Monthly Archives: May 2014

Category: Associate Development and Engagement, Corporate Citizenship

Why do I Participate in the Community Garden?

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garden-photoAfter what seems like the coldest winter in years, we’re gearing up for another season of community gardening at Boston Financial’s Lawrence, Kansas office. It all started in early 2012 when managers John Robinson and Scott Visocsky collaborated on a plan to create a community garden. They envisioned it being planned, supported, and maintained by volunteer associates, all on the grounds of the Lawrence office. I still remember the email asking for volunteers.

Jump forward to spring 2014; what was once a flower bed adjacent to our building is now a three-season organic garden. We’ve donated over 1,400 pounds of organic vegetables to local food kitchens, our garden has expanded to two plots, and my colleagues and I have become accomplished organic farmers along the way. This spring marks our third annual garden kickoff. I suspect it will be our best year yet.

As green thumb volunteers and veterans poured into the conference room for our recent kickoff meeting, they reminded me of the many reasons I participate in the community garden.

  1. Awesome people and new friends. Every year, we have a fantastic group of people from a wide range of teams and departments participating. The garden gives us a chance to build new relationships we would otherwise miss out on. Our group consists of line managers, group managers, analysts, flex-time associates, and full-time associates – all working together to better our community.
  2. Supportive workplace. Not only has Boston Financial provided lawn space for the gardens, they have also provided the supplies and tools to build the garden beds and maintain the gardens. This support makes it easy for me and my fellow associates to do our part as volunteers.
  3. Give back to the community. Lawrence has been a big part of my life for the past six years. The town has helped make me who I am. This is my home. I want to do everything I can to make it a better place. What better way to give back than by volunteering my time toward furthering the community.
  4. Learn the ropes. When we started the community garden, I didn’t know anything about the process. Our team leaders, Scott Visocsky and Travis Mize, brought tons of knowledge to our volunteers about how to start and maintain an organic garden. With their guidance, I’ve learned to build garden beds, mix compost/soil, identify weeds, plant seasonal crops, make organic bug spray, and harvest crops. Last summer, we took our community garden a step further. Several gardeners and I were given the opportunity to work in the kitchen of the Lawrence Community Shelter, a local food bank in Lawrence, preparing meals from the food we had grown and donated. These are skills I can use the rest of my life for home gardening or for a new community garden project.
  5. Pass it on. Another rewarding part of gardening is being able to share experiences with others. I posted a few pictures of our community garden on Facebook. Since then, people have asked me for advice on how to start their own organic garden. I’ve been able to assist my family, past professors, and friends in planning vegetable plots. Even the Arkansas City Chamber of Commerce, my home town, has contacted me about starting a community garden.

With the support of the management and volunteers, Boston Financial has grown its presence as a company that gives back to the Lawrence community. I’m proud to be part of our community garden movement in Lawrence. I can’t wait to see what we will grow and gain this year.

Category: Associate Development and Engagement, Corporate Citizenship

Corporate Citizenship – Be a Part of the Solution

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Lynda“Helping make someone’s life a little easier is a wonderful way to give back. As volunteers, we not only helped the needy, but showed the humane side of business. But the biggest benefit was to my colleagues and me, the good feeling you get inside. The feeling that says I AM PART OF THE SOLUTION.” – Gerard Florentine, a Boston Financial associate speaking about his volunteer experience through the Boston Financial Associate Volunteer Program

We can all agree that corporate citizenship is a good thing. Giving back is an enriching experience offering each of us the opportunity to give and grow while creating shared value for the community, the company, and the associate. Gerard’s experience as a volunteer is a testament to this. Gerard is one of many Boston Financial associates who participate in our Associate Volunteer Program.

Our Volunteer Program targets activities that focus on children, families, and strengthening the community. To help ensure the activities resonate with our associates, the activities are sourced at each of our locations. The benefits to our associates are numerous. Yes, there’s the good feeling they get from helping others. But spending time with coworkers in a different environment, meeting people they might not otherwise interact with, applying their skills and enhancing them through volunteerism, and knowing they’re providing value to the community are other great benefits our associates reap.

Take me for instance. I’ve had an incredible experience mentoring a young adult in the Year Up program. I have become a better listener as I try to support my mentee as she navigates through her first corporate experience. To help her sort through what she needs, I’ve really had to focus on what she’s looking for and problem solve with her, not for her. The experience has given me an opportunity to connect with someone I may not have met otherwise.

The support of our associates and their engagement with the community are vital to the success and strength of our corporate citizenship program. Over the last several years, Boston Financial has made a concerted effort to make citizenship an integral part of our corporate culture and business strategy. We’ve established targeted community impact efforts and citizenship is embedded in our corporate goals and values.

We believe that being a better business partner requires us to do more than provide services and solutions to our clients. Through our associates’ engagement, their commitment, and their passion, we continue to do more as an organization to deepen our community involvement and impact. We’ve also become a more engaged and collaborative organization.

Over the next few weeks, our associates will be sharing some of the community projects they’re involved in through our Volunteer Program. Our hope is you’ll come away with a better understanding of who we are as an organization. Their stories may even inspire you to make a difference in your community.

Category: Compliance, Webinar

FATCA – The Time is Now. Are You Ready?

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July-1In case you missed it, the latest installment of Boston Financial’s thought leadership webcast series focused on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). In the four years since FATCA was signed into law we’ve seen many changes: proposed regulations, final regulations, a six-month extension, and then coordinating regulations. Each additional amendment has complicated an already complex piece of tax regulation. We are fast approaching the July 1, 2014 FATCA compliance date, and four of Boston Financial’s and DST’s compliance professionals were on hand to explain what’s going on.

Sharon James moderated and laid the groundwork for a very informative webcast. In her position as General Counsel, she’s a key stakeholder of our compliance program and always an advocate for compliance at Boston Financial.

Nick Horvath, Regulatory Solutions Officer at DST, also participated in the discussion. In his role as co-chair of the ICI TAAC FATCA working group, Nick has his ear to the ground when it comes to FATCA and the IRS’ next move. He provided background on regulatory updates over the last few months and where the industry is today given Notice 2014-33 (which effectively delayed FATCA withholding for six months).

Craig Hollis, Boston Financial’s Chief Compliance Officer, gave an overview of how Boston Financial is supporting our clients’ FATCA compliance, before going into details of the key deadlines and how we are preparing for them. Some of the points Craig made relative to Boston Financial’s operational readiness were:

  • Identifying foreign entities, taking the appropriate withholding, and remitting and reporting on the withholding are already core competencies of Boston Financial
  • Since the regulation affects a limited population of accounts we service, we have focused our training efforts on impacted functions and associates
  • By communicating and collaborating with industry colleagues, while analyzing the operational implications of FATCA, we have ensured our alignment with industry best practices

Stepping out from behind the scenes to provide an update on DST’s technology enhancement efforts was DST Software Development Manager, Greg Barner. Greg spoke to DST’s past, present and future initiatives for FATCA and also supplied my favorite line of the day – “FATCA, the gift that keeps on giving.”

Greg’s point especially resonated with me because while it may seem as though FATCA is finally here, this is really only the beginning. FATCA’s deadlines and effective dates for withholding are spread out over the next three years. Especially when thinking of the global initiative for the automatic exchange of tax information prompted by FATCA, it really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Category: Conferences and Events, Technology

Standing Out In a Hyper-Connected World

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Photo Courtesy of Boston Chamber of Commerce

Photo Courtesy of Boston Chamber of Commerce

Technological advances over the past decade have introduced modern conveniences to our lives that previously existed only in science fiction. Today, we think nothing of booking a dinner reservation at our favorite restaurant, monitoring a home security system, our heating, air conditioning, and lighting all from the smartphone in the palms of our hands.

Although new technology can make our lives easier, it also introduces a new set of challenges – some of which keep us up at night. Around every corner, a job is being replaced by technology. In today’s hyper-connected world, even robots are milking cows. Last week I attended the Boston Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. At the meeting Thomas L. Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, started his keynote with a question he often hears from parents these days: “How is my child going to get a job?”

During his keynote, Friedman offered five solid pieces of advice applicable not only to those seeking employment, but to all of us. There have been significant changes over the past decade and we all need to keep up in today’s global, hyper-competitive, and hyper-connected world. Here are his ideas for keeping up and getting ahead:

1) Think like an immigrant – Be full of hope and optimism, willingness to contribute, and don’t think opportunity is going to be handed to you.

2) Think like an artisan – Do your job everyday as if you carved your initials in it.

3) Always be in beta – Be open to continuous learning. “If you ever think you are finished, you are finished.”

4) PQ (persistence) + CQ (curiosity) will always trump IQ. This concept particularly resonated with me as I evolve and refine my own unique value. It doesn’t matter what you know – all things can be Googled. “It’s what you can do with what you know.” Be innovation ready.

5) Find your extra – Think entrepreneurial, identify your unique value contribution and use it.

Throughout his talk Friedman continued to reiterate a key message – average is absolutely over. Friedman states that just doing an average job in an average way will no longer return an average lifestyle.

Finally, creativity, communication and collaboration are sought-after skills, but motivation is a true differentiator. I have been thinking a lot about Friedman’s ideas and intend to act upon them to ensure I am not average.

Category: Conferences and Events, Innovation

Leadership Traits – Do You Have What It Takes?

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LeadershipWhat makes a good leader? Is it confidence? Intelligence? Leadership comes in many forms, and often requires a balance of skills to achieve success. Recently, I attended the 2014 Simmons Leadership Conference with my fellow Boston Financial colleagues and was excited to hear from the inspiring speakers who provided insight on leadership skills, along with tips for personal and professional development.

While at the conference, I attended a session hosted by Dr. Helen Fisher titled Leadership Lessons: The Female Mind: The Biology of Leadership. Dr. Fisher has produced groundbreaking studies on the biological basis of thinking styles, demonstrating how women’s innate talents are especially suited to addressing some of today’s most pressing problems. In her session, Dr. Fisher discussed many successful business leaders in the world today and the critical leadership traits that lead to their success. She focused on the following:

Top Ten Leadership Traits – The Leadership Artifacts

  1. Good communication skills
  2. Ability to build teams
  3. Ability to delegate
  4. Patience
  5. Smooth interpersonal style
  6. Good composure under stress
  7. Ability to handle ambiguity
  8. Flexibility
  9. Ability to handle complexity
  10. Ability to see the big picture

Although Dr. Fisher’s session focused on the biology of leadership as related to the female mind, the leadership traits she outlined can be applied to anyone. While listening to other keynote speakers throughout the day, I recognized that each of their inspirational stories included components of the top ten leadership traits.

At Boston Financial, we strive to promote operational excellence and create opportunities for associates to maximize their potential. Most – if not all – of the leadership traits discussed at the conference are woven into the professional development programs offered throughout our organization.

Do you have what it takes to be a good leader? Follow your vision, hone your skills around the traits mentioned above and take the important steps to success. As said by John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”