Community//

“Why we need better paid parental leave”, with Jason Hartman & Jennifer Tramontana

There’s a fairly simple solution that can drastically help with this issue: we need better paid parental leave. I live in Austin now, but I’m originally from Toronto. In Canada, new parents get a year of paid parental leave, which is paid through unemployment insurance. The time can be split between both parents. It’s a […]

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There’s a fairly simple solution that can drastically help with this issue: we need better paid parental leave. I live in Austin now, but I’m originally from Toronto. In Canada, new parents get a year of paid parental leave, which is paid through unemployment insurance. The time can be split between both parents. It’s a positive policy for the economy, too; there’s an entire secondary market of temporary employees who cover new parents while they’re on parental leave.

In reality, six months should be the absolute minimum amount of paid parental leave. This allows people to really be with their children during those formative months, while helping to address institutional issues associated with childcare. New parents — new mothers, especially — are at their most vulnerable in the early days of parenthood, managing new emotions and covering around-the-clock feedings. Yet the U.S. is the only industrialized country without a paid leave policy, and one-fourth of women have to go back to work after just two weeks to make ends meet.

Despite being a very small company, The Fletcher Group offers its team members paid maternity leave. However, this is unique, and we’re one of the few companies of our size that does so — to truly achieve parity and support new families, more needs to be done at the national level.


Jennifer Tramontana has a passion for payments, and building connections within the industry that empower partnerships, collaboration and innovation. As the president and founder of The Fletcher Group, an award-winning PR and marketing agency specializing in payments and fintech, Jennifer is a sought after leader among these industries, across the US and Canada. Her agency supports leading payments companies, including Blackhawk Network, Netspend and Meta Financial Group, Inc. Through this work, she identified the need for the Canadian Prepaid Providers Organization, which she conceptualized and co-founded in 2013. The organization’s mission is to create an environment where prepaid technology can grow and flourish, and Jennifer currently serves as its executive director. She is a founding member and advisor for the Paytechs of Canada, an organization focused on creating positive payment experiences within the Canadian market. Jennifer also helped develop the brand and communications strategy for the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association. Jennifer volunteers as a mentor for Money20/20’s Rise Up, an entrepreneurship program that helps women in the industry excel in a male-dominated field, and serves as an advisor for Wnet, which focuses on empowering women in payments. She is also a contributor for Forbes.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

In 2005, I was at a crossroads in my career — I had been at a Denver-based public relations agency for three years, when I went on maternity leave following the birth of my first child. A short time into my leave, I received a call from my manager at that agency. They wanted me to cut my leave short, and come back far sooner than we’d agreed on. That’s when I realized the traditional public relations agency system was broken. Young women join the PR workforce, work 70-hour weeks, burn out, have a baby, realize returning to that pace is not an option and opt out of PR agency work altogether, either to work in-house, change careers or stay home. I knew there had to be a better way to do challenging, impactful work while maintaining a work-life balance. That’s when I formed The Fletcher Group, a PR and marketing agency dedicated to doing things differently.

Early on, I was very lucky to be introduced by a former colleague to the prepaid card industry. At that time, it was in its infancy. I began working with the trade association that was bringing together this new, exciting technology, and had the incredible opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this burgeoning industry. It was clear prepaid was changing people’s lives for the better, especially those who were un- or under-banked. I helped to build the prepaid brand and define what the industry was, along with its key messages. This project opened up the world of payments for me, and I’ve been working in the field ever since.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

In 2015, I conceptualized and co-founded the Canadian Prepaid Providers Organization (CPPO). I’m now the organization’s executive director, in addition to my work with The Fletcher Group. But getting the CPPO off the ground wasn’t easy — it was a huge challenge, and we encountered several roadblocks along the way.

In 2015 we realized the Canadian prepaid industry was about 10 years behind the U.S. prepaid industry. It actually looked and felt very similar to the U.S. industry circa 2005, back when I initially helped build communications for the U.S. prepaid entrants. The Canadian industry was clearly facing many of the same challenges we had in the U.S. a decade prior.

I thought it would be easy to replicate the U.S. market’s success in Canada. But it was an enormous challenge to get buy-in from the key players from day one, and it took two full years to build the coalition, when we’d initially expected six months. We learned that Canada’s large, powerful banks had not collectively joined a new trade association in well over a decade. So, joining the CPPO wasn’t an easy ask — it was a huge undertaking.

A key lesson from this experience: it’s not always easy to replicate success across markets (or clients), even if it seems similar, because governments, corporations and people won’t always behave or react the same way. I leverage that learning every day to better serve The Fletcher Group’s clients — in our industry, it’s invaluable to learn what matters to clients, what success looks like for them and to truly focus on meeting them where they are.

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

The Fletcher Group has many exciting projects in the works. Part of our work involves proposing and creating content for big payments industry shows. I’m also doing a lot of work with female entrepreneurs that’s very exciting to me. I am a mentor with Money20/20’s Rise Up, which is a global program designed to provide support and actionable skills for women working across the financial services and fintech industry. The goal is to help these women take the next steps to advance their careers. In this role, I was able to provide one-on-one mentorship to a single mother who works as a senior vice president at a financial services company in Kenya. I also met several women doing outstanding work from around the globe, and, thanks to our work at The Fletcher Group, I’ve been able to place two of them as speakers at major upcoming financial services conferences. These two women were director-level, and the conferences they’re speaking at normally only accept vice presidents and above for speaking opportunities — so I’m hopeful these engagements will help to propel them in their careers.

I’ve also been asked to apply for the Payments Canada Stakeholder Advisory Council, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to partner with my peers to help shape the industry there.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are businesspeople first, who care about our culture as our number one competitive advantage. Public relations agencies are known for boom and bust cycles, with employees that feel undervalued, underappreciated and overworked. As a whole, the industry averages a 25% employee turnover rate. A key goal of mine was to create a culture that would buck these trends, and it’s worked. We have a 97% employee satisfaction rate, and a retention rate of over 90%.

When we grow our team, we seek out candidates who are looking for long-term, real careers. Together, we work hard to build a fantastic, sustainable business — but it’s not everything to everyone. We don’t want our team to be burned out or working all the time, so we work hard to manage to a 40-hour work week. We’ve built a team environment that’s family friendly, but we also take it one step further by supporting our team in pursuing their own personal passions. We offer the flexibility to do that while also having a good career.

For instance, we recently had a team member who spent a month with a remote work group in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She did her work for The Fletcher Group during the day, did career enrichment activities the rest of the workweek and toured the area with her group on the weekends. We have another teammate who annually spends a month with her family on a Hawaiian island, where she mixes on-the-clock time with PTO to get work done while still enjoying the aloha lifestyle.

This culture is a key differentiator for us. Our high retention rate has great payoffs for our bottom line — we’ve grown profitability each year. For our clients, this means they won’t lose their favorite team member and have to retrain new people each year, which is another key differentiator.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all-white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

In the past couple of years, we’ve certainly become much more tuned in to the challenges women face in the workplace. Bringing their stories to light is a tremendous first step to making change, but there’s so much more that needs to be done from a cultural and institutional perspective. We’re just scratching the surface.

In my line of work, executives in financial services often reach out to me for advice when they’re looking for qualified job candidates. My response is always the same, especially when it comes to senior-level roles: go one level deeper. Certainly interview and vet out the top candidates. But do a little more digging, and bring in women and minorities, too. You don’t have to hire them, but at least talk to them and honestly consider them. Consistently doing this will help to push the needle on this issue.

Personally, I’ve been closely following Sallie Krawcheck for several years now. She’s a thought leader in this space. Her professional mission is to help women reach their financial and professional goals. Prior to this work, she held the CEO role at several Wall Street companies. To put it bluntly, much of her thought leadership focuses on how there’s much more work to do in the fight for safe workplaces, equal pay and gender equality — and I certainly agree with her. I look forward to seeing this issue continue to evolve over time.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

There’s a fairly simple solution that can drastically help with this issue: we need better paid parental leave. I live in Austin now, but I’m originally from Toronto. In Canada, new parents get a year of paid parental leave, which is paid through unemployment insurance. The time can be split between both parents. It’s a positive policy for the economy, too; there’s an entire secondary market of temporary employees who cover new parents while they’re on parental leave.

In reality, six months should be the absolute minimum amount of paid parental leave. This allows people to really be with their children during those formative months, while helping to address institutional issues associated with childcare. New parents — new mothers, especially — are at their most vulnerable in the early days of parenthood, managing new emotions and covering around-the-clock feedings. Yet the U.S. is the only industrialized country without a paid leave policy, and one-fourth of women have to go back to work after just two weeks to make ends meet.

Despite being a very small company, The Fletcher Group offers its team members paid maternity leave. However, this is unique, and we’re one of the few companies of our size that does so — to truly achieve parity and support new families, more needs to be done at the national level.

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

Here are my recommendations for combatting this issue:

Understand revenue versus profit. Whether you are managing a business or a household, people focus too much on revenue and not enough on profitability or savings. This needs to be turned on its head. My son runs a small business and loves everything about making sales, but he isn’t interested in tracking the revenue versus profits. So, I kept a ledger for him throughout 2019. At the end of the year, I showed him that he’d made about $1,800 in profit from the business in $2,800 worth of sales. He then looked at his bank account and realized he had about $35 in it. This prompted a good discussion about these concepts.

Make a budget. Many people don’t take the time to understand how much they spend weekly, monthly or annually. Today, it’s easier than ever to use digital tools to track spending and anticipate what you will need in the coming month. Feeling in control also leads to better financial decisions.

Young people need to invest. When I was in college, I worked as a bank teller and had the fortunate opportunity to invest part of my paycheck in investment vehicles. I worked there part time for two years and today have $37,000 in a retirement account from that job. When I show my kids the annual statements, and they are blown away that this is possible.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?

These are my top five tips to get started investing:

Forget the fundamentals. Pick stocks from brands you love. Then, you will actually follow them — and get interested in the markets long term.

Use Stockpile to buy fractional shares of stocks, so you can choose the companies you know and love, and actually afford it.

Invest in yourself first. Spend part of your investment bucket on building something for yourself.

Read the Economist, not just the markets section. I have a degree in political economy and fundamentally believe that geopolitical forces will have an even greater effect on our markets going forward.

As a digital native check out apps like Robinhood, Wealthsimple and Betterment. These apps are making it easier and more fun to invest. Their easy to read charts and trackers will keep you interested and engaged in the long term.

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?

Without a doubt, David Eason. David is the CEO at Aspyr Digital and is a former chair of CPPO. I had an idea for CPPO early on, but he truly understood that vision from day one and was fundamental in bringing it to life. He was the ‘insider’ who convinced all our members to join. The CPPO would not be what it is today without his efforts — which also have changed my life in huge ways.

Thanks in part to David’s work, I had a platform to create this second part of my career as a payments expert. I am now recognized as a strong payments insider within the U.S. and Canada. I’m able to work with massive fintech companies and small startups, as well as to bring together other associations to innovate and move the industry forward. This has all culminated in me being asked to apply for the Payments Canada Stakeholder Advisory Council, which has just 20 members who focus on steering the payments industry within Canada.

David’s belief in me and my vision has truly had an incalculable impact on my life and career.

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

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.

I’m a very practical, optimistic and straightforward person. This quote speaks to me because it reflects the control we have over our experience — even if it’s just in our mind. When I was forced into leaving my job in 2004, I didn’t think twice about how it was negatively affecting me. I just immediately decided to take that experience and do something else. It turned out to be one of my biggest lifechanging events, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was just taking a step to change what I didn’t like.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Thanks in part to the rise of social media, many of us are currently living in a culture of loneliness. Research shows that in the last 50 years, rates of loneliness have doubled in the U.S. With this comes a variety of physical and mental health issues. In my opinion, this is the biggest problem we as a society are facing. Rather than hiding behind closed doors, I believe we should all make an effort to get to know our neighbors and get more connected in our immediate communities. On a personal level, I have a widowed, elderly neighbor who is a regular in our household for dinner. I also volunteer monthly with my husband and two children — each time at the same place, with the same people. Imagine the impact if we all made a little more effort to build these relationships and live a more socially connected life.

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