“I worked hard, nurtured every relationship I could, and had a little luck,” she said. “Finding a role that directly connected banking with human services was not something I had thought was possible.”
Her team was responsible for implementing First Merchants’ Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which represents a $5 billion, five-year commitment to our communities across four states. These commitments include opening new banking centers in low- and moderate-income
neighborhoods to serve those who may have been unbanked or underbanked in the past due to distance or lack of transportation.
For First Merchants, the most important part of this effort is engaging communities in a meaningful way to ensure we bring the people, services, and product delivery they need. Once a possible location is identified, teams from multiple areas of the bank
partner with the community in needs-focused conversations—including surveys, focus groups, and community forums.
“Building trust is key,” Steph said. “People who have been under-served are not eager to trust a bank. So, we need to meet them where they are, listen to their needs, and do our level best to build a plan that will help their community
That’s what corporate social responsibility is all about for Steph—elevating the communities we serve.
“The ‘R’ in CSR is intentional,” she said. “As a growing community bank, we have a responsibility to improve the lives of the people around us. There are many tools that can help us achieve that—philanthropy, financial
wellness education, grants, coaching, and more. This work can be tiring, but every small win can lead to a larger shift for a whole neighborhood. My job is to make sure that First Merchants is doing all that we can to elevate people in the communities
we serve, and I am so grateful to be a part of it.”
Today, Steph continues to lead the way as First Merchants’ inaugural Diversity & Engagement Manager, where she works to nurture a welcoming, inclusive environment that allows our team members to bring their full, authentic selves to the workplace.