This Commerce leader’s priority: A deep commitment to doing what’s right
Black History Month means many things to many people. For Felecia Hogan, a senior vice president of Bank Operations, it brings back memories from her childhood. “When I was in school, Black History Month was the only time I learned about the accomplishments of Black people in this country,” she says. “I learned about writers, artists, inventors, athletes and educators. I heard about how they overcame challenges and oppression in order to be excellent.”
She says those stories continue to inspire her. “They’re a good reminder of the work I still need to do,” she says. “I think about how tenacious those people I learned about had to be, and how they were told to come in through the back door. It drives home the importance of the work I’m doing here. It makes me want to grow, and to do better.”
That’s quite a statement, considering how much growth Hogan has experienced during her 28-year career at Commerce. When she started at the bank, the work was simply to help her pay her way through college. “I was encoding checks on third shift, working full-time, and also going to school full-time,” she says.
After completing her degree, she continued her career at the bank. Her reasoning was simple. “If you’re committed to working, developing and listening to feedback, there’s great opportunity here to grow a career.”
Along the way, she also nurtured her passion for inclusion, diversity and equity initiatives, and eventually helped to play a role in the creation of VIBE, Commerce’s employee resource group (ERG) for multicultural team members.
“In 2019, I was part of a pilot program called EMC (Executive Management Committee) Mentoring, in which each participant was paired with a member of the bank’s EMC,” she explains. “For our capstone project, all of the participants worked together to address a business issue of our choice and create solutions. We decided that we wanted to help the bank attract, retain and grow diverse talent.”
One of the group’s suggestions was to create a multicultural ERG – a suggestion that gained traction so quickly that by November of that same year, it had become a reality. The new multicultural ERG was named VIBE. “That’s something I will always be very proud of,” Hogan says.
Hogan is proud of the way VIBE has evolved since its launch. When it launched in November 2019, its focus was on retaining talent. But after events last summer put a spotlight on the national issue of systemic racism, VIBE’s leaders knew the ERG had an important new role to play.
“We needed to create spaces in which people could have tough conversations, courageous conversations, so they could listen, build empathy, and learn,” she says. “Before we created opportunities for people to talk about those issues, many people told me they didn’t know what to say or where to say it. We also created a pledge that team members could take so that we could all hold ourselves accountable for doing something tangible. It worked out well that VIBE was already in place, and we could step in and help.”
Hogan continues to play a significant role in VIBE’s development. “I’m a sponsor of VIBE, which means I serve as a sounding board,” she says. “Sponsors help co-chairs and the DEI Committee set the strategy for what we want VIBE to accomplish. I connect people, help leaders develop the most impactful messaging, and hold all of us accountable for making progress on our goals. I want to make sure we really develop the people who sign up for VIBE.”
Hogan brings that same level of pride and passion to her day-to-day work, where she leads a team of 185 people in support of the bank’s commercial payment business. Part of her team is, as she describes it, “pure customer support.” They provide frontline support for large commercial customers who use products and services such as treasury products, electronic payments and transfers, commercial cards and more. The other group is the Remittance Processing Group, which expedites cash flows – available seven days a week to expedite payments for commercial customers.
Greg Nickle, an executive vice president and director of Bank Operations who has worked alongside Hogan for more than 15 years, says her deep involvement in so many aspects of Commerce is a reflection of who she is. “She’s a very caring person,” he says. “She wants to make a difference for our customers and for our team members. And she wants to do it in a meaningful way – not just through her words, but also through her actions. That’s what makes her special.”
He adds that people genuinely enjoy working with her. “She’s very collaborative and a great teammate,” he says. “Felecia is one of those people you don’t want to disappoint. She has a grace about her that really makes people want to work hard for her and do the right things. That’s because she’s always trying to do the right thing herself. She makes everyone around her feel better, just by her presence.”
Commerce Bank believes in the importance of celebrating diversity, and that philosophy will be showcased throughout February as the bank commemorates Black History Month. As an example, one way in which Commerce will raise awareness of issues impacting people of color is by hosting a virtual “fireside chat” with author Minda Harts, who has written about the challenges women of color often face in professional settings.
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