It’s Veterans Day in the U.S., a day dedicated to honoring the service of the country’s military veterans.
Given the long-running military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Veterans Day holiday has taken on a special significance for Americans in recent years. And it could be argued that more military veterans have been “thanked for their service” in the past decade and a half than in the previous several put together. But beyond expressions of gratitude, what can financial services companies, financial institutions, and fintechs do to really show their appreciation for veterans? Here are five ideas:
The economic fallout from the global health crisis has had its impact on veterans as it has on everyone else. While the unemployment rate for veterans is better than the national rate – 5.5% for veterans compared to 6.9% for the U.S. population overall – some veterans still face unique challenges when it comes to returning to the civilian workforce.
One study published this week by the San Diego Workforce Partnership showed that many veterans lack the kind of business networks and networking opportunities that their non-veteran counterparts access. Respondents also felt they were unable to impress upon employers the value of skills they developed while serving in the military – such as discipline and reliability.
U.S. Veterans Magazine published a valuable primer in this regard last summer. For more on how to bring more veterans to your workforce – and how to make the most out of veterans you already have working for you, check out their 12 Tips for Effectively Managing Veterans in the Workplace.
Lend to Them
While there are many financial institutions and even insurers that make a point of serving veterans and their families, helping veterans buy first homes and fund small businesses is one of the best ways that fintechs can support the veteran community.
One fintech that has done much to help ensure veterans and veteran-run small businesses get the financial help they need is StreetShares. Founded in 2013 by U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Rockefeller and headquartered in Reston, Virginia, StreetShares offers a lending-as-a-service platform that enables banks, credit unions, and other organizations to offer small business loans. The company began, however, with a “first affinity” for providing financing for military veteran business owners who, the company noted in its Finovate debut in 2015, make up one in nine of all small businesses in the U.S.
Partner with Them
A growing number of companies are helping further the cause of diversity by seeking out partnerships with businesses run by women and members of underrepresented ethnic groups. For those interested in supporting veteran entrepreneurs and veteran-owned businesses, approaching veteran communities with the same enthusiasm and similar opportunities is a sound strategy.
Whether it’s via something as simple and straightforward as Veterans Day sponsorships or, ideally, a more enduring effort to seek out veteran business owners to discuss innovative collaborations, fintechs and financial institutions have as much to gain from the diversity of veteran-run businesses as these small businesses do.
Work for Them
As noted above, many veterans seeking work lack the networking opportunities many non-veterans have that can make the difference between a merely challenging job search and a brutally frustrating one. Similarly, not every veteran small business owner or entrepreneur has a Rolodex – or a LinkedIn account – full of talented and qualified potential employees. At the same time, some non-veterans may harbor negative stereotypes against veteran employers, and express some concern about working for them.
Understanding that the civilian workplace is different from the military workplace is a good place to start for everyone, including prospective employees of a veteran boss. In the same way that we correctly seek out diversity among those we live and work with to enhance our lives, improve our work, and support our communities, appreciating and learning from the life experience of military veterans can be similarly valuable for all involved.
And if you are a veteran, seeking out another veteran-run business is not only a way to support the veteran community, but also it might present a unique opportunity in which the veteran has a leg up over the non-veteran applying for the same job. It may be that many life-long civilians will not appreciate fully the “soft skills” developed through years of military service. But you can bet your bottom dollar that your veteran employer gets it.
Listen to Them
It is a cliche to say that many veterans bring valuable leadership skills to the private sector. But it is a cliche that endures for a reason: whether serving in peacetime or in conflict, the veterans of our armed forces have lessons and life experiences that not only have shaped them, but also can help guide us, as well. It is no surprise that, when surveyed, the U.S. military ranks consistently among the most trusted public institution. When respondents are asked why, the “competence with which they do their job” and “selflessness, bravery, and discipline,” were among the reasons.
And with more than a million men and women currently on active duty in the U.S. military, many of whom will become veterans in the next few years, “selflessness, bravery, and discipline” sound like a few good reasons to start adding more military veterans to your business network.