Q&A: Debbie Walsh

So Debbie,

What do you consider to be National’s main corporate values? How do you create a consistent culture around those values at a company with offices all across the country?

I would say that the core values that sustain our Clients First mission would be trust, respect, ingenuity, and resilience. We focus our energies on always doing the right thing. Fortunately, National is a forward-thinking organization that invests in the technology needed to work with and for each other across the country. Education is an essential tool. I am getting ready to launch our annual web-based Anti-Harassment & Discrimination training this summer but I believe the training goes further, showing us what a respectful and trustworthy workplace we value. I think our Healthy Returns Wellness Program also teaches us to respect ourselves and there has been increased enthusiasm with the wellness initiatives we provided employees this year.

Are you noticing any evolving trends in attracting or retaining top talent in finance?

While top talent is looking for growth opportunities, they also want to work for a holistic company. They want a well-rounded benefits package, including generous medical insurance, 401(k) matching and paid-time-off and leave. We’re also seeing a desire to work for a socially responsible and inclusive organization, which had seemed to be limited to only the millennial workforce in the past. National is absolutely committed to its mission and in doing so, I am more confident than ever that we will be in a position to retain top talent.

What HR initiative(s) would you love to introduce or expand at National (e.g. employee rewards program, charity days, etc.)?

Of course I would like to expand our Healthy Returns wellness program, add cost-savings for our employees on our medical and increase our 401(k) match. Outside of that, I would like to work on initiatives where employees can get involved in their communities. I would love to see a “Your Local Community Week,” where an employee could take the day to help their community and we would grant them an extra vacation day that year or some other employee recognition in return.

I was once involved in a mentoring program that started with high school kids in underprivileged neighborhoods. We invited students to our office and had fun, but we also showed them how our company positively impacted the community and how they too could impact others and be successful in their future careers. We encouraged the students to sign up for one-on-one mentoring programs with our employees that could teach them the basics of career planning. It was very rewarding to see young students get enthused about planning for their future and to see the light in their eyes when they realized they had the chance to further their goals and better the world around them.

What impact would like to see the Women of National initiative have on the company and beyond?

I am proud of National. We have a lot of women in upper management, but I would like to see more women in registered representative positions. A study from the Center for Talent Innovation shows that women control about 39% of investable assets in the U.S., so there is opportunity to serve that population. I believe the WON initiative promotes our Clients First mission and will be a contributing factor in National being named a “best places to work” employer someday as well as the premier financial services organization for more women.