Learning From the Past and Looking Beyond Yourself With US Bank's Timika Cole
Outside perspectives can open your eyes to unconscious bias and help shape a more effective future for the industry.
Editor's note: This Q&A originally appeared in the November issue of MReport, click here to access.
Timika Cole serves as SVP, Operations Group Manager for the Recovery & Loss Prevention areas of US Bank that focus on mitigating the bank’s exposure by preserving properties, managing post-foreclosure, and recovering expenses for the bank. She’s heavily involved with various mortgage banking industry initiatives designed to improve the operational processes for the bank’s customers, property preservation, and claims. Cole serves as a sponsor for the bank’s Employee Network, which focuses on bringing employees with similar backgrounds, experiences, or interests together to network, learn, develop leadership skills, and contribute powerfully to the company and their communities. She is also the bank’s Champion for Diversity & Inclusion for Consumer Banking Sales & Support, where she partners with other leaders to meet diversity and inclusion objectives and bring development opportunities across all business lines.
Some of her recent charitable work includes partnering with MelRo’s Foundation to bring education to U.S. foster-care parents and resources for Ghanaian orphan children. She also recently formed the nonprofit organization Su Exito, which provides life-skill tools for children in foster care to be ready for emancipation at age 18. She is also involved with a non-profit organization (Reaching Higher Heights 4Life) that is affiliated with her church that focuses on using Performing Arts as a mechanism to draw and encourage urban kids to go outside of their surroundings and reach higher than their circumstances. They provide successful tools building better relationships, reviving through healthy eating, resources through education and employment and redemption through others.
Cole was nominated for a 2018 Keystone Award within the category of Community Leadership, which honors those who have successfully broken barriers and helped lead the charge in developing diverse workplace cultures by fostering inclusive and welcoming environments for people of every color, creed, and gender to prosper and achieve over adversity. Cole sat down with MReport during the 2018 Five Star Conference to discuss her nomination, the lessons she’s learned during 20 years in mortgage, and what advice she would have for women now entering the industry.
M // What did your 2018 Keystone Award nomination mean to you?
COLE // I’m excited and humbled to be nominated alongside hundreds of talented women from the industry. Someone saw my talents and thought that what I’ve been doing over the last several years has made a difference, whether it was breaking down barriers for women in terms of policy or working to be a trailblazer of change. It’s also very special being recognized in the Community Leadership area, because I do a lot from the community perspective, so I’m very excited and thankful.
M // You’re a sponsor for US Bank’s Employee Network and also the bank’s Champion for Diversity and Inclusion. What lessons have you learned from this work that you’ve been able to apply to your larger role as an SVP?
COLE // My role with diversity and inclusion for US Bank has opened my eyes to unconscious bias. We all have it, but we don’t always recognize how unconscious bias can limit us. Going through the training and then meeting people and learning what challenges they are facing has made a huge impact. Learning to recognize unconscious bias is one thing, but bringing further awareness and doing something about it is also important. That awareness comes through training, networking, and working to empower others. It has reinforced me to reach outside of my comfort zone and seek out diverse perspectives.
M // How have both your job and the industry in general changed during the two decades you’ve been working in mortgage?
COLE // Although we have learned from the sins of the past, there is still more work to be done. Unfortuantely, when volumes are high, most people focus on just getting rid of the inventory. With foreclosure volumes being historically low, my team and I have had the opportunity to learn to be more strategic in our approach. When volumes are low, one should take the opportunity to re-assess. It’s the chance to ask, “What do we need to do differently?”
I think we’re taking a much different approach than we did back in 2008. Not only are we managing various investor and insurer regulations, but there are more guidelines on how cities are becoming more involved in the foreclosure process. With volumes as low as they are, there’s not a lot of revenue coming in on the foreclosure side. We need to partner with the states and municipalities to figure out how we can best help each other; we ultimately all want the same things. But how we go about it may be a little bit different.
That’s why I’m more involved with things like Five Star and other organizations, to examine and explore industry best practices. What are the initiatives that can help move the industry forward? We need to be coming together and trying to figure out solutions to those problems before they become critical.
Spreading awareness and education is very important. We sometimes have a negative reputation that “the big banks don’t care.” We do care. We care about our customers, communities, and our reputation. There are many things to consider when you’re dealing with the foreclosure process.
M // As a nominee for the Keystone Awards, which honor excellence among the women in the industry, what advice would you give to a woman who is first entering the industry?
COLE // Don’t chase the paycheck. Do the right thing. Find out what your passion is and follow your path.
Don’t let anything stop you. If you’re passionate and have a dream, stick with it, even if you meet initial resistance. Surround yourself with positive people, not just “yes people.” You want people around you who can provide reliable advice and also coach you when you need it. Find both mentors and sponsors. Mentors will provide you advice on your career, but sponsors will really sign on and put their name on the line to vouch for you.
Have faith in yourself and invest in your family, your friends, and your community to empower and develop another woman to succeed. Leverage your community and your advocates to keep you encouraged. Always think bigger than you. It’s not about you; it’s about what you do for others.