(Courtesy of Touro College) Yaakov Gade, CEO and founder of Cross River Bank, has built a successful enterprise while upholding and supporting his Torah values. In fact, Gade believes that his upbringing and yeshiva background have shaped his character and forged his core values.
Recently, he spoke with Touro students about transitioning from the beit midrash to the business world. The virtual program was organized jointly by Touro College in Israel and Touro’s Lander Colleges. The yeshiva experience teaches discipline and tenacity and like a successful career, “it is all about consistency, rigor and taking seriously what you do day in and day out,” said Gade.
Gade, a member of the Touro College Board of Directors, was born and raised in Paris, France. After earning his MBA, he found his first job at Citibank in Europe. Working for the American bank inspired him to move to the United States, where he was eventually hired by Bear Stearns. He settled in the United States, got married and took a couple of years off to study in kollel. He then restarted his career, a process that included 250 rejection letters before he was hired again. “The difference between a stumbling block and a stepping-stone is how you use it,” he explained.
Gade obtained a banking charter and went on to establish Cross River in 2008 with a model that combines finance and technology. Thirteen years later, the bank is one of the country’s most innovative financial institutions. “Doing well by doing good” is Cross River’s motto, and it infuses Gade’s approach to his job. “We are in the business of financial transactions. That means we are affecting lives; we help people put food on the table, start small businesses, afford life and invest in their passions.”
He shared advice for students who want to transition from yeshiva to the business world without compromising on their values.
“First, get a solid education,” he said. Students will need both professional skills and respectable credentials as they enter the job market. “You may pursue a four-year college degree, continue on to graduate or professional school.
“Second, challenge yourself; don’t take the path of least resistance. Transition from being a student to behaving and thinking like a professional. Don’t just look for companies that are run like heimish organizations, because those won’t give you a chance to flex your muscles as a professional,” he continued. Gade also stressed the importance of maintaining a deep connection with a rav or mentor as one enters the professional world and journeys through a career. “Your rav will serve as a moral compass and help guide you in upholding strong Torah values in the workplace, no matter where that may be,” he added.
“Third, take time at the beginning and end of the day to connect with your core values,” said Gade. “If you start the day by going to shul and learning, you will be in the right frame of mind all day. If you do chesed in the evening, you will be successful no matter how much money you make.”
He cautioned students not to confuse happiness and financial success. Being successful does not necessarily make someone happy. “Being happy means you are successful in achieving life’s goals, regardless of how much money you earn.”
Gade recommended that students take the first step to finding a career that suits their particular strengths by taking the Gallup strength-finding survey, an online tool. Then, he went one step further by offering to meet with each student to discuss the results.