I started working at A J Consultants in April of 2012. I did not yet know the recruiting business or the banking business. I picked it up pretty quickly and love what I do. Most of my job here is to research, primarily finding potential candidates who fit open jobs. Just as I have watched my job grow and change, (I still mainly research, but I also do other things, like write for this blog for instance), I have seen the need for jobs change, especially during this last quarter.

When I first started working here, the majority of what I was searching for were commercially driven positions. Over the past few months I have noticed a dramatic change. Yes, banks still need and use our services to find quality lenders and credit experts, but they are also asking us to fill many unique jobs as of late. For instance, in the past quarter, we have worked on the following positions:

– IT Specialists
– Loan Servicing
– Call Center Manager
– General Counsel (for a banking institution)
– Loan Operations positions
– Director of Consumer Lending
– Mobile Banking experts


You may think to yourself that it sounds overwhelming to go from searching for mostly the same type of person all the time to an array of different people. The truth is, I enjoy my job, but of course, like any job, it can get monotonous especially when you get comfortable and confident in what you are doing. I really love the challenge of helping to fill these new types of positions. It helps me to learn more about the industry and just shakes things up.
As to why there has been this change and uptick of new jobs being available, I have limited insight as I am not a recruiter. I can of course speculate that the IT and mobile banking positions are in demand because of the obvious change we have seen in the past few years of banks moving towards technology… As for the other positions, I’m going to let my bosses/ owners of the company field that one.

I feel it comes down to a few things. One would be the improvement of the market. Banks are not only hiring more people, but hiring in a variety of spots and not only willing to, but wanting to farm those searches out for numerous reasons.” Adam Eckels, Co-Owner at A J Consultants said. “Not only that, but I feel over the years our clients understand what we are capable of from a search prospective. They realize we do more than just place Chief Lending Officers and Portfolio Managers. Our connections go beyond that.”

John Morris, Co-Owner of AJ Consultants also weighed in. “Outside of mergers & acquisitions, turnover in these types of positions is not as high as lenders etc. Supporting that, there are typically only 1 or 2 of these positions within a bank. What we are seeing now is that banks have neglected succession planning. Therefore, when people retire or move on for another opportunity, the bank does not have a person to take over the role thus sparking the need to fill from the outside.”


Things are changing a bit around here and in the market. They always are in banking and in recruiting. 🙂


Every day people ask me, “How are you seeing things out there?” Bottom line, the first half of this year has been nuts!

It’s busy here, it’s busy out there, frankly it seems busy almost everywhere. It’s a damn good problem to have. It’s a problem we can see evidence of other industries having too.

For example, a couple of people on our team are having work done on their homes. Finding a contractor who has availability has been a nightmare. A couple of years ago, you told those same contractors “I have money I want to give you and I need work done,” and they would have been lining up, not hiding.

I digress though, this isn’t a spot about how busy it is or general contractors, it’s a spot about some trends I have noticed thus far while navigating the Wild West of recruiting circa 2015. In no particular order…

The hiring process has quickened.

The bank hiring process can sometimes be absurdly slow. In years past the interview process had the urgency of 20 inning Major League Baseball game. Not typically the case thus far in 2015. This year’s clients have understood that the stakes are high, candidates have options, and timing is of the essence. No more 5+ conversations over the series of months. Well, at least not as much as we used to see it anyway.

Longtime employees are moving.

Some of our placements this year have involved moving candidates with 10 to 20 years experience with the same bank to a new bank. This is abnormal for a few reasons.
1.) The typical employee does not stay anywhere, let alone a bank, for 10 to 20 years anymore.

2.) These longtime employees don’t typically jump easily.

Candidates are realizing a few things. In some cases they need a change. In some cases they have watched their bank change and therefore it’s not the experience they worked so long and hard for. In some cases, these employees realize that their loyalty is not being reciprocated by their employer. In most cases it’s a mixture of the above.
LinkedIn, corporate America’s new place for tired quotes.

I love LinkedIn, it really blows my hair back, but some days it feels like nothing more than pictures of lions with quotes about hard work and leadership attached. That has increased a good bit this year. I like lions as much as the next red blooded American, but if folks were great leaders or hard workers…they probably wouldn’t have time to post 2 Lion picture/quotes a week. It reminds me of a slightly more adult version of that picture that dawned many elementary school walls. You know the one…it said “Hang in there” and had a picture of a kitten hanging on to a tree branch.

While I am on this rant, I want to lump other picture/quotes into the equation. In general LinkedIn has become fertile ground for pictures of dynamic business, sports and celebrity talent, with quotes attached. Sometimes the quotes do not even belong to who they are attributed to or they are ones that have been cribbed (JJ Watt).

Big bank bankers moving to smaller institutions.

Tony Pica from Capital One to Capital Bank. Lindsey Rheaume from JPMorgan to Eagle. Jerri Fellerman from Wells Fargo to Eagle. Joann Tobin from Bank of America to Cardinal. The list goes on.

Well there you have it…some stuff I have noticed from my world thus far in 2015. Have a great rest of the year and summer.

We’re recruiters and deals are our game. However, sometimes hires fall through. The reasons are varied and sometimes complicated. Here are the top reasons why a candidate declines an offer.


1. Money- Ah. Money. The thing that makes the world go round. Yes of course we have to talk about the obvious first. It is essential that money expectations are clear throughout the hiring process, but sometimes the deal can fall through even with the best management of this topic. Candidates change their mind about what they believe they deserve, hiring authorities come in with a number lower than we were thinking, plus about a thousand other reasons money can ruin a deal.

2. Benefits- Sometimes an employer just cannot offer benefits, such as health insurance, 401K, stock options etc., which measure up to what the candidate already has or believes they deserve.

3. Vacation time can also be a deal killer. Companies are usually very regulated about what they can offer in terms of paid time off, and sometimes it does not come close enough to what the person is receiving in their current position.

4. Counter Offer- The dreaded word for a recruiter. People choose to stay with their current employer because when they resign they are offered more money, incentives, etc to stay. We have discussed in length before why counter-offers are almost always a bad idea, so I won’t get into it now.

5. Miscommunication about the job. Either the recruiter has not explained the job correctly to their candidate, or the hiring manager has not explained the job correctly to the recruiter, or something in-between.

6. All of a sudden the hiring bank is up for sale or merging with another bank and chaos ensues.

7. The hiring manager takes a new job. This usually ends things pretty quickly for obvious reasons.

8. Sometimes people get too comfortable during the hiring process, especially if there have been multiple interviews. This goes for candidates and clients alike. Sometimes things can seem golden– the hire is inevitable. Everyone gets along great, but then they get too comfortable. Perhaps someone drinks too much during a meet-up at a restaurant, or brings food into an interview, or the hiring manager takes a call during the meeting, or a new hire gives their new boss a not-so-nice hand gesture, (this last one has happened to us before, we’re obviously not proud of this one…) The bottom line is, both parties need to remain professional throughout the entire hiring process.

9. Commute. It depends on the person how much commute comes into play when accepting a new job.

10. Personal Issues like health problems, whether personally or those of a family member, an unexpected death, an injury… Unexpected things come up in life.


Like in any business, things do not always go according to plan. As recruiters, our main defense against deals falling through is making sure that both parties are on the same page from the first conversation. However, we are in the business of people, and people can be unpredictable.

When we call someone to recruit them, they hold most of the cards. They don’t have to even listen to our pitch, they can hang up, or simply say no thanks. Most of our candidates are passive ones who do not need to leave their current position. So why do many of them decide to go to a job interview? We always ask them this question. We wish the only reason was because we’re just that charismatic and cool, but in truth, there are many reasons why a person looks at other opportunities. Especially a passive person. These are some of the answers we receive:

Let’s get the obvious reasons out of the way first:

• Money
• Commute
• Better Opportunity

And then there are less obvious reasons:

• Change in senior management.
• Size of bank- Some want to work for a bigger bank, some smaller.
• Change in the size of companies/customer the banker will work with. Some want to move up or downstream.
• No room for advancement. The old “I have hit a glass ceiling” we call it.
• Discovering the personal negatives based around “loyalty”. Sometimes having loyalty to a company or manager equals being taken for granted. i.e. not getting a fair raise, not being considered for a promotion, etc. Many times employees sit back and watch as people get brought in, fairly or unfairly (that is not the point here) at hiring pay scales, bigger titles, better roles, nicer offices…whatever. At first the loyal employee is numb to it, but eventually, their senses are awakened.
• The work atmosphere is “cliquey,” and if you are not a part of the core group it can be difficult to get anything accomplished. It can also take a social toll and make it emotionally difficult to work in this type of environment. AKA: High school never ends.
• Hostile work environment. Pretty self-explanatory.
• Their bank isn’t lending. Lenders want to lend. DUH.

We realize that some of these reasons are beyond the control of the bank. For example, if someone is unhappy because they do not enjoy working for a big bank, there’s nothing that management can do to fix that. However, the social problems and advancement problems can be rectified. Our advice to hiring managers? Listen at exit interviews and take note of why the person is leaving. On the other hand, many times a person will not be completely honest about why they are leaving a job in order to not burn a bridge. A combination of listening to ex-employees reasons for leaving as well as the input of outside sources can help you to realize big reasons why people are willing to leave your bank. If these reasons are things you can control or improve, it is in your best interest to do so.


This week’s blog will commence after this important announcement:

Congratulations to Ray Lafond for winning the Super Bowl contest!!

We are very excited to send Ray and a guest tickets to see a regular season game and follow up with him on the blog about his experience! We will be doing this contest again next year, so be ready.

Back to our scheduled topic:


Mergers and acquisitions are on everybody’s mind, especially right now. There are obvious signs and not-so-obvious signs that your bank or another bank is trying to sell.

1. Major changes within the bank. Examples include major layoffs, an abrupt stop to hiring new people, especially if it occurs during the hiring process with no reasonable explanation, and a reduction in middle management. We saw these things occur before the announcement that BB&T and Susquehanna would merge and we’ve seen this time and time again in other situations.


2. A bank makes a big geographic move or two that does not make immediate sense. Maybe they jump over a few counties from the market they are established in, or they buy branches of a bank that doesn’t seem like a good match. Maybe they come into an area that everyone is trying to get out of instead of into. Many times, not always, the banks seemingly illogical move, is indeed very logical. Some times they are trying to be more attractive to a buyer or trying to color in their own map, but the grand scheme is not yet seen. By moving into a particular area, banks trying to sell are trying to gain leverage by being closer to banks wanting to buy.


3. If the bank hires chief level people who have been through several mergers and/or acquisitions, this may be a red flag. If your new CEO sold his or her last 3 banks, don’t be surprised if your bank is next.


4. You see high level people from other banks “hanging out” at your bank. Believe us, they’re not there for the coffee. This is especially true if these people are with banks known to be making purchases right now. DUH


5. Another duh one: Banks who have tried to sell before unsuccessfully will typically do so again… Most of the time, the intent is still there. The bank is not likely going to put itself out there as being for sale, have a deal fall through, and then decide not to sell.


These are just some of the red flags to look for. If you have any you’d like to share leave us a comment or shoot us an email. You can even ask a question in our new section “Ask Us Anything.”



We present to you our 2015 predictions:

1) There will be more counter-offers in 2015. We saw an increase of them toward the end of last year and even had some candidates almost fall for them already this year. It’s competitive out there. Banks are competing over the same loans, deposits and people. When things improve, the market bares some counter activity. We will not discuss the merits, pitfalls, positives or negatives of giving, receiving or considering a counter here, simply just stating they will increase.

2) Overall, we will continue to see a decrease in traditional bank branches. However, electronic banking kiosk type branches will increase. This falls in line with the mobile and electronic banking focus. For example, Apple Pay and other mobile paying apps, the ability to video conference, and other new technologies will account for a portion of why this will happen.

Another reason for this scale back will be consolidation, M&A activity and regulations obviously.

3) Another shift from “tradition,” also has to do with branches and how they operate. While it used to be normal to give away a free gift such as a blender or a beach towel as incentive to open a new account or encourage a friend to, some banks are increasingly offering money, some even on a monthly basis, to use their branch services. Banks are essentially paying customers to use their services. Many banks are also instituting “universal bankers,” branch employees who can do many jobs. Basically, branches will continue to change in 2015 and beyond.

4) The return of some key positions that have been on the decline:
Say “welcome back” to SBA and Deposit sales positions in 2015. Sure, both of these roles have existed over the last few years, but both of them have begun to have major trends upward over the last few quarters. That should continue.
Many banks are chasing commercial and affluent deposits through deposit RM’s or sales people. They are doing this without leading with or even worrying about the loan. To some groups this is nothing new and to other banks it’s revolutionary.
Additionally, SBA positions, departments, and needs are sprouting up with many of our clients. From community banks to money centers. Many banks are looking for ways to develop new business as opposed to just battling over the same stuff (all though it feels like that’s all that is happening).

P.S. Ray Lafond, SVP of Commercial Lending at Enterprise Bank & Trust is the last man standing when it comes to our Super Bowl prediction contest. (Patriots vs. Seahawks with the Patriots winning.) Good luck!


2014 Recap

It’s hard to believe a year has gone by since our last “Prediction Recap.” Last time we nailed our predictions going a strong 4 for 4:

This year we laid out three new predictions:
https://heresthedealaj.com/2014/01/08/2014-predictions/ and it’s safe to say we went 3 for 3, with our third prediction showing signs of life, but not quite the signs we thought overall.

• Our first prediction for 2014 saw heavy representation. We felt that banks in our core Mid-Atlantic and Northeast markets would begin to color in their market maps a bit and boy did they ever. Banks like Howard Bank in Maryland strengthened their reach into areas like Cecil and Harford County with purchases of branches and banks like NBRS. WSFS from Delaware grew in MD and had some organic growth in Harford/Cecil Counties, making some key hires. County First Bank in MD opened up an LPO in Virginia. Additionally, Carroll Community Bank will be making its push into Greater Washington. Over in John’s market in PA we saw First Choice, First Bank, and Cape Bank expanding into PA. Investors Bank also took a piece of South Jersey through acquisition.

• We said M&A activity would increase. Winner-Winner-Chicken Dinner here folks! In MD, DC, VA and PA alone…BB&T buys Susquehanna, FNB buys OBA, Eagle buys Virginia Heritage Bank, National Penn acquired Third Federal, Bryn Mawr acquired Continental and Univest picked up Valley Green. Additionally, late in the year First Savings of Perkasie and First Federal of Bucks County got together. We are also still waiting to see Victory and Huntingdon Valley follow through. In New England we saw no less than 8 acquisitions too. For example Independent Bank Corp (Rockland Trust) is expected to complete its acquisition of Peoples Federal Savings Bank shortly, and North Shore Bank and Sausqusbank, two of the smaller banks in the state say they are in the process of merging.

• Finally, we claimed tech lending would see a surge. American Banker had an October 27th article on Square 1 and others seeing the pick-up. Additionally, we had some clients grow their tech teams and even add new tech lending departments. In the Mid-Atlantic this has been quieter than expected, but in New England and New York it has boomed a bit. Wells entered the tech team fray in that market in 2014 with bankers like Debra DelVecchio and David Dickinson. City National deepened its reach there too as Bill Sweeney and Jim Demoy continue to build their teams. Citibank hired some folks in both markets. In addition, two of the market’s regional banks have been utilizing our firm to start new departments there.

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

According to American Banker, last week 97 million people banked online. Only 7 million visited a branch. These are powerful statistics which speak for themselves. We all know that technology is becoming a part of almost every facet of the business world. Apple Pay allows us to pay for almost anything using our phones, Samsung has a similar program. Just this week The Washington Business Journal posted an article all about Wells Fargo’s venture to “switch from “last century” password security to new voice and facial authentication for smartphones.” Banks now have apps. Many are downsizing branches and upgrading their technology, but are banks truly keeping up with the times? Yes, No? The answer is somewhere in the middle.

I talked about this issue with the owners of A J Consultants and here is what they had to say:

“I really don’t believe that my children will frequent a branch, unless it is to get lollipops, said John Morris, however, being a business owner, I know that there will always be a need for face to face interaction with a banker.”

“People need to realize that just making a few changes does not mean that the [banking] industry will go away. Just look at the music industry. When Napster first started and CDs became less popular, people believed that the music industry would crumble. Instead, music adapted by releasing less expensive digital versions of their songs, and actually benefiting from the changing times,” said Adam Eckels.

This same notion goes for many changes that have occurred due to technology in the recruiting industry. When MONSTER first arrived, many predicted the end of headhunting as we know it. Instead, it strengthened our industry as it actually muddied the waters and enhanced the need for a connected headhunter. When Linked-In and “social media recruiting” came into play some people thought we were done for. The truth is, we use these as tools and they actually occasionally help us to do our job. However, human contact will always be the most important aspect of recruiting and is why recruiters work.

Recently we have been working with clients currently making key adaptations to grow with the times in mobile and digital banking. These banks range from money center players to community size, all the way to a few billion dollar regional banks that are taking the hint. The moral of this story is this. Just like everything else, banking needs to evolve with technology, not completely change because of it. Humans are social creatures by nature and that will never change. Adaptation may be the key.


evolution pic


Banks are hiring to grow. Many of the positions we are working on this year have been brand new, not backfills. Banks are expanding in ways we haven’t seen in years. Mergers and acquisitions are more prevalent. Banks are purchasing individual branches from each other in new markets. Bankers are being brought in to forge new territories and divisions, and most noticeably, team lift-outs are on the rise.

Some Examples:

-National Penn Bank bought Third Federal, Univest bought Valley Green Bank, and FNB bought half of Maryland. 🙂

-In the last year, we can think of seven teams in the Greater Washington and Maryland Market that have moved on from their former employer together. Severn Savings, NWSB, the banks formerly known as VCB and most recently OBA have lost entire groups. Additionally, a certain big time player in the super regional world has lost 3 entire teams to competitors. If you do not know who we are talking about, you need to put your ear to the ground a bit more. Interestingly, five of the seven teams are in brand new markets for their new employer.

New positon hires:

-Diane Zanetti was hired by Capital One to spearhead their new look in the GovCon division, while Phil Quintana was moved from Capital One and hired by Fauquier County Bank to do something similar.


-Scott Meves was hired by Webster Bank as a Regional President to expand into Pennsylvania.


And we aren’t the only ones seeing this. It’s happening in many different industries and markets. According to the July 2014 Fordyce Letter, which is the #1 executive recruiting periodical in the industry, and a recent Career Builder forecast, 47% of the world’s largest network of recruiters state that newly created positions are the main source of job orders coming in. The article goes on to say that with the subsidence of the recession, employees are more willing to search for new opportunities. This is a big pendulum swing from the last few years.

Banks are trying to purchase away business and people as their first priority, rather than being focused on growing talent from inside the bank. We are seeing the importance of a candidate having a current active portfolio being greater now than in the last five years. The way banks make decisions is changing. (For better or worse is another topic for another time).


Football season is upon us!! Therefore, we have challenged some bankers to predict the two teams who will make the Super Bowl and which will win. If anyone guesses correctly, we will award the winner(s) with two tickets to see a regular season game of their choosing next season!


Bill Fink- Chief Lending Officer & Head of Credit Management- TD Bank

Bill is a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan. He grew up in Cleveland and has followed them ever since. He predicts a repeat of last year, with Denver vs. Seahawks in the Super Bowl with the Seahawks winning.



Cindy Flanders- Founder of Manage Fearlessly and former Mid Atlantic Executive of Bank of America

Cindy is a die-hard Washington fan, and has been since High School. “I would try to get to games at RFK whenever I could. I actually stood in the rain in 1983 for the parade after they won the Super Bowl. I will admit it’s getting harder and harder to stay a fan, but I always have hope (at least at the beginning of the season)”.
Although Cindy thinks the Super Bowl could be a repeat of Denver and Seattle, she predicts the Broncos vs 49ers with the Broncos winning.


Ray Lafond- SVP Commercial Lending-Enterprise Bank & Trust

Ray is a huge Pats fan. He has been in their corner since inception and suffered through some down times, but none like the Red Sox. He predicts Patriots vs. Seahawks with the Patriots winning.

The Gray Hoodie Master pulls out another rabbit – “Gronk Power”



Lance Nobles- SVP Commercial Lender-Chain Bridge Bank

Lance’s favorite team is The New Orleans Saints. “The Who Dat Nation is in full force for 2014. Drew Brees just had baby #4, Jimmy Graham has a new contract and the addition of Jairus Byrd from the Bills will add to an already powerful defense. Sean Peyton got creative with pre-season training camp to deal with the dismal road game performances of 2013 (The Greenbrier in West VA of all places). We will take back home field advantage from the Seahawks!”

The wild card: Rob “Wild Thing” Ryan:


Lance predicts the New Orleans Saints vs Denver Broncos with the Saints winning, leaving Peyton Manning with his second Super Bowl loss at the hands of the Saints. “As the sun sets in the desert, so will Peyton’s dream of another Super Bowl ring.”


Ben Pitkow- Business Banker- Citizens Bank

Ben’s favorite team is the Philadelphia Eagles and although he’s a dedicated fan his Super Bowl picks are Broncos vs 49ers with the Broncos winning.



Eric Suss- SVP Human Resources- Capital Bank

Eric’s favorite team is the Giants because he lived in NY/NJ until he was 7 years old, and his Dad was a huge NYG fan and he followed suit. He predicts the Broncos vs Green Bay Packers with the Broncos winning.

“I think Denver needed the Super Bowl loss last year after an explosive year to make them that much hungrier. Green Bay will have a healthy offense again and solid D. If I have to pick a winner, going with Denver.”


With all of these Denver predictions, we may be in trouble. We learned that Denver seems to be a clear favorite to win among folks we have talked to and that Lance and Rob Ryan use the same barber!