It’s important to cultivate leadership talent to assure innovation and progress. Recognizing this need in the banking industry, the Illinois Bankers Association spearheads Future Leaders Alliance (FLA), a program dedicated to nurturing the next generation of bank leaders.

Karyssa and Nathan

The 14-month program includes a curriculum covering education, community service, and networking.  AVP, Digital Banking Manager Nathan Van Zele recently completed the program; Wabash Branch Manager Karyssa Pedersen is INB’s 2024 participant. 

Nathan provides valuable insights into the program, reflecting on his journey and the lessons learned:

  • What were the most impactful lessons you learned during the FLA training?

Nathan: "The most impactful lessons for me were to rely on others and how to relate to others. One (speaker) talked us through working with other personalities. Since we all work in teams in one form or another, we all must work together to accomplish our goals."

  • How do you plan to apply the skills and knowledge you learned in your job at INB?

Nathan: "I’m working on improving how I share my knowledge and experience because this will greatly benefit INB and my teammates. Sometimes we focus on accomplishing our tasks and not considering how much better it would be if more teammates could do what we do. (Cross-training) would reduce stress and make a much better environment if everyone could pitch in."

  • Can you share a specific challenge or obstacle you encountered during the training and how you overcame it?

Nathan: “One of our sessions focused on team building.  Everyone in the FLA program is already a leader or is headed in that direction.  Then FLA throws you into a team environment.  It took a little bit for everyone to step back and work together and not act as ‘the leader.’  It’s a good exercise to teach that you can rely on others when necessary.”

  • Was there an aspect of the program you found most beneficial to your personal and professional development?

Nathan: “One of our last sessions focused on the budgeting side of running a bank.  We were split into groups to create our own banks.  Then we ran that bank through a simulation where we had to decide on account rates, loan rates, how much to invest versus lend.  We had to consider salaries and hiring staff.  It was an eye-opening experience, and it gave me a much better understanding of what senior management must do on a much bigger scale.”

  • In what ways do you believe the training has prepared you to be a more effective leader?

Nathan: The FLA participants in my class are from all areas of banking.  It has helped me understand what other people must focus on and their challenges.  It has helped broaden my views of others.

  • How did you balance the demands of the training program with your other commitments?

Nathan: “I made sure to put the sessions on my calendar as soon as possible.  This gave me time to plan and make time.”

  • How has your perspective on leadership evolved because of participating in FLA?

Nathan: “I have a better understanding of what bank leadership faces.  I’ve learned better ways to approach people and how everyone is different in their work habits and personalities.  What works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for the next person.  That is fine, we just need to figure out together the best way for that person.”

  • Will you stay in touch with other 2023 participants? Why?

Nathan: Yes, I’ve already connected with several via social networking.  It’s good to get another person’s perspective from time to time.

  • What advice would you offer to Karyssa, INB’s next FLA participant?

Nathan: “Enjoy yourself.  Participate as much as you can.  It’s been fun making connections with other Illinois bankers.”

Karyssa's perspective as someone just entering the program follows.

  • What motivated you to take part in the Future Leadership Alliance program?

Karyssa: "I was motivated to participate because the program covers a wide variety of topics about banking, some of which I do not come across on a daily basis. I’m always wanting to improve where I can, both personally and professionally, and this program will help me build stronger leadership skills and confidence."

  • What are your expectations for what you hope to gain from your participation in the program?

Karyssa: "I hope to gain more confidence, create a positive environment, and help strengthen our organization where I can. I also hope to gain great contacts and resources through the networking opportunities."

  • How do you envision the program helping you advance in your career?

Karyssa: "I hope to become a stronger leader. There is always room for improvement, so I plan to use all of the resources from this program both personally and professionally."

  • What specific skills or areas of knowledge are you looking to develop or enhance through the program?

Karyssa: "I hope to develop stronger leadership skills and knowledge about the banking industry that I may not see on a day-to-day basis. I also hope to attend any community service opportunities in the area since the IBA is local to Springfield and has many different local events."

  • How do you plan to leverage your new relationships in the Future Leadership Alliance to build a professional network?

Karyssa: "Our 2025 FLA class has a class size of 33 (the largest group yet). Although it may seem like a large class, we are a pretty close bunch. We all already have each other’s contact information, and some follow each other on social media. Each classmate has a different area of expertise which will be beneficial if we need help in that area later in our careers."

  • How do you plan to balance your participation in the program with your other commitments?

Karyssa: "I plan to balance this program with the great support of my family and coworkers. Their adjustment through my participation has been and will be essential for my attendance and success."

  • What are you most excited about experiencing or learning?

Karyssa: "I am excited about all of it. All of the people I will meet, the knowledge I will gain, and the opportunity to represent INB. I will be able to represent INB, with honor, at the ONE Conference in Bloomington in March of 2025."

  • How do you envision your participation in the program shaping your future at INB?

Karyssa: "I hope by participating in this program, it will show my mentors that I am committed and willing to do what I can to always better myself and coworkers. I am eager to further my knowledge of the banking industry to help myself grow and excel in my position."