Empathy in Business

Pocketnest attends MX Summit and learns key insights into propelling the finance industry forward, including empathy and perseverance


By: Ashleigh Craven

This past week, our CEO and founder, Jessica Willis and CMO, Ashleigh Craven, soaked in tons of insight, networking and mountainous views at the MX Money Experience Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah. They saw moose, networked with other techies, and heard from incredible leaders and athletes like NFL star Peyton Manning and Olympian Apollo Ohno; design-thinking- and empathy-driven innovators like Empathy Innovations' Jane Marie Chen; and banking game-changers like US Bank’s Tim Welsh.


Sure, the lineup of speakers was surprising. Who would think to turn to legendary NFL star (and personal favorite of Ashleigh Craven) for advice on sparking change in the financial industry? Who would put design thinkers with Olympian gold medalists and bankers in the same room to share insights on how to make the world a better place? Thankfully, the uber-talented and forward-thinking folks at MX did.



A running theme

Bouncing between ballrooms and obscurely-named meeting rooms, toting our 76-lb. purses stuffed with all our conference essentials, we noticed an interesting trend. We kept hearing a similar storyline. Most, if not all, of the sessions we attended featured a common thread carefully woven into the stories.


Empathy and perseverance.

As the world has turned upside-down this past year, and as younger generations demand faster, better, more innovative experiences, the financial industry has an incredible opportunity to solve people’s problems and truly make the world a better place. But, the many obstacles and technicalities of the post-COVID world demand a roll-up-your-sleeves-grin-and-bear-it level of grit.


We in the financial industry find ourselves in a place where we must persevere through the challenges shoved in our way, while always remembering our raison d’etre: PEOPLE.


Each of us working to innovate banking and spark real change in the world cares deeply about people. We care about user experience and reducing friction. We care about reaching the unbanked and solving global problems. We care about bringing financial wellness to the masses.

This incredible lineup of speakers remind us to keep empathy—people—at the heart of everything we do. And that we must keep going.



NFL Legend, Peyton Manning


Sitting on stage, donning a blue blazer, loafers and his famous dry sense of humor, Peyton Manning delved into what made him the two-time super bowl winner and NFL legacy.


Preparation.

Sure, he may not have been the fastest on the field. But he was certainly the first to the practice field and the last to leave. Even when the competition was stiff or when his field nemesis, Ray Lewis continually knocked him to his 🍑—and hard. He got back up.

How? Peyton shares how his dedication to preparation was the trick up his sleeve. He prepared like crazy, put in the work, and kept getting back up. And, over time, he worked on his craft and grew to be the star we all know and love.

Pressure is only something you feel when you’re not prepared, he explained. Nervousness is something you feel when you care.

Olympic Speed Skater, Apollo Ohno


When you enter a competition or, say, embark on a new business venture, your goal is to win, right? You want your company to thrive, your metrics to soar, your product to shine. But, what if we changed that perspective?


Olympian gold medalist, Apollo Ohno, shared that he went to his first Olympic Games in 2002 with the goal of having zero regrets—not winning. He trained and planned and gave meticulous attention to his sport. But his mindset and, frankly, mental health was stronger than the pressure to win.


What if we approached our business with that mindset? Instead of the ABCs of sales (“always be closing”), for example, what if the inner dialogue was "put it all on the table and never look back”?

Ohno explains that the voice in our head, that one that says, “You’re a failure if you don’t achieve X,” or “You’ll never make it because of Y,” is the most powerful voice we hear. And the most important voice we must learn to govern. From Ohno’s perspective, we’re always listening to what our mind is telling us—and our bodies are responding accordingly.


What if, instead of telling ourselves that we’re failures if we don’t raise $X by Y timeframe or bag that big client, we simply say we’re here to work our damn hardest. And if we win that client or meet that soaring metric goal, then AWESOME. If not, THAT’S OKAY, TOO.



Embrace Innovations co-founder and CEO, Jane Marie Chen


When we boarded the plane to Utah, little did we know that we’d be crying at a conference alongside hundreds of our financial industry colleagues, mentors and friends.

Jane Marie Chen is one powerhouse of a woman. She created the Embrace baby warmer, which has saved hundreds of thousands of babies’ lives.


The victim of child abuse, Jane grew up convincing herself she was never good enough. Over time and with deep internal reflection, she recognized her growing up feeling so powerless gave her the drive to help the most powerless.

Infant babies.


Throughout her struggles and later epiphanies, she discovered three incredibly powerful mantras:


  1. Look at your challenges as allies.

  2. Don’t measure your identity and self worth by your achievements

  3. Choose to see the world through the lens of beauty


Wow.


What if we could look our biggest professional fears in the face and say, “game on.” Like Jane, what if we took our lowest moments and found a way to channel more empathy back into world through our work?


What if we could realize that our thirst for innovation and our relentless pursuit of it is what’s helping to change the world? Not if we got it on the first try.


What if we chose to see the many moments of beauty, where we’re helping to create a better, more equitable world through financial wellness and accessibility? Not the number on the ledger or the ticks on the score board?


I actually had the chance to meet Jane—in the ladies room, no less! Her passion, perseverance and empathy emanate from her and inspire all those around her to work that much harder to make a difference for the powerless—whether that’s from developing infant incubator tech for third-world countries or through a fintech app.



Tim Welsh, Vice Chair, Consumer and Business Banking, US Bank


We didn’t think the stage could get any warmer with heartfelt empathy, but then Tim Welsh walks on and immediately lights up the room.


Tim told us a story about when he was just becoming partner at McKinsey. Catholic Charities had reached out, asking for pro bono work on strategy. Buried in new business and too much work to see straight, the partners decided the timing wasn’t right for additional pro bono work. Tim, on track to be partner with an already incredible work load, stepped up and took the assignment.


You see, Tim was adopted through Catholic Charities. And, turns out, he was bound for the seminary in college, before ultimately deciding the priesthood wasn’t for him. He would go on to earn the lifetime achievement award from Catholic Charities.


Tim reminds us that all of our skills can be applied to our community. That’s why we’re all here in the finance industry, anyway, right? We’re here to bring financial wellness to the masses. We believe that our appetite for innovation and passion for doing good will move the world forward.



Final thoughts


Are you crying yet? Because we are.


We so appreciated this conference, as it helped us remember the important things in our industry: perseverance, empathy and GRIT. I added grit to this list, because I think anyone in the fintech and banking industry right now has a chip on their shoulder to move the world forward—faster—and help as many people as we can. Cheers to each of us in the finance industry. And, let's keep supporting one another and pushing each other to move forward.