Holly O’Neill: “Challenging Times Spur Innovation”

Challenging Times Spur Innovation: If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it is that the unique circumstances of the situation have already spurred a wave of innovation. Remote work and increased social distancing have resulted in successful short-term solutions and creative alternatives. I’m excited about some of the necessities during the pandemic that […]

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Challenging Times Spur Innovation: If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it is that the unique circumstances of the situation have already spurred a wave of innovation. Remote work and increased social distancing have resulted in successful short-term solutions and creative alternatives. I’m excited about some of the necessities during the pandemic that will actually become permanent fixtures in our future lives.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Holly O’Neill, Chief Client Care Executive and leads Consumer, Small Business & Wealth Management Client Care at Bank of America. A 24-year veteran of Bank of America, her team provides financial solutions to more than 66 million clients each year, with a focus on delivering exceptional and distinctive client care with each interaction.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been with Bank of America for my entire career and over the span of more than two decades, I’ve held a variety of roles within the company, spending time across most of our major business groups. I began my career as a credit analyst in the Corporate and Investment Bank working with clients one-on-one to deliver custom solutions and services. When I transitioned over to the consumer business, I held onto this mindset of wanting each client to feel like they have a personal relationship with the bank. These experiences early in my career informed my passion — constantly thinking about how to make things easier for the client — and have shaped my personal philosophy and leadership as Chief Client Care Executive at Bank of America.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

By far, the most interesting time has been the past six months — delivering care for both our employees and our clients in an ever-changing environment of uncertainty. We knew coming into the second quarter of the year it would be like no other, but I could not have anticipated all of the changes and challenges we would have and what was at stake. Our teammates were facing personal uncertainty amidst the pandemic and we quickly pivoted to a virtual working environment, one that our team had not historically used. We were deploying thousands of laptops and coaching our teams on how to be effective virtually. As we were pivoting to a virtual model, we knew our clients really needed us. Coming through this period, I have to say that our clients were amazing, and our teams exceeded expectations. I regularly listen in on client care exchanges and I was proud to hear some of the most heartwarming interactions during the height of the pandemic. There was an incredible display of empathy and patience from both our teams as well as our clients.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At a time when clients are engaging heavily through digital channels, we remain committed to delivering personalized solutions that make our clients’ financial lives easier. Recently, our team has been working on updates to our mobile banking app that provide a more complete view of clients’ full financial relationship, across their banking, investing and lending accounts. We also continue to expand the capabilities of our AI-driven virtual financial assistant, Erica, such as new insights that help our clients stay on top of their finances. We are always adapting our approach to client care as our clients’ needs evolve. Our high-tech and high-touch approach enables us to deliver on our promise of superior client care, ensuring our clients can bank with us when, where and how they choose.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people to be grateful for. I would say on the top of my list are the two leaders who gave me the position I have today in the Consumer business at Bank of America. They had the confidence that I could come into a new business and take on a totally new role. It was the best and most challenging role I have taken on, and I’ve had some fun along the way. I love connecting with our clients and working closely with our teams to make sure that hundreds of millions of times a year, we are able to support our clients and help them achieve their unique goals. That would not have been possible without the confidence and support I received coming into this role.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

In addition to being responsible for the client care of 66 million Bank of America customers, this spring I was faced with a more personal challenge: helping my oldest child navigate a virtual senior year of high school and the fast approaching start of college. This year was certainly not what any of us envisioned and there was a constant sense of uncertainty for what would happen next. As a mother, it was hard to see her miss out on traditional senior year experiences, but we made the best of the situation and celebrated this exciting new chapter in her life. I was so proud of how she handled it.

Can you share the biggest work-related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic? What have you done to address those challenges?

The new remote work environment posed a challenge for many, and I had a unique opportunity to support our 13,500-member call center team that had historically worked exclusively in the office. In February, it became clear we needed to shift to work from home to help ensure the health and safety of our teammates. At the time, we were also starting to see record call volume, with many clients opting to call instead of visiting in person. Within a few weeks, we successfully pivoted an entire on-site call center workforce across 40 locations to work from home. This included procuring over 10,000 laptops, determining the unique technology demands of each employee’s home office, rerouting call volume, and setting up new controls. We also redeployed 3,000 financial center employees to help support call volume and meet client demands. By responding quickly and effectively, internal measures of consumer client satisfaction are expected to hit an all-time high, a testament to our team’s ability to adapt to a dynamic environment.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Now that the office is just a few feet away, it can be difficult to find separation between work and home life. I do my best to set a clearly defined schedule for everything I need to accomplish each day, knowing every day is different and flexibility is key. Some days will be more difficult than others, so don’t pressure yourself if things don’t go perfectly.

In addition to scheduling work and family, remember to set aside time for your self-care routine. It’s critical to take care of your own mental health in order to properly care for those you love. I’m thankful my employer prioritizes physical and emotional wellness. Explore the resources your company provides to help manage the stress and broader emotional impacts during this time of uncertainty.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

Find an activity or hobby you personally enjoy and make it part of your routine. I really enjoy being outside, even for just a few minutes each day. In our house, we also took advantage of having time together without as many of the distractions that had become our everyday. It was a bit of a reset for us.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. The Inspiring Resilience of People Around Me: If there’s one thing that’s caught my attention over the past several months, it’s the resilience of those around me. It has been incredible to see my Bank of America teammates willingly step up and take on new roles to support colleagues and ensure our clients are receiving the care they need.
  2. Finding Creative Ways to Connect: While this year has presented challenges and uncertainty, the new environment has also enhanced our problem-solving skills. A year ago, the thought of pivoting the majority of our workforce to a virtual environment would have seemed daunting between the logistics and technology required. Yet, we’ve done just that and found new ways to connect and work with one another in a remote setting. Personally, I have also been able to reconnect with old friends and foster more meaningful relationships.
  3. Renewed Sense of Community: I am deeply grateful for the compassion and support from my friends, family and colleagues who continue to look out for one another. In the workplace, I’ve seen teammates show admirable levels of empathy and care towards one another, checking in and offering support wherever possible. I’m hopeful watching all of us connect on a more human level — even while physically distanced. It is also inspiring to see companies big and small rally around their local communities. From adapting supply chains, to supporting economic opportunity initiatives, to producing PPE, I am encouraged by the renewed spirit and commitments I read about each day.
  4. Time with Loved Ones: Shelter-in-place measures at the start of the pandemic meant many of us were spending more time at home with family. Despite a busy schedule, I’ve appreciated the extra time to enjoy simple moments with my family that I may have taken for granted in the past.
  5. Challenging Times Spur Innovation: If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it is that the unique circumstances of the situation have already spurred a wave of innovation. Remote work and increased social distancing have resulted in successful short-term solutions and creative alternatives. I’m excited about some of the necessities during the pandemic that will actually become permanent fixtures in our future lives.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

During times of increased social distancing, it’s still so important to prioritize self-care and maintaining meaningful connections with others. Try reaching out and reconnecting with family and friends through a weekly phone or video call as that connection to others really does provide perspective and support even if not in person.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Work Hard/Play Hard. My parents really inspired a strong work ethic in our family. This has carried through to so much of what I do and how I do it. I added the “play hard” along the way making sure to take the time to enjoy life. Right now, the “play hard” is time spent with my family — my husband and three teenagers. On the side, I am trying my hardest to instill those same values in them.

How can our readers follow you online?

For more on Bank of America’s client assistance program, please visit us here. You can also follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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