Kay in Your Corner
Last night, I had the unique opportunity to sit next to Kay Geiger at a PNC dinner. Kay is president of PNC Bank, Greater Cincinnati and Kentucky, but she is so much more. We were seated in a square, which is as close to a writing circle one can get in a restaurant’s private dining room. The evening began with a brief introduction by Kay where she emphasized how Cincinnatians had a tendency to be humble, but now was not that time. She skillfully facilitated a sharing by all at the table, inviting each PNC employee to speak, then engaging with that person on the topics the employee touched upon. Kay went around the table a second time, and invited each guest to do the same. I was the only writer, in a room full of suits and C-suite officers, and one of two female guests.
And yet, because of her ability to honor each voice, and connect with each guest regarding his or her narrative, I felt comfortable with making jokes about my husband being excellent at putting people to sleep (he’s an anesthesiologist), and sharing details of my life, as new city resident, empty nester (soon, soon), and writer.
Over the past months, we have been engaged with PNC employees encouraging us to move our accounts to PNC, and we have listened for so many reasons. But the primary reason, is because they are everywhere in the community. Seventy percent of their commercial banking is family-owned business, along with the Krogers of city. They sponsor more events and non-profits locally than I have room to name.
Over the course of the past year, Mark and I had the opportunity to attend the ballet, the symphony, Ensemble Theatre, Washington Park and Fountain Square events, Reds games and non-descript fundraisers. And each time, we were surprised that PNC was a major sponsor.
After meeting Kay, I am no longer surprised. She is generous with her time and attention. She crosses the boundaries of market interest rates and Cincinnati Symphony performances with the ease of a classically trained ballerina. Cincinnati is a vibrant community because of PNC, their philanthropic and community-minded work, and Kay Geiger.
I must admit to some nerves calmed only by a glass of pinot gris, as I sat to dine with one of the most influential women in the city. But our conversation ran the gamut from working at Star Bank (she did too), to affordable housing, how best to partner with OTRCH and maintain diversity in Over-the-Rhine of housing stock and people, to the Ray Rice situation and support of the YWCA, and how it is time for women to step up. I thought, we can no longer wait on the old NOW, NOW is us.
She looked out across the room, and saw, as I once did in college courses and early banking days, white males, and talked about how each day, she asks her leadership, what are we doing to become more diverse, to lift up others to become a part of the banking world.
She then began asking ME about transitioning into the city, how did we repurpose our home. She and her husband were about to the do the same, inside another Civil War era home. And of course, the topic of writing a book came up as we talked about Women Writing for a Change, and a writer-friend we had in common. Kay noted she had the title for her someday book, and I said, “It’s the best place to start.”
At one point in the evening, Mark leaned over and asked Kay, “How many Kay’s are there of you, are there like six, because you are everywhere.” She refuted the notion, saying, “No, cloning is still illegal.”
I left the evening with pride not only in becoming a PNC customer, but also in becoming a woman of Cincinnati. I left with a sense that I could achieve so much more. I left wishing there were 100 Kay Geiger’s in the city, knowing how much women could accomplish with just one Kay in their corner.