Caring Banker’s $60 Million Gift
|February 17, 2009||Posted by Roshawn Watson under Uncategorized|
Leonard Abess Jr.’s recent generosity is awe-inspiring.
Last November, he sold a majority stake in City National Bancshares and selflessly gave $60 million of his proceeds to all 399 workers on his payroll (including tellers, bookkeepers, clerks, etc.) and then even tracked down 72 former employees so that they could share in his gift.
The bonus was based on years of service to the bank, and for long-time employees, it amounted to tens of thousands of dollars. For some, it was more than $100,000.
Mr. Abess says that he was motivated by a strong desire to “reward employees…. Those people who joined me and stayed with me at the bank with no promise of equity — I always thought some day I am going to surprise them.”
Interestingly, Abess didn’t publicize his generosity, nor did even go to the bank on the day that the bonus checks were distributed to experience the gratitude from the hundreds of employees. Instead, it appears the letters of appreciation and the liberation associated with giving were reward enough. Maya Angelou once remarked “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
A remarkable example
Mr. Abess’s philanthropy sets a wonderful example of servant leadership and what it means to be a responsible corporate citizen. He stated that “he was concerned that his employees 401(k) plans had taken a beating in the downdraft on Wall Street last year.” This was his way of sharing his prosperity with employees who have stuck by him for years.
Many people despise wealth, but few know how to give it away (Francois de La Rochefoucauld).
He didn’t start off as the boss
Although his father was a founder of the bank, Abess banking career started in the bank’s print shop. Presumably, having to working his way up the ladder gave him a greater understanding of how important the employees are to the overall success of a business. In fact, he didn’t even inherit the bank from his father. Ownership of the bank changed hands a couple of times, and the bank ended up in bankruptcy. At this point, Abess borrowed $21 million to purchase majority control of the bank in 1985. Later, he acquired the rest of the bank from 200 investors for $6 million. With his leadership, the banks assets grew from $400 million and 7 offices to $2.75 billion and 18 offices.
I always roll my eyes whenever I hear someone say that money is evil and that all they “need is enough to take care of my family.” Although they believe such statements make them sound self-less, they generally have no idea how such statements merely reveal their greed. It means that they have never even considered how great it is to be in a position to meet others’ needs. Some people are so “me centered” that they lose site of the fact that others are hurting around them. They would never even consider giving big such as Abess’ $60 million dollar gift to his employees or Oprah’s $40 million dollar benevolence to start an all girl Leadership Academy in Africa. It’s simply not their priority, which is why they can be satisfied only taking care of themselves.
This generosity serves as a great example of how money can be used for good. The employee recipients are still amazed by their good fortune.
We expected a bonus, but the type we received — our mouths are still open, a 39-year veteran remarked.
By far, one of the greatest purposes and privileges of wealth is giving, and it rewards extend beyond acknowledgment and gratitude. As Abess and countless others have discovered, “the deep rewards of giving go to those who give out of a concern for others, and take pains to see that their giving is wisely done, (and) to meet real needs” (F Emerson Andrews)
Copyright 2012, Roshawn Watson, Pharm.D., Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.