One major role of business executives – maybe especially those in human resources – is to teach. Many successful people say they owe the benefit of their experience to professionals coming up behind them.
Cindy M. Erickson is a major proponent of this pay-it-forward principle of cultivating professional people. As chief administrative officer for human resources at RBS Citizens Financial Group & RBS Americas, she has been the beneficiary of fine role models and has become a role model to others.
“Without her coaching and guidance I would not be where I am today,” said Shannon Lind, vice president of HR Business Partner.
“She recognized abilities and skills in me that even I was not aware of and worked with me to refine and improve them,” Lind continued. “She demanded the best from me, and as a result today that is the only thing I will accept from myself. She has been such a huge influence on me in the relatively short time I have known her and I cannot thank her enough for all she has done for me.”
For her skill and passion as a mentor and for her contributions in the workplace, Cindy Erickson has been named the industry leader in professional services for the 2013 Business Women Awards program of Providence Business News.
Erickson is a Rhode Island native who was first mentored by the best of teachers – her parents. Her father was a World War II veteran, and her mother, who will turn 90 this summer, weathered many storms. “She lived through virtually every big event in our lifetime: the Great Depression, Word War II,” Erickson said of her mother.
“She had great role models in her own parents and siblings. She certainly instilled in me and my older brother to have a strong work ethic and believe in yourself. The ability to do anything you wanted to do had nothing to do with gender.”
Although her parents never went to college, they insisted on a college education for Erickson and her brother. Erickson took that to heart, graduating magna cum laude from Bryant University with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. She graduated from Harvard Business School’s Executive Development Program and also the 1997 class of Leadership Rhode Island.
As chief of human resources, Erickson focuses on managing careers and dedicates herself to passing her wisdom onto those around her. She aims at growing, developing and mentoring talent. She believes in cultivating an environment of accountability, providing support and driving initiatives. And she develops and supports programs that enable these qualities, according to people who work with her.
Early on in her career, Erickson was the architect for Fleet Bank’s Finance Development Program, which focused on college recruitment, cultivating and developing entry-level bankers.
After Fleet’s acquisition by Bank of America, Erickson became a human resource executive. Among other tasks, she championed a talent development program in her business group that went onto become the model across the organization.
In 2011, now working at RBS Citizens Financial Group Inc. as chief of human resources, Erickson was part of a team cited by American Banker magazine on its 2012 list of the teams empowered by and empowering women. She was responsible for recruiting and organizational effectiveness. And it’s not just a sense of duty that drives Erickson’s approach.
“Cindy has been blessed with mentors throughout her career and is dedicated to giving back,” said Amie Kershaw, vice president and director of public affairs for RBS Citizens Financial Group. Kershaw nominated Erickson for the award.
Erickson charged the bank’s business leaders with taking charge of this network and acted as a sponsor and advocate for the group. She participated on a panel of business leaders and helped to secure the speaker at last year’s conference, Ellen Alemany, head of RBS Americas and chairman and CEO of RBS Citizens Financial Group Inc. (Alemany revealed last month that she was retiring Oct. 1.)
Erickson’s commitment to her career is matched by her commitment to and optimism for her native Rhode Island. Not only does she praise the state as a wonderful place to live and work, she’s quick to herald the state’s economic success and the promise of more to come, even in difficult times. She believes the local business community should be more active in its future prosperity by partnering with communities and government agencies.
“Government can make it easier for businesses to do business. This includes simplifying regulation, streamlining processes and eliminating or mitigating activities that hinder new business and growth. The role of government, in this respect, is to be a conduit for better solutions and more sustainable approaches to supporting business and job creation,” Erickson said. •