The St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE), in cooperation with the Missouri Division of Workforce Development (DWD), presented the first installment of the new Show-Me Heroes Industry Series geared towards veterans, a Financial Sector Forum. The Forum took place on July 26, 2012, at the University of Missouri - St. Louis' South Campus. Hiring managers and financial industry experts offered their perspectives on entering a career in finance, and addressed the advantages and challenges many veterans must overcome when looking for employment in the civilian marketplace.
The panelists included (on photo, right to left) Christina Anderson from U.S. Bank, Vernon Curtis from Prudential, Ann Holder and Chanty Bradley-Brown from Wells Fargo Advisors, Tracey Beckette from Heartland Bank. All the participating firms are active participants in Governor Nixon's Show-Me Heroes initiative, designed to assist returning veterans reintegrate into the civilian workforce. So far, more than 2,000 employers statewide have pledged their support of and commitment to hire Missouri veterans.
All panelists indicated their companies are hiring across a broad spectrum of positions. While some jobs, such as Bank Analyst and Credit Analyst, are highly technical and require expertise most veterans don't have, other positions, for example Financial Advisor and Mortgage Operations, are ones that most veterans can successfully apply for. Veterans should look for jobs that require great interpersonal or "soft" skills, including extensive leadership experience, the ability to relate to others, and trust building capability. The panelists noted that these capabilities are much desired in the financial services industry as they help provide exceptional customer service and build new relationships.
Veterans also have extensive network connections that may help financial institutions find new clients. "[After leaving their units] Veterans may already know 500 to 600 people they can reach out to, while civilians may know only 100 people, " said Bradley-Brown. Her company, Wells Fargo Advisors, is currently hiring Financial Advisors in Training with the goal to fill 700 open positions before the end of the year, many of which are predicted to be veterans.
Tracey Beckett with Heartland Bank emphasized the career opportunities available at all levels. His advice to veterans is to "get the foot in the door," and experience bank operations from the bottom up. "Learn to work with groups of people to get things done, and let your manager to guide you to the next level. Add certifications as you move along; Six Sigma is a good one".
The Financial Forum panel summarized their ideal candidate: someone with strong inter-personal and analytical skills, the ability to embrace change, an effective communicator, a positive attitude, and able to make decisions and build strong business relationships based on trust. Veterans typically have extensive experience with these skills – skills in high demand that should not be underestimated.
Wells Fargo Advisors is looking into changing the requirement for its Financial Advisor in Training position to accept two years of military service as adequate experience. All the panelists agreed, it's time for other companies to recognize veterans' military experience and adjust hiring process accordingly.
The Financial Forum is one of many services SLATE provides to veterans. At our Career Center locations, veteran representatives are available to provide job search guidance, financial aid navigation, and access to disability benefits among other forms of assistance.
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