Brandon Stiff: When trust and faith pave the path to potential and growth

First National Financial LP Mar 26, 2024   mins

Brandon Stiff shares why his career milestones came when he was tested the most and why it’s so important to be active in your own development.

Take us back to the beginning of your career at First National.

BS: I spent the first three years of my career at CIBC. I joined First National in 2009, working in the call centre as a special accounts representative (Collections). We were a small team of approximately eight people. In 2012, I became a senior representative. From 2014 to now, I advanced to team leader/assistant manager then manager and then my current role as Director and Team Lead, Default. 

What was your first year like?

BS: The first year was challenging because I was learning a new system. In my prior role, I would talk to customers and notate those conversations but I didn’t handle the processing of those requests. At First National, I was responsible for making decisions and changes to actually help customers. Being able to resolve a customer’s issue goes a long way to one-call resolution, which is what you want in a call centre environment. I had the tools I needed to achieve those goals. 

What was your “I’m in” moment?

BS: It wasn’t one singular event. It was the whole environment. People are supportive. Goals and expectations are clearly set. Everybody is uplifting. There is a collective commitment to success. I hadn’t experienced that in the past. It’s refreshing and motivating to work in an environment where individual contributions are valued, and everyone shares in the rewards of team success. 

Describe some milestones in your career.

BS: I had a few situations where I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities. In 2016, forest fires devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta. Our team had to spring into action and develop a strategy on the spot, so we could assist people in a time of need and great uncertainty. I had family there experiencing it so I could really empathize with what our clients were going through. And obviously Covid challenged us all on so many levels. My team was responsible for implementing the government programs. We were totally unprepared and understaffed. We had more than 70,000 requests at one point, and 30,000 of those were unique. But everyone in the organization rallied around each other to lend a hand and support our team and our clients. 

What stamp have you put on the business?

BS: I’ve created an environment of openness and candour, which was passed down to me from the executive team and my managers. There are no attitudes or egos in how people interact. I have an open-door policy and I am the first to step in and do whatever is required in our pursuit of results. I’ve learned the roles that report into me, so I can really understand what people do on a day-to-day basis. 

What are you most proud of in your career?

BS: The success of what came out of Covid. The relationships I built during that time and the experiences we shared have impacted my career significantly. I had a lot of eyes on me and I stepped up. The organization gave me the opportunity to do that and had faith in me. I got the resources and support I needed to excel. And now I have those proven precedents to draw on when other crises or difficult situations arise. 

Any favourite memories?

BS: I don’t have one memory, it’s more of a collective feeling of leaving your mark. I believe that as a leader, your job is to leave a place better than you found it. For me, that translates to people. Providing an avenue to help people realize success and grow in their careers is rewarding for me. 

Which one of First National’s values resonates with you most and why?

BS: We earn trust. I have always felt that the organization has full faith in me, even when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself. There are times when you deal with adversity and challenges, and you question yourself, your ability to get things done and whether you’re the right person for the job. My managers and the executive team have always trusted I was the right person, I could get things done, I could make solid decisions and I could help others succeed. We also build trust with our customers by operating with integrity, being good community partners and genuinely caring about our customers. That’s what sets us apart. 

From your experience, how does the First National culture value diversity and elevate the voices and perspectives of all team members?

BS: The organization is very active in giving people a platform to share their voices, ideas and perspectives. No idea is ever shot down. Everything is given consideration. 

What advice would you share with people growing their careers at First National?

BS: You have to be active in your own development. Make sure people understand your aspirations and goals. When someone makes that apparent to me, I latch on to it. I was on that same journey myself and I pushed myself to share it. My career has progressed as a result of that transparency. 

Any final thoughts?

BS: It’s important to have the confidence to step outside of your comfort zone. At first, I was afraid to put myself out there. But I recognized I was standing in the way of my own growth and evolution. Your life and career are journeys. Embrace being somewhere new every day. Get acquainted with failure. More people are happy to see you succeed than fail. 

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