Carving her path: This Commerce leader has built a career her own unique way
Jennifer White has had a number of titles during her 22-year tenure at Commerce Bank, but to her, the main focus of each position has been a simple one. “I’m a problem-solver,” she says, “and I’m always looking for ways to provide solutions to our clients’ everyday problems.”
In her role as Commerce’s senior vice president and director of commercial payments account management, White’s ability to help solve client problems is greater than ever. It’s a relatively new role for her – as of September 2020 – and for the bank as well. The role was created after White and the leadership team recognized a need to consistently apply best practices across the entire commercial payments division’s client services.
“We want to provide a very high-touch experience for our clients in the most effective ways,” White says.
“We want to help them focus on what matters most. That’s why we get to know each client’s business very well, so we can identify areas where we can really help. We strive to be an extension of their businesses.”
White says she’s excited about the new challenge. “I love learning, and I always welcome change,” she says. “This position is an opportunity to take the best practices from all our lines of business and create a more streamlined approach, allowing us to focus even more on building out overall client initiatives, like faster payments, technology, efficiency and automation.”
A big part of her role will involve continuing to build Commerce’s commercial payments work with healthcare businesses, and she sees many opportunities to help these clients. “The onset of the pandemic, and the need for people to work remotely, have really taught us about the need to develop new ways to handle old processes,” she says.
As an example, she cites the fact that many businesses still use paper checks, which need to be signed by hand. “It’s a manual task that requires someone to sit down with a stack of checks, review and approve them, then sign each one,” she notes. “It’s not very efficient, but many smaller and mid-sized businesses still do it this way because they never adopted the technology available to automate it. There are a lot of options out there now – for example, making those payments electronically via a card or bank-to-bank transfers. The uptick in remote work due to COVID-19 has resulted in more of our clients adopting these technologies, and it’s making a big difference for them.”
White adds that Commerce consistently looks for ways to make processes more efficient for healthcare clients. “We give them the ability to offer new options to their patients,” she says. “We have talented people from throughout the industry who are building this healthcare specialty within the bank as a whole.”
For White, the career path that led her to this role was one that she proactively created along the way. After graduating college with a merchandising and interior design degree, she worked in retail for a few years before deciding she was ready for a different kind of challenge. As she puts it, “That’s when I found my way to Commerce.”
Her first role at the bank didn’t even have a title. “My team needed things done and asked me to do them,” she recalls. “They thought it would take a year. I finished in six months. Then I started asking around for other things to do. I got myself involved with credit support, product development and implementing accounts. I hadn’t been educated about any of these things; I just learned and dug in.”
Roger Williams, senior vice president and director of Commercial Card at Commerce, has worked with White for 20 years, and he says he noticed her proactive nature early on. “She’s driven, and she really stood out for that,” he says. “She took it upon herself to raise her hand for different challenges, and her teams were always better for it.”
White says that as she progressed in her career, she always maintained her focus on problem-solving. “I’ve always asked a lot of questions to get to the root of any issue,” she says.
“I’ve challenged myself and have certainly failed at times, but Commerce has always supported that spirit. They listen to team members just as they listen to clients.”
A key element in White’s approach to problem-solving is to focus on the human aspect of any challenge. “I study people more than I do products,” she says. “I do of course study the industry, but I focus more of my energy on people and teams. I listen to our clients talking about their daily work lives. When I do, sometimes I hear what they need but aren’t even asking for yet. If you listen and ask questions, you can start building solutions together.”
Williams says this philosophy contributes to White’s effectiveness in her role. “I’ve always found her to be very empathetic to the needs of our clients,” he says. “She has a genuine interest in how they’re doing, and she always advocates for doing what’s right for the client. She really takes it to heart.”
White believes it’s also important to always set a high bar for her teams’ performance – and her own. “When I started in this role, one of the first things I told this team is that I have high expectations of myself and others. It’s my number-one priority.”
According to Williams, the tone that White sets for her teams is a positive one. “She keeps everyone focused on keeping clients happy. At the same time, she gives her team members room to flex their own ideas. People respond well to that, and it’s why so many of the people who work for her choose to stick with her.”
Williams also believes there’s much more to come from White. “What stands out to me about her is that she hasn’t even reached her full potential yet,” he says. “I see her doing great things, and I think we’re really lucky to have her here at the bank.”