Jennifer Masterson, PNC | Most Powerful Women: Next
Director, retail lending default
Jennifer Masterson was ready for a change when she switched jobs to head up the retail lending default effort at Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group. But she had no direct experience with that type of work and wanted to get her bearings quickly. So, she headed to the collections floor, sat next to the agents working there and began listening to calls.
The operation was well run, Masterson said. But some of what she saw did not make sense, at least to an outsider. Agents were dialing the same numbers over and over, and no one ever seemed to pick up.
“Maybe it made sense back in the landline days — you have to try to catch somebody at home. But in the days of cell phones, you clearly can see every call you miss,” she said, adding that she tried to put herself in the customer’s shoes. “Somebody calling me three or four times a day doesn’t get my attention more. If anything, it aggravates me and makes me less likely to pick up the next time.”
In search of a better way, Masterson talked with the front-line agents and managers, as well as experts across the bank, then assembled a team to develop a test. Her pilot program incorporated texts and emails to reach customers in a less confrontational way. After all, some customers simply had forgotten to make a payment.
Launched in the fourth quarter of 2019, the changes have resulted in lower costs and better customer response rates, prompting aggressive efforts to roll the new approach out to more customers this year. The benefits PNC expects to see include greater debt recovery and an improved customer experience. Call-center agents, meanwhile, can focus more of their attention on customers who may need help overcoming financial hardship.
“We need to talk to those people and we want to talk to those people. But first, we had to get all the noise out of our way from the people that really just needed a trigger to go make their payment,” said Masterson, 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.)
Even though she had not been charged with fixing anything in the default organization, Masterson said, her instincts are to look for improvements. “It’s the same reason I find it annoying to check voice mails, because it takes too long, unless you can read the text,” she said.
She continually challenges the status quo, seeking more efficient and effective ways of doing things.
Masterson, who moved into her role in October 2018 from one in retail lending, is not sure what her next challenge will be — and her work is not done in the retail default group, she added. But over the years, she has learned to speak up when she sees an opportunity.
“As I’d move from job to job over my career, there’s been times when things have sort of landed on my lap, and there’s been other times where I’ve been pretty vocal going after things,” she said. “And you know, I think that that served me well more recently.”
Chief operating officer
What he says:
“She continually challenges the status quo, seeking more efficient and effective ways of doing things, and she is a master of engagement, pulling individuals and teams into the mix to identify and implement forward-thinking solutions with measurable results.”