Pat Pointer says she doesn’t like the limelight. Being a human resources person, she prefers to let the team shine. But don’t mistake that for being shy and retiring – Pointer is anything but.
Pointer is the Deputy Comptroller for Human Resources at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). As a bureau of the Treasury Department, the OCC had to ingest the Office of Thrift Supervision under the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill enacted two years ago. That meant as many as 1,000 OTS people would get new jobs in OCC; eventually 700 actually moved over. As the chief human capital officer for the agency, Pointer had to ensure the OCC operated as a team to successfully integrate the new people.
How do you pull off a move like that?
It started with a lot of studying. Pointer said, “Each agency had separate policies and HR practices. There were similarities and differences,” and they all had to be harmonized. Plus, Pointer faced the practical prospect of finding potentially 1,000 people new and equivalent positions in their new home agency, as required by the legislation.
“We spent four months doing a lot of benchmarking. It was a very labor-intensive process,” Pointer said. In all, it took from when the law passed in July 2010 until a year later to get everyone in place. “It involved most of my and the OTC HR staffs. We met a least weekly.” Plus, the business unit managers, financial and technology people joined the merger team.
Pointer received a Causey Award for her work from Federal News Radio, where I learned about her.
A Senior Executive Service member, Pointer oversees a team of 120 people who serve the OCC’s population of about 3,700 after the addition of the OTS people. She handles all of the functional and policy areas for HR, including compensation, recruiting, staffing, labor regulations compliance and training. Hiring and onboarding people come under her shop too. Pointer reports to Thomas Bloom, Senior Deputy Comptroller and the Chief Financial Officer.
“My goal is not letting operations, putting out the day-to-day fires, overshadow the strategic work. A CHCO has to balance tactical and strategic,” Pointer said. She finds the strategic the more satisfying of the two, because it is closely aligned with the agency mission. In OCC’s case, the mission is regulating national banks and federal savings associations.
She added, “I’m very much about managing business with human capital planning. It’s a way for human capital to be effective.”
Two thirds of OCC’s staff consists of bank examiners. Pointer said that as far back as 2003, top management recognized that the agency would be facing a retirement wave. “We really started a plan for the retirement exodus. We recognized we needed to do significant hiring to fill the pipeline.”
The result was that OCC has been hiring some 150 people a year capable of becoming bank examiners. They are largely entry level people out of college or perhaps with a couple of years’ experience in finance, accounting, auditing or banking. “We also do some experienced industry hires,” Pointer said, “more seasoned people with specialty expertise – bank IT, asset management, maybe also from the other regulators.”
The irony is, Pointer never set out to be an HR person. She started out as a high school teacher of nutrition science. But she married a Navy man, wanted to start a family, and ended up moving frequently – not conducive to the locational permanence required by teaching.
“We ended up living for three years in Korea,” Pointer said. “So I did teaching part time. I would drive all over the city to language institutes where I would teach English.” One of her gigs was an hour-long English instructional show on KBS ⎯ the Korean Broadcasting System.
In the mid 1980s, Pointer, back in the U.S., enrolled at Bowie State College in Maryland and took classes for a master’s degree in human resources, more because the schedule fit her life than for any great hopes in HR.
“But I loved it,” she said. In 1989 she joined the Navy Department as an HR intern, and stayed eight years. The internship put her to work for civilian employees in the four commands then in Crystal City near Washington, including the Naval Sea Systems Command and Naval Air Command. Later she worked in employee labor relations, representing people before the Merit Systems Protection Board. “DOD is the best training grounds for interns. I found HR is something I loved. I connect to the mission wherever I work,” Pointer said.
Pointer joined the FAA in 1997, where she chaired what became the Accountability Board, which grew out of a series of sexual harassment cases. “The first week, I attended hearings on the Hill with the administrator. We put together the Accountability Board – I brought in Navy experience in responding in a timely way to allegations.” Later she became HR chief for FAA’s line of business, working HR for the administrative and management functions within the Air Traffic Control organization.
That was followed by a promotion to SES in 2003, when she moved to become deputy CHCO at the Treasury, working for then-CHCO Earl Wright. Pointer became CHCO at OCC in 2006.
A strong believer in public service, Pointer is married to the deputy CIO at the Transportation Department, Tim Schmidt. The couple lives on the Patuxent River and spends two hours together twice a day, commuting to and from Washington. But they keep a 39-foot Hunter sailboat within walking distance. Sailing, Pointer said, demands full concentration so even a short jaunt gets the mind away from work.