When Leonard Abess, the owner and CEO of Miami-based City National Bank, sold a controlling stake in the bank last fall, he gave $60 million as a gift to his 471 current and former employees.
In explaining this huge gift, Abess said, “I just never thought that I was solely responsible for the success of the bank. I owned the bank. I enjoyed the profits, the dividends. And I always realized that while there were 400-plus people doing the work, making it successful, the profits were going in one direction. I felt, particularly based on longevity, that these people were owners. They acted like owners. They worked like owners…. I wanted to acknowledge that.”
while the extent of Abess’ generosity is extremely rare among CEOs, it seems consistent with the way Abess has run City National Bank. Here are a few comments Abess made in an interview which demonstrate his unique management style:
We have never had a layoff. We have paid a bonus to every employee, every year. We have never raised the cost of insurance. Today, the employee’s cost is the same as it was 20 years ago…. I tell young CEOs, that before you cut anybody’s compensation, before you fire anybody for economic reasons, you deal with yourself. Your perks go, your bonus goes, your salary goes. I am very surprised when I see huge amounts of money that go to the people at the top [even] as there are massive layoffs, especially when they accept government money.
We provided, I think, an atmosphere of caring. We were always there. I know my employees. I know their names. I know their spouse’s names, their parents, their children. We have multiple generations there, multiple members of families, people who have met at work and married. And then their children have come to work there. So we always tried to have a family atmosphere. We attend each other’s events — birthdays, weddings and funerals. In hardship, we try to take care of each other. I think we had an atmosphere that, for people, was comfortable and they felt welcome in, so they stayed.