WILMINGTON – As the leader of Delaware’s largest for-profit employer, there are perhaps few people better suited for the role than Tom Horne.A born and raised Delawarean, he grew up in New Castle, graduated from the Colonial School District and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware. His father worked hard over a career spanning several industries to move their family to the upper middle-class while Horne’s mother raised him and his identical twin brother Tim, who serves as chief financial officer of Dover Motorsports, owner of the Dover International Speedway.“I wouldn't trade that background for anything,” he said, noting it instilled a strong worth ethic in him as well as a love for his home community.
[caption id="attachment_209756" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Tom Horne[/caption]
Although he initially thought to pursue a law degree, Horne switched gears in college to earn a finance degree, thinking it would be an easier path to a career. After a post-graduation backpacking trip in Europe, however, he returned home broke and unsure of what was next.“There was this little startup company called MBNA at the time, and I took a job there as a bill collector, making phone calls all day long because I needed the money,” he recalled.It would be the start of a more than three-decade-long career in banking, the majority of which was spent at MBNA, the Charles Cawley and Alfred Lerner-led bank that spurred enormous employment in New Castle County and the revitalization of downtown Wilmington.“I fell in love with a company, even though I really did join for a job,” Horne said. “The passion that the company had for the people who work there and for the customer was contagious and inspiring.”The opportune timing of Horne’s arrival at MBNA would lead to more opportunities, as the company of about 1,000 employees when he joined in the late ‘80s would swell to more than 10 times that number at its height. By the mid-1990s, Horne was serving in senior vice president roles within MBNA’s lending and credit card operations, but he said he never forgot those early experiences as a bill collector making the calls.“I lead a team of about 14,000 and most of them are in those roles – frontline customer service representatives for all of our products cross chain around the world,” he said, noting that he enjoys visiting with them in town halls and listening to their concerns and requests. “I don’t know that I would value that as much if I didn't come up through that job. It’s been a long time, but I know what it's like to sit in their seat.”As MBNA grew into the largest credit card issuer in the world, Horne said that it never lost that small feel that the startup had when he first joined.“That instilled in me the importance of culture on a team and in a company,” he said.Unfortunately, the giant that MBNA became wasn’t built to last and the company decided to sell its lucrative credit card business to Bank of America in 2005. Horne said that time was marked by concern from longtime MBNA employees, but the transition worked out well in the early going. Just a year after the merger was completed, however, the country entered the Great Recession of 2008, sparked by the collapse of subprime mortgage lending.In 2011, Horne left his only career employer and joined JPMorgan Chase & Co. as head of credit card operations and Chase customer service, as well as the Delaware market leader. It was his biggest role yet, and he’s seen the largest U.S. bank grow its operations here during his tenure.“Delaware has become a very strategic technology and operations hub for the firm. Most people don't realize it, but there are over 11,000 employees in the state and roughly a third of them are technologists, software developers, architects, engineers, designers, etc.,” he said. “Technology drives so much of what we do.”Unlike some competitors, Chase has also chosen to open new brick-and-mortar branches in recent years.“It's something our employees have been asking for a while, as they want their family and neighbors to be able to bank with us more conveniently,” Horne explained. “We also think it's really important as we try to attract more business clients, especially small businesses.”Chase doesn’t view branches as solely a place to deposit cash or apply for a loan though.“This branch presence is going to help us really push forward with a priority of ours, which is helping to close the racial wealth divide,” he said, noting that it includes supporting minority-owned businesses, revitalizing neighborhoods, and offering financial education in the community. “Branch transactions are generally going to decrease, but they’re invaluable to teaching people and introducing products. So we’re really pivoting the model.”Horne also shares Chase’s corporate commitment to furthering racial diversity and inclusion efforts inside and outside of Chase, saying it is “critically important to their success.”“I don’t know if that passion came from my upbringing, as William Penn was a relatively diverse high school racially and economically, or from my career spent leading large teams, but it’s something I’ve been committed to,” he said.With its enormous employee base, Chase is also cognizant of the platform it has in the First State, Horne said. Pushing ideas like second chance laws for ex-offenders and racial equity initiatives through organizations like the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware Business Roundtable, he said such advocacy is “part of our responsibility as a good corporate citizen.”“If you have the platform, and you don't take advantage of it to make positive change, then you're just being lazy and apathetic. We are the biggest private employer in the state, we should have the biggest impact,” he added.After leading Chase’s state efforts for nearly a decade, Horne said that he’s principally concerned with leaving the company and community better off than when he arrived.“As long as I feel like I'm making a meaningful contribution and making a difference, then I'm fine. I'd love to finish my career at this company, because it truly is a wonderful place,” he said.Company-wide, Horne said that success will continue to be driven by Chase’s ability to predict and address customers’ needs, whether through technology or in-person resources. In Delaware, he wants to continue to grow the bank’s presence, ranging from opening more branches to sponsoring the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, where the Chase name now adorns the professional athletic facility, to continued partnerships with the state’s higher education institutions.“We want to play a role in making Delaware a great place to work and live,” he said.
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