Though standing around 5’5, Nichol Beckstrand is a presence. She’s used to standing out as a woman in the finance industry, but she’s worked to command respect.
“When I was coming up, I didn’t recognize the difficulty. Looking back, I was always the only female in the room. If they underestimate me, that’s fine,” she says. “When I start to speak, they’ll give me my credit.”
Nichol Beckstrand is the former president of Sunrise Banks, where she worked starting in 2006. She received her B.A. from University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management; worked for a small community bank, then went from public accountant to partner for CliftonLarsonAllen, before transitioning to Sunrise.
“Some would say I was driven, to a fault, and there were some experiences that I missed out on as a young adult because I focused too much on my work and my career,” she says of her time at CliftonLarsonAllen.
“I loved what I did. Every year I worked harder and harder, I was always achieving at this high level, and every year, I said I was going to figure out this work-life balance thing, how to be happy.”
“The male partners, were for the most part, the primary breadwinners,” she says. “They didn’t even have to worry about the shirt on their back. Their wives handled that. They just had to worry about the paycheck.”
But that wasn’t the case for everyone on staff. “The staff and the women in the company, they wanted to go home and put their kids to bed. They wanted to show up for that baseball game or basketball game.”
After realizing this struggle and seeing no change in her own work-life balance, Nichol began her departure from CliftonLarsonAllen to her position at Sunrise Banks.
At Sunrise Banks, a social enterprise that delivers banking services, Nichol’s position had her focusing on social impact, community, and doing good everyday.
When measuring social impact, Sunrise Banks looks at where they are making loans and striving each year to reach financially vulnerable communities and individuals. They support the work of nonprofits who are doing financial literacy course in communities of color and financially vulnerable communities. Sunrise Banks is annually named a leader in the banking industry for women in leadership positions.
The awesome work Nichol spearheaded and led can be directly traced to Sunrise Banks values of: Big, Bigger, Blind, Do, Woo, and We.
“We have values that are not traditional bank values. In a traditional bank, you walk in and see values of integrity, honesty, things like that on the wall. Our values focus more on how we act and respond on a daily basis.”
Before ending the interview, Nichol explained Sunrise Banks’ six values, getting more excited as she listed each of them.
1. Big. This means wear your big boy pants every day
2. Bigger. This is bigger than us—this is where empathy comes in
3. Blind. Blind spot awareness makes us stronger as a whole. Coming to meet at a table to someone who is opposite of you is a gift, so enjoy that gift
4. Do. Do the right thing
5. Woo. This is the fun. We have fun every day. My goal is to laugh at every meeting.
6. We. This is the inspirational. We can do anything. And we do.”
Nichelle Brunner, Writer
J Olson, Photographer