Doing the right thing with the right people at the right time. For Kevin Cummings of Investors Bank, that’s what moves business beyond success to significance.
As the CEO of the largest bank headquartered in New Jersey and one of the state’s fastest growing banks, Cummings credits its growth not to himself but to the bank’s service-oriented leadership style coupled with community involvement.
Cummings will share his thoughts in a talk titled “Stimulating Growth Through Business Leadership and Community Involvement” at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. The luncheon takes place at the Princeton Marriott, Thursday, April 6 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Register online at princetonchamber.org from the event tab or call 609-924-1776. Cost: $75; $50 for members.
The bank’s relationship with its customers and the greater community starts with the way people within the bank interact with each other. Cummings wants employees to have a sense that they’re on a journey, and their experience at the bank is going to change their lives and the people they interact with for the better. Through its internal training and education programs, the bank reaches out to all employees in the back and front offices, and the customer interface positions.
Cummings points to HomeFront’s Family Campus in Ewing Township as an example of a business transaction benefitting the bank, the customer, and the community.
Through a loan and a donation from the bank’s foundation, Investors Bank helped make the 2015 campus opening possible. “They’re doing so many good things at HomeFront, helping women, helping families to meet their financial needs. It gives them a bounce [to their] step that they have this partnership with a very large bank,” he says.
By providing funds to civic organizations throughout New Jersey, the foundation supports several causes. Since 2005 it has pledged more than $16 million supporting the arts, education, youth development, affordable housing, and health and human services. A few groups the foundation supports include Grounds For Sculpture, Lions Club, CASA, Boys & Girls Club, Red Cross, the Land Conservancy of New Jersey, and Habitat for Humanity.
“One of the things I tell people I work with is that every day is a journey. The journey is the destination, and you want to be the best version of yourself. I don’t want to be better than the guy in the office next to me. I want to be better than the person I was yesterday,” he says. When you come from that place, you’re more focused on being a giver rather than a taker, and you want to see other people succeed with you. You want to make things better than they were when you got there. You create an excitement, a purpose, and a legacy.
“We have a saying here at the bank, you either serve a customer or serve someone who serves a customer,” Cummings says.
One of the books that has influenced Cummings is “The Servant Leader” by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. The book draws on teachings from the Bible and shows how they are applicable in the business world today. It comes down to doing the right thing, and being a person of your word, he says, quoting a phrase from the book, “Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.”
Another book that has influenced Cummings’ style of leadership is “The Go-Giver,” by Bob Burg and John David Mann. The book is about expanding one’s circle of concern to include others, being authentic, and being open to receive from others. It tells the story of a young man who changes from being a go-getter to a giver. Reading from their book, Cummings quotes, “The law of value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”
“As a banking proposition, we have to create value for our customers, whether you’re dealing with a commodity, a mortgage, a business loan, or a deposit. The customer can go anywhere to get that product. But really, as the banker, what matters most is how you create more value for that individual. It’s not just about having a successful product but having a significant product where you create that relationship, and it’s a win-win for each person,” Cummings says.
Cummings grew up in a working middle-class family in Jersey City where his father held two jobs as a policeman and an iron worker, and his mother was the family homemaker taking care of five kids. Today he lives in Summit with his wife. They have four adult children, two girls and two boys. Cummings holds a master’s in business administration from Rutgers and gave the commencement address to the 2013 MBA graduating class.
Before joining Investors Bank, Cummings worked with the accounting firm of KPMG, where he became a partner. From time to time, he runs into people he worked with at the firm who tell him how much they benefited from advice he gave them years ago.
Looking to the future, Cummings believes that companies that are good corporate citizens will be successful, and that the business community cannot wait for the government to solve problems.
On an individual level, he sees that as people get older, they want to create a legacy and have a purpose, and that making communities better is good business. “You come to a point where you realize there’s more to work than the next raise or promotion,” he says, adding that you want to be more significant in the lives of people you lead through mentoring and creating a spirit and a purpose for coming to work every day.
He acknowledges young people in the workforce today. “I think the millennials want to be part of something more important than themselves and feel it is important to have a goal. I think they could communicate better, but I think their intentions are good,” Cummings says.
“Being significant is not just being successful and making money,” he says. It’s about being a better person and helping others become better by giving them opportunities.