#WomenInFinance Promote a Supportive Culture — An Interview with Lori Hensler
When considering a new job, one of the most important questions we ask ourselves is, “Is this a good fit?” What we mean by that is, “Is the company’s culture a good match for my values, lifestyle, experience and goals?” For Lori Hensler, fund treasurer and director of Funds Financial Services at Federated Hermes, Inc. (formerly Federated Investors, Inc.), it was the culture that drew her to the company more than 25 years ago — and continues to keep her engaged today.
We spoke with Lori to learn more about the importance of building a strong, supportive corporate culture — both in attracting and retaining top talent, and in building long-term, successful client partnerships.
The partnership between Federated Hermes and State Street dates back to 1956, making it one of our longest-standing client relationships. What do you think enables such partnerships to flourish in the long term?
For me, it’s about having similar values and a commitment to ongoing success. I witness it every year at our board meetings. Federated Hermes has always focused on nurturing its employees and its business partnerships, and so has State Street.
Through that shared commitment, we’ve both built strong, capable teams who have taken the time to learn about each other and find new ways to grow together. I see State Street as an extension of Federated Hermes and the people we work with at State Street, especially those who have been on our account for years, are really a part of our story now. It’s a strong and balanced relationship.
The strength of our partnership was never more evident than during the past months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, there have been operational challenges, but I’m so proud of the resilience shown by both Federated Hermes and State Street in overcoming those challenges. We have all adapted to a “new normal” while continuing to provide our collective clients with exceptional service.
During your 25-plus years at Federated Hermes, which aspects of your tenure have kept you engaged and inspired, and which have challenged you the most?
Beginning on my first day here, I just felt at home. The company’s culture and values are closely aligned with my own: fiscal responsibility, fairness and collaboration, to name a few. I was most inspired with how well people here work together. Team members at all levels of the organization collaborate to resolve problems and accomplish group goals without any one-upmanship.
My first few years as fund treasurer were my most challenging yet. I encountered issues that I hadn’t had to deal with in previous roles — some that needed to be isolated, sorted and resolved all in the same day. Again, what really helped me develop in my role was the culture of camaraderie. You share both the troubles and the accolades.
How you learn to handle a challenge says a lot about your leadership capabilities.
What piece of advice from a former mentor or sponsor do you still carry with you today?
A former manager once told me, “You will never regret over-preparing for a board presentation or being ready to present a day or two early.” In practice this is difficult for me, because I am a born procrastinator. But he was so right! It sounds cliché but there are no “do-overs” when it comes to big meetings or presentations, so these are not opportunities you should “wing.”
Secondly, mistakes happen. When they do, don’t try to fix them yourself. Getting the right people involved as soon as possible will make it much easier to resolve the problem quickly. How you learn to handle a challenge says a lot about your leadership capabilities.
Prior to joining Federated Hermes, you worked in public accounting for four years with a focus on audit and tax preparation. You are also a CPA. How did this career path help position you for roles at Federated Hermes?
I really encourage anyone who is working on an accounting degree or planning a career in an accounting role to spend some time in public accounting right after graduation — at any size firm, large or small. It can be a grind, with long hours, but it’s a great springboard to bigger opportunities. Just building the stamina I needed for those four years set me up well to take on new challenges. Today when I am hiring for open positions and I see public accounting experience on a candidate’s resume, I feel confident in their ability to add value to our team.
You are actively involved in several volunteer/charity events and programs including the Extra Mile Education Foundation, and you serve on the board of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). How do you balance these responsibilities with your career demands?
I believe that if you’re passionate about a cause, you will find time to support it. My father died from Type One Diabetes when he was 29. My step-father also has Type One Diabetes and recently turned 81. Seeing first-hand the advances that have been made in treating this disease makes my work for the JDRF that much more rewarding.
When Extra Mile needed a volunteer treasurer, I really thought I didn’t have time for it. What changed my mind was an inspirational magnet that I keep on my refrigerator: “Someone busier than you is running right now.” It gives me perspective and motivates me to stretch myself just a little further. And I’m glad I did! I draw so much energy from both of these organizations that I actually feel revitalized when I leave meetings or events.
Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self about how your career would unfold? Any advice you would give to young women starting out in the industry?
My advice to anyone — whether a man or a woman — is, “Be a volunteer.” Always look for ways to add value on the job. Some people do this by nature, but most have to work at it. You might feel like you don’t have enough experience or project knowledge to contribute, but don’t let that stop you. If someone is looking for volunteers, they’re going to be grateful to have your help. You can learn on the fly. Raising your hand early in your career can come back to reward you 100-fold. Even the smallest bit of help won’t be forgotten — and you will be the first person managers think of when the next big project comes along.
We are a leading financial services provider serving some of the world’s most sophisticated institutions.