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so I take comfort knowing that I work for a well-established company with a strong leadership team that still focuses on the same values that our founders had in mind when they decided to form a new bank in Lunenburg County back in 1971. I am proud to be a Virginia banker and especially a Benchmarker.
Tell us how you initially became involved with the VBA
Emerging Bank Leaders and why you decided to champion the group
through becoming its chair.
When I attended the Virginia Bankers School of Bank Management, the Emerging Bank Leaders was just rolling out as a revamp of the previous Young Bankers Section. I really enjoyed my classmates and getting to know people who worked in all areas of the banks across Virginia, so I thought the EBL was a great way to expand my network even more. I have attended the Leadership Conference every year (except 2013 when I was out on maternity leave), and it is always wonderful to catch up with my banker friends and hear from dynamic speakers. I am excited to take on the challenge this year as chair. Our group is comprised of some of the most energetic and innovative bankers in the Commonwealth, with fresh perspectives on the future of banking. I look forward to meeting more of my peers and continuing to grow our EBL membership.
“I have so much pride in our industry – that we have navigated PPP which helped to keep open many small businesses in our communities and are gearing up for round two now, that we have assisted in putting much needed Economic Impact Payments into the hands of Americans and that we remained steadfast as we adjusted our branch services and staffing to keep our customers and our employees safe and healthy. No matter the challenge, bankers continue to rise to the occasion.”
We’ve been navigating this trio of crises (health,
economic and social) since March. Any insights or leadership
lessons learned you’d like to share?
As I reflect over the last year, I have learned many lessons, both personally and professionally. I have so much pride in our industry – that we have navigated PPP which helped to keep open many small businesses in our communities and are gearing up for round two now, that we have assisted in putting much needed Economic Impact Payments into the hands of Americans and that we remained steadfast as we adjusted our branch services and staffing to keep our customers and our employees safe and healthy. No matter the challenge, bankers continue to rise to the occasion.
With the new year upon us, yet so much still uncertain,
how do you recommend members of the EBL engage with the
association in 2021?
Sign up to receive VBA communications and follow VBA and EBL on the various social media platforms! Watch for meetings, trainings and conference opportunities and participate. The VBA has done a wonderful job of pivoting to a virtual environment, so it is easier than ever to make the time to get involved and network with your peers, without even leaving your office. Engage in government relations – the change in administration this year will surely present challenges to our industry and banking regulation – answer the calls to action and contact your legislators to share your stories of real-life customer impact. It is so important to get involved.
What’s the best thing you have ever done for yourself in
terms of leadership development?
The VBA Executive Leadership Institute. Getting to learn from Karen Conrad and Nancy Eberhardt and having the time to focus on myself helped to build my confidence as a leader, wife and mother. I highly recommend this program to anyone looking to expand their leadership strategies and communication skills.
How can any emerging bank leader lead at their bank, no
matter their position?
Speak up. Ask for opportunities, for training, volunteer to work on a new project. Share ideas, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Ask an admired leader in your organization to be a mentor and really work to foster that relationship and grow as a leader. You will never regret sharing your desire to do and be more.
“Lightning round” questions:
- I would most like to have lunch with (dead or alive)? Dave Matthews
- Favorite weekend activity? Golf with my girlfriends
- Best part of your job? My team – they ROCK
- If I wasn’t a banker, I would be a …? Superhero
- If your life right now were a Netflix show what would it be called? Schitt’s Creek