Sometimes what makes a bank a great place to work has nothing to do with the job itself.
Roderick Earley, a scored credit analytic manager at Old National Bank in Evansville, Ind., discovered this a few years ago while struggling to find a way to help his daughter, Kristen.
She had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2010, and it was determined she also had Asperger's syndrome about a year later. She was not doing well at school and had become a target of bullying because of her insulin pump.
Earley knew that getting a diabetic alert dog — a type of assistance animal that can alert their owners whenever blood sugar levels become too high or too low — could help Kristen not only medically but also emotionally. The problem was the $25,000 price tag to purchase one of these highly trained animals.
Earley applied to Old National's "ONe Wish" program, hoping for $100 towards the goal. Instead, the committee granted him $1,000.
But the assistance didn't end there. Some of his coworkers hosted bake sales to raise additional money, while others — including people Earley hadn't ever met — sent him donations.
"It was humbling," Earley said. "It brings tears to your eyes when you are going through something like that."
Kristen, now 16, is thriving, with the help of Jackson, her diabetic alert dog. She is the president of her 4-H club and gets excellent grades in school. Earley, who has worked for Old National for more than 20 years, credits the turnaround to the assistance he received that allowed him to afford Jackson.
"The bond between them is unbelievable," he said of his daughter and her dog, a catahoula. "She has become a lot more outgoing where she was so introverted before. He helped do that."
Old National is a new addition to the Best Banks to Work For list this year. It ranked No. 2 among banks with more than $10 billion of assets and No. 50 on the overall list.
The bank started its wish program about a decade ago, after Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Jones joined. Jones had wanted to ensure that employee needs, both professional and personal, were being met.
The idea of granting wishes was suggested by a wealth management employee who had read about an insurance company doing something similar. Though the spelling looks odd, the ONe Wish program uses a capitalized "O" and "N" as a hat tip to the name of the bank.
"It's really family helps family," Jones said. "You just hire the right people and let them do what's natural. The basic human tenet of life is to help each other and, if you create a culture where everyone feels like they are part of a team, you will naturally help those who are challenged. We have a lot of great people with huge hearts."
Initially the program helped employees who had more of a want, like buying a special sewing machine to make blankets for a children's hospital, said Amy Casavant, who has the unusual title of "volunteer and work life programs manager." But once the recession hit, the initiative shifted to helping coworkers who had a dire need, including making mortgage payments or replacing a water heater.
A committee with representatives from different business lines and regions decide who to assist using money that comes from contributions by the bank and its employees. About 30 wishes are granted each year, and 267 wishes totaling more than $155,000 have been granted since October 2006.
Sometimes the program is used as a springboard to rally additional support for an employee. For example, the ONe Wish program granted financial assistance to an employee who had a house fire, while coworkers volunteered for several days to help clean up.
"When I call folks to let them know they are being helped, nine out of 10 times they cry," Casavant said. "These are tears of relief. I appreciate the opportunity to do that."