We are inspired by people who are passionate about technology that solves pressing global challenges. Scaling and commercializing those solutions requires serious knowledge, courage, perseverance, and support systems like those who work in the insurance industry. In this interview series, our chief actuary, Sherry Huang, talks with friends of NER whose work makes a difference, and whose journeys will inspire you, too.

 

A Conversation with Connie Joe, Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, Bank of the West

By Sherry Huang, Chief Actuary
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity

 

Photo Courtesy of Connie Joe

Connie and I met through our kids and we are in the same book club. We seldom discuss work when we meet (our kids are usually in the way!), but recently we realized our work has some common ground. Connie is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) officer at Bank of the West, while I work on an insurance team that supports commercialization of sustainable, breakthrough technologies. After spending some time talking to Connie, I realized we have more professional commonality than I thought! We both work to enable innovative new ventures using the platform of traditional industries, and we each enjoy the aspirational part of our jobs, making a difference for our partners and the world. 

Connie, you are always so enthusiastic about your job! Tell us about what you do at Bank of the West.

As a CSR officer at Bank of the West, my role involves setting up and implementing governance guidelines for various mission-driven programs that align with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives at the company. Along with others on my team, we work on programs that span from community outreach, to governance for new sustainability-related requirements (e.g. no coal business by 2030), and we partner with others in the company to grow new business portfolios such as our Energy Transaction vertical. Both Bank of the West and its parent company, BNP Paribas, have a strong focus on sustainability and a commitment to social issues, striving to be the bank for a changing world.  

How do you measure success at work and what are some of the challenges you and your team face?

Our group goal is aligned with the company’s mission to become a leader in sustainable banking. We measure our success by monitoring and reporting on our annual CSR plan. Balancing the cost and benefit of implementing the right mission-driven programs and managing missed opportunities is something that I think all of us have to work with from time to time.  

What parts of your job excites you the most?

I sincerely love being able to make a positive difference as the core part of my job. It gives me great satisfaction to know that my role plays an integral part in making sure that we are only financing companies that are supporting energy transition. Bank of the West also has some innovative sustainable financing programs that support energy transition for retail consumers. For example, our ‘1% for the Planet’ debit account provides a carbon footprint tracking tool for every purchase made with the debit card and will donate 1% of revenue to environmental nonprofit partners. I am also proud that Bank of the West is one of the few US banks that has a CEO who is a minority woman!

How did you get to where you are today?

I studied biology in college and started my career as a consultant at Accenture with a focus on public health. Starting out in consulting was a great experience – I loved the goal-oriented, clear-path environment that allowed me to grow exponentially. I decided to move away from consulting after starting a family and got more involved with process and program management. I took a chief of staff position at Bank of the West that enabled me to return to community development through working on the Community Reinvestment team, which eventually led me to the CSR team today. 

Did you have a mentor who helped you shape your career?

Yes, I have been lucky to have mentors that have helped me grow and navigate my career. One of my mentors is famous for promoting women into positions that were stretch roles. He constantly challenged us to never become too comfortable in our roles and demonstrated to me how important it is to have an executive who can see your potential before you can. Another mentor was instrumental in supporting [me when I was] finding my way back to working in community development. Her support during my career pivots, even if it was not the easiest path to her organization, allowed me to begin and grow my career in the CSR area. 

Thank you, Connie!