Episode #18: Sonia Reinhardt

Episode 18

Sonia Reinhardt is a senior human resources advisor with GLS Bank and the alumni manager and human development senior advisor for the Global Alliance for Banking on Values Leadership Academy. Sonia talks with Bryan and Becca about how she got into banking, her experience with microfinance and what the Leadership Academy offers to values-based banking executives.

She also discusses what she feels is the main difference between traditional banks and their values-based counterparts.

Featured Guest: Sonia Reinhardt

Sonia Reinhardt works with (senior) leaders of values-based banks (gabv.org) from around the world to explore a joint future in which finance serves people and planet and not the other way around. In addition, Sonia works closely with Human Resources leaders from across the GABV network, providing a space for them to come together to share knowledge, discuss challenges and increase their positive impact.

Sonia’s home base is the GLS Bank in Germany where she supports leaders, teams, and individuals towards a new way of working.

Sonia is a professionally trained systemic coach, an organizational development advisor, and a trained Yoga teacher. She currently lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

Becca Hoeft

As a marketing, public relations and corporate communications leader, Becca (only her mom calls her Rebecca) started her career in consulting and has been involved with six startups ranging from film, fashion, technology and food, with her first startup being a social enterprise importing leather fashion accessories made by single mothers in Nairobi, Kenya. Speaking across the country, she is known for leading award-winning teams and has received recognition from the Cannes Film Festival for Best Media Campaign, Hermes, MSPBJ Women in Business, and most recently, the Top Women in Communications awards. When the day is done, you’ll find Becca behind a good travel book planning her next adventure, plunking a tune on the piano or laughing with her blended family.

Bryan Toft

Bryan Toft is Sunrise Banks’ Chief Revenue Officer. In this position, Bryan oversees commercial banking/lending, treasury management, mortgage and fintech partnerships. He has been with Sunrise Banks for more than a decade. From 2014-2017, he served as president and CEO of Community Bank Owatonna.

Bryan has held a variety of roles at Sunrise Banks including credit analyst, commercial loan officer and EVP regional manager of commercial lending in Minneapolis.

Bryan received a B.S. in Computer Science from Buena Vista University and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. He is a board member of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, Twin Cities Metro CDC and Charter School Property, Inc.

Featured Music

Phil Madeira

"Cut It Out"

Listen Now

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Sonia Reinhardt: I feel that we are often disconnect and that especially traditional banks are disconnected from the consequences of the actions, maybe even of the needs of their people. And I think in order to become more ethical, right? I think we need to reconnect more and need to look more closely to the consequences of our actions.

[00:00:27] Becca Hoeft: Welcome to the NextGen Banker podcast where we explore what’s next in banking and we talk with innovators responsible for creating positive change in the financial sector. I’m Becca Hoeft, Chief Brand Officer at Sunrise Banks. And I’m joined by Bryan Toft, Sunrise Banks, Chief Revenue Officer.

[00:00:46] Bryan Toft: Hey, Becca, always great to be here. David Reiling our usual house is out finding the next big thing in banking, but today we get to talk to someone I’m very interested in learning more about.

[00:00:55] Becca Hoeft: Yeah. So today we are talking with Sonia Reinhardt of GLS Bank and the Global Alliance for Banking and Values. Sonia, we’re so glad you’re here.

[00:01:05] Sonia Reinhardt: Thank you for having me.

[00:01:07] Becca Hoeft: Great, super and we’ll get into a little bit of our history in a little bit of how we know Sonia, but before we jump in, this is just a reminder is to stick around, to hear our musical feature at the end of the episode. Each NextGen Banker episode focuses on one new artist from somewhere around the globe, representing a wide range of different genres. So be sure to check it out.

[00:01:29] Bryan Toft: So I’d love to give a little background on Sonia. Sonia is a Senior Human Resources Advisor at GLS Bank based in Germany. She studied Southeast Asian studies and Indonesian in Germany and Singapore, and gained a banking diploma in Bonn, Germany. She’s focused heavily on human resources, receiving advanced education in the are of systemic coaching, organizational development and transactional analysis. Sonia has worked in sustainable finance for the last 10 years. In coordination with Katrin Cooper. Sonia is responsible for managing the GABV leadership academy, which is where Becca and I met Sonia.

[00:02:01] Becca Hoeft: So Bryan you’re right. We both have had the privilege of getting to know Sonia through the Global Alliance for Banking on Values as she was an instructor of the leadership academy there as well as my coach and mentor throughout the program.

[00:02:19] Becca Hoeft: So Sonia, I would love to just hear how you got into finance.

[00:02:25] Sonia Reinhardt: Yeah, sure. So where it all started was right after school, actually. So I wanted to gain a little bit of work experience and I didn’t really know what to do, but you know, my mum did work in the bank and my dad. So I was like, okay, I give it a try too.

[00:02:41] Sonia Reinhardt: And in Germany we have this beautiful system. It’s a dual systems. So you can work at the same time you can go to school and you get a diploma after two and a half. So to be honest this time wasn’t really inspirational for me. And it was mainly ticking boxes on non contracts. And at that time it was a lot of paperwork actually.

[00:03:02] Sonia Reinhardt: And I remember this guy coming in in the morning with this cart, with this huge pile of folders, and then he banged it on your, on your table. And then you had like the stack of folders next to you, and just sit up tick boxes the entire day. And I never had any contact with the loan recipient and I was really yeah, it was so uninspirational and further that board as well, actually.

[00:03:25] Sonia Reinhardt: So after I finished that, I promised myself I’d do something where my heart is more invested. So I studied Southeast Asian studies and Indonesian, so something completely different, right. So I thought actually, because the focus was a lot on development work in, in the global south. And I was actually drawn during my studies to a topic which is called micro finance.

[00:03:51] Sonia Reinhardt: So, this is actually where finance for me made sense all of a sudden, right? So micro finance, and I’m sure a lot of the listeners are familiar with the concepts, but it’s really to provide small amounts of loan to people who usually would not get a loan to give them an opportunity to open up their business, a small enterprise that they can feed their families, create jobs and really help their, their community and family.

[00:04:18] Sonia Reinhardt: So there I, there I am finance again, micro finance. And I worked as already said by Bryan, I, I worked in Indonesia, I worked in Malaysia and also Germany. And this is actually how I got to know the GLS Bank because they introduced a micro finance program in in Germany. So yeah, that was my journey.

[00:04:39] Sonia Reinhardt: Like 10 years. I was focusing on micro finance in that area.

[00:04:44] Becca Hoeft: So wait a second, your mom and your dad were in banking. Okay. So Bryan, I see a trend here because isn’t your dad or just recently retired from banking, am I right?

[00:04:58] Bryan Toft: You are right. My dad, my grandfather, my uncle, a lot of bankers in my thing. So yes. So I, I totally get it.

[00:05:05] Bryan Toft: And, and Becca, and I have this thing where somehow the guests we have did not start off to be bankers. They did not intend to be bankers. And they turned out to be bankers and particularly in values-based banking. It’s pretty amazing.

[00:05:17] Sonia Reinhardt: That’s amazing.

[00:05:18] Bryan Toft: Yeah. Was your microfinance was that based in Germany then? So were the, were the programs designed to be for Germany or was it other countries?

[00:05:28] Sonia Reinhardt: It was Germany. Indeed. I was really surprised. When I saw it that there’s a bank who was actually involved in a program, it wasn’t a cooperation with the German government. But this sets, or they identified that as a gap actually for organizations to get small loans.

[00:05:45] Sonia Reinhardt: So if you’re, if you want to have big loans, obviously there’s a big supply because that’s easy for banks, but if you want to have a smaller loan, that’s hard to get. So there’s a gap that identified and GLS Bank was providing together with a network of small organizations we were providing micro loans to Germans and there was a big need to my surprise. Yeah.

[00:06:08] Becca Hoeft: Well, Sonia, I have a question because what I find interesting is. You know, I love the idea of everything that you’ve done with GLS and knowing GLS and what GLS has accomplished. But what I find really interesting is your work in the GABV leadership academy and having gone going through that Bryan was, you were the class of 21, right?

[00:06:34] Becca Hoeft: Right.

[00:06:35] Becca Hoeft: And I was in the class of 2019. Could you just tell everyone just a little bit about the academy and what the purpose is, and then the kinds of traits that it attempts to instill, and those who attend the academy.

[00:06:52] Sonia Reinhardt: Yeah, so the GABV leadership academy is the program for the leaders of the GABV network. The network Sunrise Banks and GLS are part of. And you probably all aware, but the GABV is a network of banks with the same intention, right? The intention is not to see only financial profits, but also to seek ecological and social profits.

[00:07:16] Sonia Reinhardt: And the idea for this program actually started, I think in 2013, 14, where the agency representative of the values based banks came together and said, we really need leaders in our organizations who are aware of the problems that are out there. And who have the skills to address them. Because given the fact that banks are sitting in such a crucial position off the economy, right. They’re deciding on our future, so to say, because they decide where the loans are going to, they say yes or no. So in a way that is said on our future.

[00:07:54] Sonia Reinhardt: So we said, we really need these people in these organizations who have A) the awareness and B) the skills to make use of their position and their role. So this is when it all got started. So I think the first one I got, I was starting 2015 and every year we have a, we have a program ever since. And Yeah.

[00:08:15] Sonia Reinhardt: What we are doing is we’re working really closely with everyone. And the first step is we tried to reconnect everyone with the reality, so to say, to really make them aware of reality what’s going on out there because so often we’re so busy in our day-to-day life we get a bit lost. But really, you know, put the gaze to somewhere else and go out there and see what is there, what are the challenges?

[00:08:41] Sonia Reinhardt: And also what are the innovations? My colleague Otto Scharmer from the Presencing Institute he often says like the future is already there. It’s just, you know, innovation is not happening in the center, it’s happening at the margins. So with this program, we tried to go to the margins and seek out innovation.

[00:08:59] Sonia Reinhardt: So we invite a lot of speakers, thought leaders to push our thinkings people who are working on innovative ideas. We go out there especially before COVID we were able to go out there, do learning journeys because it really makes difference to just read something or actually be there and feel, and see, and talk to the person who was working on an innovation.

[00:09:23] Sonia Reinhardt: So, this is like the first step. And then the second step is we do a lot of inner work with the leaders, because what we believe is that as a leader, the most important tool you’re having is yourself. So it’s important that you know yourself and that you connect to your inner voice so that, you know, you know, what do you want to bring into the world? What’s important for you?

[00:09:44] Sonia Reinhardt: And with that silence is an important piece which we often do not have in our busy, busy world. And then in this silence, this is often where the great ideas are coming. We often we often know that when we are the shower, right, we have this great idea. It’s not where we think we want to have an idea now it’s usually somewhere else, right? In the car or in the shower.

[00:10:05] Sonia Reinhardt: So When, once you have an idea, then the next step is to really bring it into reality. This is the important piece around that we have often ideas, but then, you know, they’re getting lost somewhere because again, we are busy, busy, right.

[00:10:17] Sonia Reinhardt: But this program very strongly focusing on what my colleagues are calling extra confidence. Yeah, it was so that people would get the confidence. I have an idea and I really want to try it out small and local and rapids, but really try it out, bring it out there and get feedback. And from there I have better foundation to, to work further on it or Chuck it away.

[00:10:42] Sonia Reinhardt: Yeah. This in a nutshell is what the leadership academy is about.

[00:10:47] Bryan Toft: Well, I have to say about my experience. It opened my mind in two really important ways. And one was to really, I mean, where else would I have the opportunity to talk to so many other financial professionals across the globe and what challenges they’re dealing with and how similar it is to the challenges we’re dealing with.

[00:11:03] Bryan Toft: And, and the opportunities we’re seeing and, and everything was so similar. So to connect on that was great. The other way that it opened my mind was what really, especially in the GABV based banks, the purpose of the organization is, and, you know, typically in banking purpose has been profit right, or shareholder gain. And it really was clear in, in the academy that the banks that were involved in this, that was an important thing. It, it w it just, wasn’t the only thing. It might not be the most important thing. In fact, sustainability, environmental impact, that might be your purpose. And that might be your reason for being.

[00:11:42] Bryan Toft: And I know GLS has a similar kind of mantra, which is the economic benefit is actually a consequence. It’s not necessarily, you know, what you’re driving for. So I really liked that and it really was clear to me that everybody at the academy had that same thought in mind and the whole curriculum was geared around purpose, doing good, doing better and how do we be leaders in all of those areas that you just mentioned? So thank you for that summary. It was great.

[00:12:10] Becca Hoeft: Yeah, Bryan, it reminds me of my experience with the leadership academy, because some of the things that I learned in 2019 was really understanding who I was as a leader and what that means as I manage and as I drive business and as I talk about the brand.

[00:12:34] Becca Hoeft: And I have to admit, you know, I bring so many of these tools back to my team and to the bank. For example, we would prototype a climate risk and what that means to not just the bank, but the, the, the community. And it reminds me of we had a podcast with Kate Hammer from Vancouver and just you know the stories of what climate’s doing in the community versus not just how it impacts the actual organization.

[00:13:06] Becca Hoeft: And that to me was just it’s, it’s helped and carried through a lot for me. And so thank you Sonia, because you were a great teacher during the academy and during my time there. I did have a question for you. So with the GABV leadership academy, Is it attendents only for GABV bank executives or is it open to anyone who’s interested in attending?

[00:13:34] Sonia Reinhardt: So the leadership academy makes most sense to senior leaders of banks. It doesn’t have to be necessarily values-based banks. If you have an interest in learning more about values and becoming ethical, this course can be really valuable for, for you. We have seen that. Sometimes I feel for those people who are coming from conventional banking for them, it’s even more eye opening because it’s newer than for the ones from the, from the network.

[00:14:05] Sonia Reinhardt: But it makes more sense for senior leaders, because it’s a really transformational journey because it requires a lot of inner work. And, and it’s very time intensive as well. So

[00:14:18] Bryan Toft: Yeah. In your experience Sonia given, you know, you have the experience in HR and as an instructor for GABV, I was wondering you know, if a bank executive came to you and asked the difference between someone that’s a traditional bank leader, finance leader, versus a values-based leader, values-based leadership. I’m curious, what would you say to that?

[00:14:39] Sonia Reinhardt: Where I see the difference between the two actually is probably it’s about connection.

[00:14:47] Sonia Reinhardt: I feel that we are often disconnect and that, especially in traditional banks are disconnected from the consequences of their actions maybe even of the needs of their people. And I think in order to become more ethical, right? I think we need to reconnect more and need to look more closely to the consequences of our actions.

[00:15:12] Sonia Reinhardt: And we see this in so many things also so many parts of our daily lives, right? That we are not aware of the consequences of our actions. Like for example, I choose to become a vegitarian when I was 12, because I watched documentaries and I realized how, how the meat industry worked. And I was shattering and devastated.

[00:15:31] Sonia Reinhardt: And I thought, now I know. And I’m sure you know, everyone else now I will tell them they will not do. And obviously we will change it. I had to learn it the hard way. 30 years later, it’s even getting worse. And I had to learn this system can work because it’s shut, shut off and it shut away so people don’t have to look at it.

[00:15:53] Sonia Reinhardt: They don’t know about it, or they choose not to look at it. And this is why, why it can work. And I see this in organizations as well, like often people who have to take decisions are not connected to those people who are impacted by most decisions. And this often creates a problem I find. So my recommendation is really every now and then everyone go out there, you know, have a look, do not avert the gate.

[00:16:19] Sonia Reinhardt: Look at it. See, who is part of your system, part of your, who is impacted by do your decisions and be in service of these people rather than, you know, just impose something.

[00:16:34] Bryan Toft: I love that. And I as Becca knows, I’ve said it before, I do believe a bank is a connector. And what you’re talking about is connection to the decisions you make and the results or the consequences that those decisions have.

[00:16:46] Bryan Toft: And I think that’s super important. I hadn’t actually, I’ve never thought of it that way. But I totally believe what you’re saying in terms of values based leadership. And really, like you said, go out there, look up, see what, see what’s happening. That’s super important. One of the things about still staying in the human resources side of things.

[00:17:04] Bryan Toft: I would really love to hear your take on how values-based thinking can play out in human resources or within the cultures of culture of an org, a values based organization. How do you build a strong culture? Let’s say you’re, you’re listening to this and you’re maybe not part of what you’d considered a values-based organization.

[00:17:24] Bryan Toft: What steps could you take or what steps would you suggest a company take to become more values-based to become more ethical?

[00:17:31] Bryan Toft: I mean, what we see also in the network sometimes, right, that if it’s, if the value space idea is only with the CEO or with one or two people, it can get lost easily. So if this person leaves the organization, then that idea can get lost.

[00:17:48] Bryan Toft: So what I recommend, or what I think is really important to integrate this ethical ideas and and thoughts into the processes of your organization. And for example, GLS Bank has done it in various ways. For example, one in one area is the compensation.

[00:18:09] Bryan Toft: So GLS Bank has this completely different approach, how to think about compensation. So it’s not like you work in our bank that’s why we give you money. It’s more like you need to have money. You need to take care of your financial needs of your basic needs, like housing and food in order that you can come to work. And do not have to worry about anything else so that you can bring your whole self to work and be good at what you’re doing.

[00:18:35] Bryan Toft: So this is the thinking we’re having in regards to compensation, for example. So we have this beautiful compensation scheme which consists of different parts, so to say. So the first one is the basic income. I’m not sure if this is the right word, but like a basic block. So this is where we are saying like everyone should be able to pay their bills. So this block is substantial and everyone gets the same amount. No one has to worry. So then the second block is your work experience. So the higher the work experience them, the more you’ll get, obviously. And then the third one is about your qualification and also what kind of responsibility you’re having in your organization.

[00:19:17] Bryan Toft: So your monthly salary is made up of these three parts and and we also have this policy that the lowest, the highest compensation shouldn’t be more than times seven. So there, there, there’s the cap off of payments for yeah, senior leaders. And we also, we don’t have incentives or bonus payments because we believe there’s not the right way to incentivize people.

[00:19:41] Bryan Toft: We want a, we believe, you know, your motivation should come from within and not chasing after an incentive or some goals you have set a bit at beginning of the year that might not be relevant, even if the current year, but you’re still running after it because you want to have the money. So that’s why we, we have no, no incentives or bonus payments at all.

[00:20:04] Becca Hoeft: Well, Sonia, our time is coming to a close and we, as Brian always says, we like to end on a positive note and I really would like to ask you, what do you think the NextGen Banker looks like?

[00:20:19] Sonia Reinhardt: In one word? I think it’s a tech guy.

[00:20:26] Sonia Reinhardt: It’s a tech guy with big values and a big heart. So if you combine that together, I think this is where the future of of values-based banking lies.

[00:20:35] Bryan Toft: Well thank you so much, Sonia, this was a fascinating conversation and we really appreciate you being on the podcast.

[00:20:41] Becca Hoeft: Yes. Thank you, Sonia.

[00:20:42] Sonia Reinhardt: Thank you for having me

[00:20:47] Becca Hoeft: For this episodes musical feature we’re showcasing Phil Madeira. Phil is a singer songwriter who’s worked with the likes of Alison Krauss, Garth Brooks, Keb’ Mo’, and EmmyLou Harris. His latest album Bliss comes out this month. Here is Cut It Out from his 2019 album Crickets.

[00:21:50] Becca Hoeft: That was Cut It Out by Phil Madeira. You can hear more of Phil’s music on Spotify and at philmadeira.net. If you would like your music featured on the NextGen Banker podcast, just email David@nextgen-banker.com with a link to your music and website. Thanks for listening to the NextGen Banker podcast.

[00:22:11] Becca Hoeft: We’ll see you next time.