Communicating openly and honestly Creating an awesome work environment By Susie McCormick July 9, 2024

Becky Pollock Receives 2024 Butterfield Leadership Award

Becky Pollock: Supporting Customers, Nurturing Leaders, and Building Culture

A highlight of Nelnet’s All Directors Meeting each spring is unveiling who will earn the honor of receiving the Steve Butterfield Award for Excellence in Leadership. Established in 2022, the award honors key traits of the late Nelnet co-founder, co-CEO, and later Vice Chairman Steve “Butter” Butterfield. The award also celebrates the organization’s commitment to service-driven leadership.

The Steve Butterfield Leadership Award is presented to the Nelnet leader who best exemplifies passion for one or more of the following:

  • Service. A customer-focused leader who goes out of their way to take care of others.
  • People. An influential leader who strives to develop their associates and build our culture.
  • Humility. A servant leader who always puts the wants and needs of their team first.
  • Vision. An inspiring leader who dreams big and works hard to achieve greatness.
  • Innovation. An enterprising leader who embraces change and turns obstacles into opportunities.

The 2024 award was presented to Chief Payments Officer and Nelnet Payment Services President Becky Pollock.

Tracing Pollock’s Nelnet Journey

Pollock has made a tremendous impact over her 22-plus years with Nelnet. She started as an Accounting Manager in the corporate accounting department under then Controller Jim Kruger. Her initial responsibilities included managing the budget of the consolidated Nelnet organization and merging existing accounting technologies.

She then worked on the Nelnet public offering, followed by numerous acquisitions and integration of those acquisitions into the Nelnet organization. Nelnet acquired FACTS Management Company and infiNET Integrated Solutions in 2004 and 2005, then brought them together into Nelnet Business Solutions (NBS) in 2006, with Pollock becoming Chief Financial Officer of the business.

In 2018, Pollock took on her current role as President of what is now known as Nelnet Payment Services, worked on various acquisitions, and then became NBS’ Chief Payments Officer in 2022.

A Different Approach to Accounting

In her nomination, NBS President DeeAnn Wenger emphasized Pollock’s involvement with elevating customer service standards, developing proactive strategies to meet client needs, and engaging customers.

“I’ve always been a person that believes the customer is #1. In the case of our education institution or nonprofit customers, I focus decision making with that in mind. So in trying to come up with solutions, including in my role with payments and compliance, I always try to think about what the client needs, what the client experience would be,” says Pollock.

Many Nelnet associates have discovered their CliftonStrengths. As Wenger mentioned in her nomination, one of Pollock’s top strengths is Woo—an uncommon strength for an accounting or finance person. Pollock feels that ties in with her commitment to servant leadership.

I always think about making sure that we’re doing better for our staff and our clients rather than worry about what’s in it for me. That’s the way I’m wired. That servant concept is how I was raised.

Becky Pollock

2024 Butterfield Leadership Award Winner

Pollock is no stranger to service and volunteering. She has “taken on compliance—the necessary evil of making sure that we deal with regulators and regulations and possible headwinds out there.” Adds Pollock: “I’m also part of Nelnet’s United Way Committee as an executive sponsor now because I believe so wholeheartedly in giving back to the communities in which we live and work.”

Building Culture

Another volunteer activity of Pollock’s was starting the Nelnet Payment Services (NPS) Culture Committee, also named the Associate Belonging Committee (ABC). As Pollock points out, the group has very few employees who come into the office because there’s no office where most of them live anymore. They also have a significant number of associates in the Philippines. One goal is to make it as inclusive of an organization as they can, knowing that they don’t get together very often.

“We find it important to re-emphasize Nelnet’s diversity activities. We want to encourage the concept of diversity of thought, racial and cultural diversity, and more. There’s so much communication in front of our associates that they just don’t have time to read it all, so we remind people of events around cultural diversity and activities sponsored by the Nelnet Associate Resource Groups by putting them in our own Teams channel,” says Pollock.

The group started a weekly core value nomination program in which associates nominate each other for portraying a core value and explain how they demonstrated it. The winner each week is responsible for nominating someone the following week. A monthly drawing among winners provides additional recognition.

“We’re trying to make sure that everybody feels included and feels like they’re part of something bigger. For many associates, information can be daunting at the Nelnet level, but we take what Nelnet does and bring it down to the NPS level by encouraging participation and promotion,” adds Pollock.

Pollock as a Mentor and Leader

Wenger talked about Pollock’s impact nurturing and mentoring team members. In addition to offering understanding and inclusivity, Pollock also provides something not all leaders do: a reason.

“I’m a big ‘why’ person, so I always ask a lot of questions. When I ask someone to do something, they deserve to know why and what’s going to be done with that data or action. I use every opportunity to explain something that’s in my brain. I like to think it makes them better,” explains Pollock.

That sort of added, unspoken mentorship has not only taught and guided but has also modeled curiosity and critical thinking for Pollock’s reports.

Wenger’s description of Pollock as a leader includes innovative, inclusive, and supportive. Pollock feels they sum up what she’s tried to do, but she gets a little emotional as she adds this: “I want people to feel like they matter. I hope I’m remembered for that. I want to be remembered for helping others advance in their careers. To me, the value of a leader is advancing others because I won’t be here forever. I hope that I’ve helped build the next leaders for our company.”

Honoring Butter’s Memory

When asked what it means to have been selected for this award, Pollock said she was surprised and so honored. “This was beyond something I would ever have aspired to because Butter was such an amazing person and so positive. He made everybody feel so welcome. Business can be hard, but he was always positive,” says Pollock.

“I am innately a glass half empty person, so I have to suppress that and work really hard to make people not just jump to the well. I have to see the value in things and elevate people and their thought processes without crushing them. I just never felt like I hid that tendency to be glass half empty very well. Maybe I do a better job of that than I give myself credit for,” Pollock explains.

To say Pollock is honored is an understatement. “The fact that I was nominated and recognized feels, well, it’s just shocking to me,” she notes. “While it’s incredibly special to me that this happened, I also get a little humble and embarrassed talking about myself.”

With that, we’ll congratulate Pollock once again on a much-deserved honor, let her step away from the spotlight, and share the well-worded nomination from Wenger.

Pollock’s Nomination

I am honored to nominate Becky Pollock for the Butterfield Award, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to Nelnet in the realms of customer service, people development, and cultural enhancement. Becky’s unwavering commitment to Nelnet and innovative approach in these areas make her an exemplary leader deserving of this distinction.

Becky has consistently elevated the customer service standards at Nelnet. Her proactive strategies not only meet client needs but anticipate and exceed them, setting a benchmark for exceptional customer engagement. This has been particularly evident in her ability to adapt and innovate our service delivery in a dynamic market, ensuring that client satisfaction remains at the forefront of our operations.

DeeAnn Wenger

President, Nelnet Business Services

In terms of people development, Becky’s influence is profound. She is a dedicated mentor, focusing on nurturing the potential of emerging leaders within our team. By sharing her extensive knowledge of the payments industry, Becky equips her team with the skills necessary to excel. Her commitment extends beyond professional development; she provides personal support and guidance, as seen in her compassionate handling of a team member’s health crisis, ensuring continuity and care within her team.

Moreover, Becky’s impact on our company culture has been transformative. She has effectively harnessed her top strength of “Woo” to foster a vibrant, inclusive environment where all employees feel valued and heard. Through initiatives like the creation of a culture committee within the Nelnet Payment Services team, Becky celebrates and promotes our values of innovation and inclusivity, which have become even more significant in our transition to a virtual team setting.

Becky Pollock’s exemplary leadership in customer service, people development, and cultural advocacy perfectly embodies the spirit of the Butterfield Award. It is with great enthusiasm that I recommend her for this honor.


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AUTHOR

Susie McCormick

Senior Corporate Communications Writer