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2016 Recap

It’s time we take a look back at how our annual predictions shook out. Once again, we did pretty damn good.

1.) Our first prediction was that hiring managers would be even pickier, maybe too picky. The phrase we used was something like “The needle in the haystack search will become the needle in the stack of haystacks search.” We saw a great deal of this over the course of the year. In some cases we witnessed it first hand, in others it was second hand evidence. We saw cases where hiring managers said something to the effect of “this candidate is perfect, lets see more” or “this candidate seems too good” or “All three of us love the candidate for the role, but we just feel we need more time to be comfortable” only to have the bank circle back around and say “So…is that candidate still available or interested?” Many times…our answer was “Sorry, no.”

2.) Our next prediction for 2016, was that we would see increased mobile and electronic system changes and conversions. This prediction would be the one we arguably missed. We saw continued electronic and mobile updates in the industry, but I can’t say we saw a major increase there. Sure, if you simply do a scan on the Web or even American Banker for example, you can see almost daily stories about the technological shifts in banking, but most of them are either about possible future shifts there or about the same few banks trying to stay ahead of the curve. Leave it to banking to be slow to change J

3.) Finally, our third prediction was the one we nailed. Dead center, bulls eye, perfect shot. We said in 2016 we will see Increased “healthy”: bank M&A. Bank of Georgetown, Cardinal Bank, BlueRidge, Edgertown National Bank, Fox Chase and Penn Liberty and countless others were gobbled up by the acquisition monster. Many of these were banks not under known MAJOR stress, yet…here they are.

What an interesting year this was on many levels. Tough to imagine 2017 toping it from an intrigue standpoint, but we will see. Next month’s blog entry will be our predictions for 2017. All the best folks and stay tuned!

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The NFL season kicked off last week, so that means it’s time for our third annual Super Bowl contest. We have challenged bankers to predict the two teams who will make the Super Bowl and who will win. If anyone guesses correctly, we will award the winner with two tickets to see a regular season game of their choosing next season! (In the event of a tie, the winner will be chosen on a final score guess.) We have had a past winner and hope to have another this season.

It seems some folks are trying to put a smile on Adam Eckels face by putting the Panthers back in the big game. They didn’t start too well though. Lot’s of Pats love too. So here we go…

Susan Dostal, Human Resources Officer, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank
The New England Patriots Vs. The Arizona Cardinals. The Pats victorious 17 to 10.

Our next matchup would pit the “A” and the “J” at AJ Consultants against each other and could get ugly…

Eric Suss, EVP, Capital Bank
The Carolina Panthers Vs. The Pittsburg Steelers. Panthers victorious here…34 to 31.

Ray Lafond, SVP, Enterprise Bank
New England Patriots Vs. The Green Bay Packers. Pats on top 21 to 17.

Joe Baptista Jr., President Mechanics Cooperative Bank
The New England Patriots Vs. The Carolina Panthers. Patriots over the Panthers, 27 to 24.

Now a flip of the script…

Nancy Barge, Assistant Branch Manager II, 1st Mariner Bank
The New England Patriots Vs. The Carolina Panthers. Panthers over the Patriots 27 to 24.

Good luck!

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Through my experiences in the professional world I have personally watched people burn bridges…blow them up even. Listened to second and third-hand conversations around the watercooler regarding not the work but the “people”. What are interactions to you? Is the deal done after the multiple meetings, handshakes and paperwork? In essence no, the interactions with familiar colleagues, team members or new/old clients will linger whether they be good or bad. There is no greater marketing tool than “word-of-mouth”, we as business professionals are not solely marketing our products and services more importantly we market ourselves. You are your greatest asset and biggest liability. How we respond to each other in business and our daily lives can ensure future success. This got me thinking about a recent interaction.

While at the grocery store a few weekends ago I had the quintessential experience of the presumably “nerdy” kid (bag boy) vs. the presumably “popular-ermahgerd” girl(cashier). I watched what seemed like a quiet, shy and probably nice kid be completely ignored and mistreated with disgusted looks by the pretty and somewhat snotty girl who was the cashier. I was intentionally overly nice to him since his demeanor screamed “defeat” to me, her on the other hand I wanted to shake by the head. Basically what I was left with after the experience was this thought…”One day you might be in front of him for a job or pitching an idea…be kind prom-queen because he will remember”.

Be careful what bridges you burn. Treat people with respect even if they are not your favorite people, if they have different values or viewpoints…one day you may need them for a referral or help in securing a position. Every interaction leaves an impression, whether you are trying to close a billion dollar deal, pitching a small business idea or interviewing a new assistant. It’s great to land the big deals but if you lack integrity that blackness eeks out into the world and future business may not follow. In the words of Don Draper, “ You want some respect? Go out and get it for yourself”.


Also…It’s getting close to that time again. Our next blog will focus on our Super Bowl contest (and we have had winners). Send your picks to dader@ajconsultantsllc.com You must provide the two teams you believe will make it to the Super Bowl AND which one will win. In the event of tie, the tie breaker will be awarded to the person that picks the most correct final score of the Super Bowl. As always, the winner will get 2 tickets to see a regular season game of their choosing the following season!

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From a business prospective this year has gotten off to an interesting start. Some unexpected stumbles, some expected success. One of the things I have been proud of in 2016 and frankly over the last few years, is the intangible impact I have made on others. Listen I am not talking about neurosurgeon impact; I am not talking about Mother Teresa impact. I am talking about a different, but still valuable impact: The ability to enhance careers and companies by building trust, forming relationships that matter and using my experience to sometimes help others even if it will not benefit me. This is counter intuitive to how many in my world are wired and trained, including myself in some ways. However, I have learned the importance in looking at this job differently. From a human and business prospective my job goes beyond just filling key openings. For example…

  • Many bankers check in with me annually to discuss and prepare for their annual reviews. In most cases, I have not placed these people…yet. Maybe I never will.
  • I have helped many achieve greater professional and financial satisfaction within their current employers. Meaning I have counseled folks providing advice that leads them to not taking a job I am currently working on. Instead honing their skills, happiness and financial levels where they are.
  • I have helped some folks move through their recruitment process with banks that aren’t clients, and in some cases are even searches my competitors are working on. Have I taken the candidate from A to Z through the process…no. Sometimes I have been the one helping prepare them, because I know the players they are meeting or I have an idea on the culture and can answer key questions. It used to tick me the Hell off when a contact would call and say “Adam, I am looking at ABC bank for XYZ job and so and so is the headhunter representing me. I wanted to ask your thoughts on blah, blah, blah, because I value your opinion.” Now, I feel gratified when this happens, because I understand what this means.

These things I mentioned above are simply a few examples. I am not pointing them out to simply watch my cape wave in the wind. I am pointing them out, because these are the things that bring AJ Consultants great success. They form our reputation. They add to our culture and they bring in the money.

Yep, I don’t simply do the above to be a great guy. I like you (most of you) work for a for profit business. I like you, value a dollar from time to time. It’s no surprise to you how we here make a living. We get paid to identify and place talent with our clients. Making placements is our ultimate goal. There is no shame in saying that, through that process many other positive things should happen.

When I first started doing this way back when I had an all or nothing mentality, in fact I still do. Difference is now I realize sometimes what I thought was nothing is something. Something big. Trust, relationships and respect are keys. Keys to helping others, helping myself and growing professionally and financially.

Do I help every person? If I am being honest, no. I can’t. I am not an employment agency. Do I return every email or call within 24 hours? Again, nope. I can’t. However, what I can do is help when I can and make time to do so, because I believe in this process. A great recruiter is many things, one of which is a barometer for the market. The market is not just their client’s, not just their openings on their desk and certainly not just what leads them to a paycheck at the moment.

I guess my point is this, “Help me help you” and that will “Show me and you the money.”



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2016 Predictions

We are a few weeks late with our typical Annual Prediction entry, but thing’s here have been hectic to say the least . Without further ado let’s dive right in to the three things we here A J Consultants expect to see a good bit of in 2016.

  1. Picky hiring managers. Wait…even pickier hiring managers. The needle in the haystack search, will become the needle in the stack of haystacks search. The purple squirrel, will now be a flying purple squirrel with an amazing bloodline. The 15 years experience, but paid like a junior employee with upside potential candidate will now be…you get the point.

We can and will hold ourselves accountable for this prediction with our metrics. The reasons we believe this will be the case would take up too much ink on the page. So if you ever want to chat about this instead, you know where to find us.

  1. Increased mobile, electronic and system changes and conversions.

This one is fairly obvious, but in an industry known for being behind, set in its ways and not on the cutting edge of technology it is an obviously bold statement.

More banks are and will update key systems, tech, products and delivery etc. This will not just be due to M&A , but due to customer demand, efficiencies and the world we live in.

  1. Increased “healthy” bank M&A. Sure M&A has been hot (as we have predicted correctly the last few years and frankly should be obvious at this point, but more “healthy” banks have and will be getting together. Susquehanna, Bank of Georgetown, National Penn and countless others were not banks known to be under MAJOR stress, C&D’s etc. Yet, they agreed to be purchased.

Sure, some of the banks we see get scooped up this year will have skeletons in the closet , but some will be banks on the up and up. Some will be banks that surprise given not just their so-called “health” but size too.

As always , check back with us at the end of the year and we will either pat ourselves on the back (again) or take our medicine, but these are 3 key things we expect to see and see more of in 2016.


Speaking of predictions, with the Bronco’s defeat of the Carolina Panthers (breaking Adam Eckels heart) we had another NFL season come and go. No one won our Super Bowl contest for the 2015/2016 season. However, as many of you know, we did have a winner the year prior and Ray and a guest shared great seats for a game of their choice (see picture below featuring Ray LaFond and a guest). Start thinking about your predictions for next season, we would be thrilled to have another winner.


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2015 Recap

Another year gone. Time to see if we were right in our predictions for this year.

1) Our first prediction was that there would be more counter-offers in 2015. We’re not 100% sure that we were wrong on this one, but we also do not have any tangible evidence that we were right. Counter-offers occurred in our markets, but we did not see an increase like we did the year before. Counter-offer activity stayed pretty steady from last year.

2) We predicted that there would be a decrease in traditional bank branches and that electronic banking kiosk type branches would increase. We were right on with this one. We definitely saw a decrease in brick and mortar branches this year, especially in niche markets. In an article from The Charlotte Observer published on November 6, 2015, Dean Athanasia, co-head of consumer banking for Bank of America’s Boston market, commented that Bank of America would bring its financial centers down. Efficiency is the new priority in this technology world we now live in. People would rather manage their money using their smartphone or laptop instead of going into a branch. Heck, PNC even built a branch made of gingerbread. http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/it-took-5000-pounds-gingerbread-make-bank-branch-168501

3) Does your bank have universal bankers? Maybe not in name but we can almost guarantee you that your retail branch banks have changed to them or are in talks to do so.
Our third prediction was that branches would continue to change in 2015 and that universal banking positions would increase and be implemented at more banks. We have had many clients ask us to do market studies in regards to universal banker positions. We have also noticed that our clients as well as our competitors have started to create these types of positions, ones in which one person now does the job of what would have been divided up among 3 or 4 people in the past.

4) Lastly, we predicted the return of SBA and Deposit sales positions. We were correct. Both have grown, especially SBA. Despite new laws and regulations, SBA lending has increased. Banks are either just starting to get into SBA loans or they are doing more of them.

Next month’s blog entry will be our predictions for 2015. Stay tuned!

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Recruiting in banking is wacky. Bat $h*t nuts. As such, I encounter some unique situations and stories. Those stories I lock away in the “vault.” In fact my colleague John Morris often says “keep my number next to your lawyer and psychologist .” One of the many things he means by that is we are discrete. Our confidentiality and trust is a key reason why we have existed at this level for so long. Having said that, below are three interesting stories I came across this year, simply doing my job. These aren’t the most salacious or earth shattering. Just some of the ones that I think back on. Obviously I have done two things with these stories…1.) Cleared it with the folks involved and 2.) Left their privacy intact.

Up in Smoke
Our first story is one I never expected. I had a contact in the Mid Atlantic that was a prominent, strong, senior commercial lender; a well-known banker in the market place, working for primarily large banks over their career. I first spoke to them about a decade ago. They started out as nothing more than a “Thanks for calling Adam, but I am not interested” person. Over the years they became a contact. More willing to listen, think, refer, and speak to me. Eventually, they became a candidate.

One day a few months ago I called them to catch up and was surprised by our conversation. This SVP of commercial lending with a large bank was not only leaving banking, not only moving…They were not only embarking on a whole new life, but they were headed to Colorado to sell pot. I talk to bankers all day, every day. I do not get this often, for many reasons.

What was even more surprising (but shouldn’t be since this person was such a savvy business professional that had been working with other business owners their whole life) was that they had a whole business plan and model they explained to me. They had not made this decision lightly. They were prepared to succeed or fail and they were very serious. They were leaving and letting their banking career go up in smoke.


Team Chemistry
This is one that always brings a smile to my face. A story that represents a small piece of what I get to be apart of from afar. There is a real impact in being a part of someone’s career and a company’s growth plan. I will not romanticize it any further, because at the end of the day I am just a headhunter. (Another dude making calls).

One of my candidates had been through an in depth interview process with my client. They had spoken to, sat down with, and flown out to meet many folks. I think they even took a few personality tests too.

The key group that this candidate had to mesh with all sat together at the same office. They worked as a cohesive unit and should my candidate get the job, they would be working with this group. This team had already felt my candidate was the right fit, but what followed may or may not have cemented that.

They invited my candidate to join them for an outing. Said outing involved discussions of banking, leisure, and a few adult beverages. Said outing ended with the Market Director in a Porta Potty, being shaken from the outside by my candidate and one of my client’s top producers. Laughter ensued. They got the job. That my dear readers is the science of chemistry. One man’s Porta Potty is another man’s boardroom. Deals get closed there and everywhere.


The Valid Reason
I see a lot of resumes. Many of them, given the nature of corporate America and the nature of banking, have some movement on them. Sadly, some of them have way too much movement. Like people who have a new job every year….for two decades.

Recently, I encountered a candidate that had a new job every 18 months. This movement spanned about 20 years. They had essentially the stability of a jello mold. I asked them, as I always do, why they made their moves. After asking the question a few times the candidate stopped me and said “let me explain.”

“Since my second job I have been following the same manager. They have recruited me to each place. Always for more money and a better opportunity. At each bank, we have unrolled his business model and either sank or swam”.

‘Well, looks like you are sinking the ship and then swimming away’, I thought. How is that business model working out? For 18 years, you have followed someone 11 times. What?

There is always a reason for everything and this one is by far NOT the most interesting or amusing one I have gotten this year, let alone this week. However, it’s one I hear variations of often. It is an example of what people are “thinking” when they make moves or at least what they claim to be thinking.

Stories make up our lives. A lot of interesting stories make up my week, month and this case almost…year. I hope for many more.

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During the course of my life I have been honored with the opportunity to know some fantastic leaders and a few who left a lot to be desired. The great leaders, those who seemed to be surrounded by relationship and financial success, had a confident humility about them. They believed they knew a lot, maybe more than most, but not everything. They also surrounded themselves with other leaders who could essentially help them grow in certain areas. This humility separates the good from the great in my eyes.

I spoke with a ‘C’ level hiring manager a few weeks ago who professionally said, ‘I know everyone in my market so I doubt I will need the help of a recruiter to fill these positions.’ Sadly, this isn’t the first time I heard this from a hiring manager and our recruiters servicing other markets hear this from time to time as well.

This blows my mind. Dazed and confused, I thought it might be time to share my thoughts on the matter.

First things first. Knowing someone’s name or meeting them once at a networking event or even working with them directly in the past doesn’t mean you know them as a candidate. Adam Eckels, the “A” in AJ Consultants often says, “I know who Jennifer Aniston is, but that doesn’t mean we’re dating”. While comical, it’s a great analogy. People often won’t share personal details about their career wants and needs with their closest co-worker, but they will with a recruiter. You may know someone, but it’s our goal to know them as a candidate and we often meet and exceed our goals. We pride ourselves at intentionally being in the right place at the right time.

While recruiting provides a comfortable living (this week), it’s not just a job to me or the recruiters at AJ Consultants. It’s a career and when we’re not on the phone calling candidates and clients, we dedicate our time to learning the minutia of recruiting and the subtle nuances of the targeted markets we service. Who’s growing and who’s dying? Is a recent merger or acquisition going to create problems or eliminate them and who will be affected? Etc. We live it and love it and dedicate our professional lives to interpreting this chaos. We know more than most when it comes to finding, acquiring, and retaining great talent. Time has proven our value to the clients we serve which is why we continue to grow as a result.

Having said that…

We, the masters of our domain, still don’t know everyone in our markets. We strive to, but we always fall short of our goal of ‘knowing everyone’. How is that possible? Because the talent pool, despite its shrinking status, will always be a living breathing juggernaut of change and confusion. Every talent isn’t at every networking event. Every talent isn’t on LinkedIn. Every talent isn’t listed on corporate websites, and talent always ALWAYS moves around. The talent economy is in a constant state of flux, so while you may think you know everyone today that will change tomorrow. I guarantee it.

Therefore, no one knows everyone. Not even those, like us, who dedicate their time to the cause. However, with the utmost confidence I can say we know more than most. Whether we are actively working on a search or not, we are ‘recruiting’ talent every day so when our clients honor us with a search we know who to call. The value of a great recruiter is centered in the heart of this truth…we know these talents as ‘candidates’. So, the next time you need a great talent and you have no time to waste qualifying the people you think you know, please consider calling a great recruiter like those at AJ Consultants. Chances are, we’ve already invested our time so you don’t have to and you’ll be “dating” Jennifer Aniston or Brad Pitt before you know it!

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Football season is here!! That means it’s time for our second annual Super Bowl contest. We have challenged some bankers to predict the two teams who will make the Super Bowl and who will win. If anyone guesses correctly, we will award the winner with two tickets to see a regular season game of their choosing next season! (In the event of a tie the winner will be chosen on a final score guess.)

Without further ado, here are this year’s contestants…


Christopher Marcoux –Commercial Lender- Middleburg Bank
New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
Patriots will win. (27-24)


David Twiss- AVP Commercial Lender- Enterprise Bank
New England Patriots vs Dallas Cowboys
Patriots will win. (34-28)


Sean Dannaker- Financial Service Representative II – Penn Liberty Bank
Green Bay Packers vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Packers will win. (27-21)


Joseph T. Baptista Jr. – President & Chief Executive Officer- Mechanics Cooperative Bank
New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
Patriots will win. (31-27)


Marilyn Tressel- SVP Senior Credit Officer- Boston Private Bank & Trust Company
New England Patriots vs San Francisco 49ers
Patriots will win. (21-17)

Thomas Doane, PHR – SVP Human Resources- Avidia Bank
New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
Packers will win. (28-21)


Michelle Wyandt – VP/Special Credit Projects Officer – AmeriServ Financial Bank
Indianapolis Colts vs Green Bay Packers
Packers will win. (31-21)


Robert Maloof – VP Manager Commercial Credit Dept.- Cambridge Trust Company
New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers
Patriots will win. (27-17)


Jeff Pfeffer- Senior Relationship Manager/ Middle Market Lending- TD Bank
Denver Broncos vs Green Bay Packers
Broncos will win. (38-35)


Rob Dunton- Commercial Lender- American Bank
Miami Dolphins vs Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles will win. (35-32)


Tim Jefferis- SVP Commercial Lender- Penn Liberty Bank
Philadelphia Eagles vs Indianapolis Colts
Eagles will win. (38-14)


Ron Briggs – AVP CRE Relationship Manager- US Bank
Indianapolis Colts vs Seattle Seahawks
Colts will win. (34-17)


Good luck to all!!



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A few months ago we added a section to our blog page called “Ask Us Anything,” in which people could ask us questions anonymously. We are going to answer the top two questions we were asked in the last few months. We will continue to answer your questions a few times a year. (Read to the end of this blog to hear about our Super Bowl contest, which did have a WINNER last year.)


1. Do you think community banking is dying?

There is over-regulation of banking. Things tend to get pushed to the extreme. For example, our own John Morris bought his first home in 2006 and the bank said they would lend him double the amount he was looking for and the process was very simple and fast. Fast forward to today, he is trying to put an addition on his house, the process started in April, and four months later, he still hasn’t closed.


Banks seems to be buying, selling, or merging, blaming a lot of it on the extreme regulatory costs which might be true. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a new bank emerge but many have disappeared. These changes can result in less customer service to the smaller business or individual. For instance, big banks are pushing businesses under a certain size as well as individuals with under a certain amount of investable assets to call centers. It is our belief that there will be a reemergence of community banks over the next several years because “the little guy” will demand a higher level of customer service. And let’s face it; there is a lot of money to made here.


2.  How much of a raise can I expect to make a move?

The truth is, whether you like it or not, your new compensation will be based off of what you are currently making. Just like when you buy a car what you are willing to pay is based off of Kelly Bluebook, and when you are putting an offer in on a house, you look at the current owner’s purchase price.

Another way to look at it is, if you are lucky enough to receive an annual raise, your current employer doesn’t base your bump off of a made up number. They look at where you are now compensation wise and apply a percentage. Other folks in our industry do not always want to say this and people do not always want to hear it, but it’s not worth sugarcoating.

So your possible bump or raise if you make a move, will not typically be based off a pay grade or market value of others, it will be based off of your current compensation and market value for you. It’s not a set number, it’s a percentage. We here have those percentages down to an annual science per market that we cover. If you would like to discuss that in more detail…give us a call.”


***Stay tuned for next month’s blog, our Super Bowl contest! Send your picks to rroppa@ajconsultantsllc.com.  You must provide the two teams you believe will make it into the Super Bowl AND which one will win. If anyone guesses correctly, we will award the winner with two tickets to see a regular season game of their choosing next season! In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined by whoever guesses closest to the final score of the game.


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