Angela Ho, OceanFirst Bank | Most Powerful Women: Next

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Chief accounting officer

Angela Ho is younger and has less experience than most of her team at OceanFirst Bank. But during her four years overseeing the 33 people who work in the accounting division, Ho has managed to create enviable engagement and trust.

“I do not have children of my own, but I'll joke that I'm kind of the ‘tiger mom’ at work,” said Ho, who, at 36, is the youngest senior vice president at the bank.

Ho joined the bank as chief accounting officer in 2016, becoming part of a department that did not have the best reputation at the time, she said, citing missed deadlines and a lack of responsiveness.

So Ho organized weekly team meetings to talk through critical issues that the group was experiencing — even though many in the department did not report to her initially.

“It wasn't super easy to have people talk about their dirty laundry. That was a real cultural change,” said Ho, one of 15 executives selected for our second annual Next list. (This extension of our Most Powerful Women in Banking program is meant to highlight high-achieving women in the leadership pipeline who are age 40 and under.)

“One of the ways I made it easier for people to do this was to be vulnerable myself and talk about the challenges that I was experiencing,” she added.

A recent OceanFirst employee engagement survey suggests that her efforts made a difference. Ho’s team scored higher than the bank’s average, and no one from her team reported that they were “barely engaged” or “disengaged.”

Her exceptional leadership and communication skills not only helped to increase the efficiencies of her department, but also improved the overall efficiencies of the bank.
Michael Fitzpatrick, OceanFirst’s chief financial officer

She has even been able to keep up the open dialogue with her team during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite OceanFirst being one of the first banks in the area to shift to remote working. Ho, who describes herself as a “huge proponent” of video conferencing, has held virtual home tours and murder mystery happy hours with her team.

Ho believes technology in general will shape the future of banking. She proposed new technology partners shortly after she started in her role, with the idea of being able to scale department functions as the bank grew (it went from $2.5 billion of assets to $10 billion of assets in just five years). She also helped OceanFirst execute a partnership with NestEgg, a fintech investment tool.

“It's no secret that banks are not always known or recognized to be in the forefront of technological advancements,” she said. “I joined the bank in a time where it was probably less so the case that we were entertaining new technology. …

“We were off to a slow start, and now it's really nice to see things moving along at a faster pace.”

OceanFirst’s branches also reflect this shift.

One of the key initiatives Ho has focused on is trimming the branch count as customers increased their use of digital banking and foot traffic declined. The effort has allowed the bank to save millions in expenses.

At least 40 branches have been consolidated within the past three years, with less than 10% attrition in deposit customers. Another 13 branch consolidations are slated for this year, eight of which are the result of an acquisition.

Nominating executive:
Michael Fitzpatrick
Chief financial officer

What he says: “Angela’s ability to identify team members’ strengths and weaknesses to effectively assign projects to individuals means that they can consistently produce high-quality results,” Fitzpatrick wrote in nominating Ho for the Next list. “Her exceptional leadership and communication skills not only helped to increase the efficiencies of her department, but also improved the overall efficiencies of the bank.”

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Finance The Most Powerful Women in Banking: NEXT 2020