What It Means to be a Leader: An Interview With Jim Nonnengard
by: Irene Yeh, BISA Staff
What makes a great leader? How does one resolve the trials and tribulations that come with a leadership position? We were fortunate to talk with BISA Past President Jim Nonnengard on his experiences of leadership, being a part of BISA’s Board of Directors and his time in the financial services industry.
- What is your proudest moment and/or achievement during the past five years as BISA’s president and, subsequently, past president?
I don’t think in terms of my moment or achievement. I was so honored to be the association’s president and thrilled to watch it grow and prosper through more active engagement of our members. More and more new faces and participants in BISA activities and meetings brought fresh ideas and best practices for all members to benefit from. We have a very active and engaged board of directors that not only represent their institutions but also are very passionate for the overall industry, which is huge help when being president. There is also awesome participation from our Leadership Advisory Board that greatly supports BISA in many ways, and I’d be happy if I had a part in letting all voices be heard for the betterment of the association. The association is in good hands and a bright future with the succession planning we’ve done. I encourage everyone to get involved and maximize their membership. I hope I helped.
- What is your biggest takeaway of the industry in 2021? What do you anticipate in 2022?
Resiliency! We did what was needed to be done in the face of many challenges brought on by the pandemic. Advisors took great personal risk to continue to meet customer’s needs and expectations. Their customers wanted to see them, and they wanted to see their customers. Forced technology innovations, such as Zoom and MS Team meetings, along with other innovations that accelerated like scanning, digital signatures and paperless transaction really took off and greatly improved the customer and advisor experience. When I say resilient, I mean April 2020 was anybody’s guess about what was to happen. The sky was falling in. This industry and those in back offices that play a supporting role saved it, and now I think we’re in better shape than ever and ready for the ever-changing, fast-paced future. What we learned: Innovate and adopt or get left behind.
- What has been one of your biggest leadership challenges, and how did you navigate through it?
Being responsible for investment programs over the years has too many challenges and opportunities to single one out. I could talk about sales and revenue pressures, regulatory challenges, organizational changes, HR issues and on and on. In fact, I personally have had over 20 direct supervisors in my work career (that was a challenge training them all – ha!) But seriously, the most challenging for me is coming to terms with the responsibility I have towards our management team, our advisors, fellow associates, our company and, most of all, our customers. My mantra: Always do the right thing. We get one chance or trust erodes. Our industry is such a noble profession to help people reach their goals and aspirations from retirement, savings, income planning, college saving and so much more. It’s really cool to see and help the best of our profession, and I challenge myself to make a difference for them.
- What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
I’ve been really fortunate to have some great mentors over the year. I’d suggest that each person – especially those moving into leadership positions – seek out a mentor because no one succeeds on their own. My former boss and former BISA President John Porter always told me to not be afraid to hire people smarter than you because they’ll help you succeed and help the company reach its goals. That’s very true as I’ve had very smart, driven teams and many successes amongst us. I thank them all. And lastly, a mentor I had at Chase, Steve Plump, drove home to me early in my career the importance of ethics, doing the right thing and being open, upfront and honest with people – with the good and the bad. That ethical mindset helps solve a bunch of problems, end engagements with a handshake and us get back to business – and is a good characteristic I hope leaders have.
To learn more about leadership, be sure to register for the BISA 2022 Annual Convention for various leadership sessions and more.