On the Road to Success, Conversation is Key

Joe McKearn never knew his car sales experience would put him in the driver’s seat to become a banker. Customers appreciate how he and other PNC Bank employees still value face-to-face conversations.

Brookfield, Wisc. – After 25 years of selling cars, Joe McKearn handed in his keys to try his hand at a new career. 

The Wisconsin native was in search of a new job that would offer a different challenge, yet leverage what he felt most comfortable doing – working directly with customers and developing relationships.

His search ended in 2015 after a chat with his own banker, Braulio Rodriguez. The two met when McKearn and his wife Jen opened up their first PNC Bank account in 2009. A career banker, Rodriguez liked McKearn’s personality and “warmth” and convinced him to apply at PNC.

“I would say that personality is 80 percent of this job,” said Rodriguez, financial consultant at PNC’s Pewaukee branch. “You have to know how to ask the right questions and also know how to listen. There are just some people born to do that.”

Today, McKearn is a financial consultant at PNC, a job that allows him to provide full-service help to customers. More than half (56 percent) of the bank’s customers use non-branch channels, e.g., online, mobile and ATM, for most of their transactions. But many still want to visit the branch and talk face-to-face when it’s a major decision like a mortgage or retirement plan.

Instead of waiting behind a counter or desk, consultants approach customers to ask what they need. They can help customers with basic transactions, use tablets and wi-fi to explain services or have more in-depth conversations.

Joe McKearn with tablet
McKearn uses a tablet to help customers with transactions and demonstrate products and services

Driving Toward Financial Security

McKearn credits the new banking model for improving the level of comfort and trust with customers.  

“The old model of banking was to send a client to multiple bankers who each took turns servicing the different accounts,” he said. “We don’t do that anymore and it makes a difference. Customers don’t want to feel like they’re being passed around from person to person. They want to know that I’m their one-stop source.” 

McKearn recalls a customer who came to the branch to discuss his late mother’s estate. After several conversations, McKearn helped the man consolidate his three different bank accounts into one interest-bearing account. He also consolidated two IRA accounts from a previous employer and opened a secure credit card to help the customer build his credit history in hopes of buying a house.

He came in with one problem and I solved five. He now knows that I’m his go-to person and that’s important for both sides.

People Skills

As a college student in 1991, McKearn began working in the auto industry. He stood on car lots almost every weekend, working for dealerships across northern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin. 

“I enjoyed selling products – that was easy. What I really liked was finding common ground with people to help them figure out their need,” he said. 

Coming from a competitive and commission-driven sales industry, he quickly sensed a more collaborative, team-oriented atmosphere at the bank.

“Without that pressure, I can be more relaxed,” he said. “When customers feel that, their guard comes down and they’re more open to advice.”

Knowing the value of face-to-face conversations, PNC expanded an appointment-setting program in 2015 in which employees proactively ask customers who don’t frequent a branch to come in. Since it began, PNC has scheduled nearly 1 million customer appointments with sales of more than 320,000 products to help customers with their financial needs.

“We’ve hired people like Joe because they know the importance of the ‘first impression’ in the banking industry,” said David Frank, regional retail banking manager. “Joe knows the value of a phone call instead of a text or the difference a face-to-face discussion can have.”

Joe McKearn and his family
McKearn (far right) enjoys family time, including this trip to Squam Lake in New Hampshire. His wife Jen took this photo with (from left) Joe’s parents, Patricia and Thomas McKearn, son Sam and their two dogs

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Joe McKearn
Joe McKearn helps customers with
transactions and bigger needs

I make sure to set the right expectations and explain how I will take care of the customer’s needs. And I have to stay true to my commitments. Every time I make good on a promise - I build trust. And if I’ve learned anything over the years – that trust is what keeps my client coming back to me.