­­­Empowering Tomorrow’s Retirement: TJ Givens’ Illuminating Journey

TJ Givens | the Director of Marketing & Communications
TJ Givens | the Director of Marketing & Communications

The financial services landscape is driven by a number of factors, including technological innovation, changing customer expectations and regulatory developments. Traditional financial institutions are facing a new reality as they navigate the swift evolution of fintech.

In this landscape strides TJ Givens, the Director of Marketing & Communications at Great Gray Trust Company. With a resolute commitment to revolutionizing the retirement sector, Great Gray stands tall as a leader in the Collective Investment Trust (CIT) market.

TJ Givens’ leadership fuels Great Gray’s vision of modernizing retirement solutions. Under her guidance, the company takes leaps towards the future with innovative offerings. Just as the great grey owl symbolizes strength and stability, Givens propels the company’s commitment to being a resilient and reliable partner.

In this era of innovation and transformation, Givens and Great Gray Trust Company stand united in their mission to lead the industry, fortifying their reputation as a forward-thinking powerhouse dedicated to enhancing retirement experiences and creating lasting value for all.

Let’s delve into Givens’ journey of shaping financial services and offerings at Great Gray!

From NFL Negotiations to Financial Marketing TJ Givens fell in love with communications during her time at Columbia University, starting her career as an intern with JAY-Z’s Roc Nation Sports. She worked to secure media coverage and brand partnerships with an impressive roster of NFL clients, such as Saquon Barkley, Juju Smith-Schuster and Leonard Fournette to name a few.

She found herself thriving 1:1 with clients and their powerhouse agent, Kim Miale, during interviews with The Players’ Tribune, Good Morning Football and Bleacher Report. She went on to further hone her craft for Horizon Media’s SCOUT Sports and Entertainment, working with brands such as GEICO, Capital One and Honda.

There, Givens realized she wanted to start her career in-house. She wished to put her efforts toward a brand that did not take its place in its communities lightly and shared her passion for sports as a vehicle for change and collective understanding. She was selected to join M&T Bank’s distinguished Management Development Program in 2019 and was promoted each year. She created the firm’s first-ever LinkedIn Live Event.

During the pandemic, Givens led the firm’s “managing through challenging times” content series, a multi-touch communications-driven campaign to answer C-suite Commercial Banking customers’ questions live. The series was a two-time Gramercy Institute winner, winning best National honors and awarded her a Thirty Under 30 Award from the Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Journal.

Most importantly, she played an integral role in the internal and external communications strategy announcing the sale of M&T Insurance (MTIA) to Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (NYSE: AJG). She also co-led in arena branding efforts and communications around MTIA’s announcement as the Official Insurance Brokerage Partner of the Buffalo Bills.

In addition to all these accomplishments, she challenged herself by enrolling and successfully completing a six-month Digital Intensive continuing education course at Columbia Business School to stay abreast of the rapidly changing marketing and communications field online.

Next, she served as the key point of contact for Rob Barnett, in his prior role as EVP and Head of Retirement Services at Wilmington Trust. There, she helped raise awareness of a digital solution that automates and simplifies the onboarding process for collective investment trusts (CITs), boardingpass™.

She secured media, alongside PR agency Peppercomm, with key targeted outlets such as 401(k) Specialist, Plan Adviser and Plan Sponsor, and scheduled 100+ live demos for the launched product in a matter of a week. For this work, Givens was honored as a Rising Star – Thirty Under 30 Top Woman in Communications by Ragan Communications.

Most recently, Givens was tapped to lead Marketing and Communications for Great Gray Trust Company, whose President & CEO is Rob Barnett. In December of 2022, Wilmington Trust announced the sale of its Collective Investment Trust (CIT) business to investment funds managed by Madison Dearborn Partners, a leading private equity firm based in Chicago.

Analytically Driven to Achieve Results Givens is a master at blending creativity and analysis and says, “I’m proud of merging my artistic vision with analytical precision.” She’s the force behind data-driven budget decisions, ensuring they sync with business goals. Her practical approach, focusing on “what’s achievable,” makes her a pragmatic problem-solver, steering clear of mere idealism.

Where Identity Takes Flight

Great Gray Trust Company leverages its legacy of fiduciary heritage to drive forward-thinking solutions. With a strong foothold in the CIT market, it manages over $144.5 billion in collective investment fund assets through 70+ sub-advisors and trading agreements with 40 platforms accessing 200+ record-keepers as of 6/30/2023.

Recognized as a trusted fiduciary partner, Great Gray ensures dignified retirements for workers nationwide. Its dedication to institutional retirement investments enables streamlined operations and robust, diversified portfolios for clients.

We relentlessly seek new ways to improve the client experience and build trust in our leadership,” says Givens. Operating as a steadfast stronghold, its actions and ideas exemplify trustworthiness and dedication, solidifying its position in the industry.

While fiduciary strength is embedded in its DNA, Great Gray’s innovative mindset and new solutions set it apart. Pioneering a modernized approach to qualified retirement plans, the company proudly champions innovation in the industry. Great Gray is where innovation soars.

Roadmaps and Resilience

Building a strong brand identity is a serious endeavor,” asserts Givens, the driving force behind Great Gray’s visual essence. Joining the company, she embraced the unique challenges and opportunities that she would be faced with as Great Gray embarked upon this journey. Givens has “led the charge to build an entire company’s aesthetic, identity, and messaging.” These large goals have been her focus over the past months. From crafting the color palette alongside Rabe & Co., to drafting the very first company bio, , and fine-tuning the company’s voice and tone, Givens ensures consistency, bolstering distinction and trust among clients and partners.

Central to this effort is the meticulously chosen great gray owl, mirroring the company’s values—resilience, power, stability and enigma. Givens collaborates closely with Beacon Digital, aligning campaigns with these ideals. “Our clients and partners rely on our steadfastness,” Givens emphasizes, “and it’s our consistent visual identity and actionable thought leadership that fortifies that trust.” As Great Gray’s brand custodian, she navigates the journey, imbuing every piece of material, inside and out, with the essence that defines the company’s fiduciary strength and stability.

Crafting Distinction

Approaching each project from a reader’s perspective, Givens explains, “I ask myself, how would I react to this message?” Her focus is clear: ensuring every piece of content resonates. “I aim to create content that the sales team can be proud of,” she adds, emphasizing the value for advisors, recordkeepers and asset managers.

Givens’ mission is straightforward—to captivate and provide value, making sure that every recipient finds something meaningful, whether it’s the sales team receiving praise or industry professionals investing their time in absorbing the materials.

Words that Roar, Tales that Shine

Conferences are a chance to stand out,” notes Givens, recounting a strategic shift. With a new brand identity, the focus was on a fresh client experience. “We aimed to provide something unique,” she adds. Their novel approach? A talk about connecting with millennial and Gen-Z investors through purpose-driven funds. “Younger investors prioritize values,” Givens points out, revealing stats that underscore this trend.

The Investment Oversight team, driven by a realization that young investors are willing to sacrifice returns for causes they believe in, devised various strategies. Their goal? To prompt advisors to modernize investment menus. As Givens notes, “It’s about shaking up outdated approaches.”

They delved deeper, exposing the profound impact of early savings on career freedom later in life. “Time in the market matters,” Givens emphasizes, supported by compelling stats. This trailblazing content challenges norms and provides advisors with actionable insights, making conferences a transformative space. As Givens aptly sums up, “We’re taking a meaningful topic and giving it a fresh perspective.”

In Sync and On Point

Empathy is the cornerstone of collaboration,” asserts Givens, highlighting its transformative impact. Honest feedback, she suggests, creates an environment where collaboration thrives, yielding superior outcomes. As a marketing professional, the crux is “genuinely connecting with your audience,” Givens notes.

Empathy is the key to unraveling audience needs, a vital step in tailoring resonating campaigns. Beyond that, Givens emphasizes how empathy enriches daily interactions—fostering relationships across teams, from marketers to leaders. Through empathy, risks are embraced during brainstorming, nurturing better thought leadership content.

Givens underscores that empathy isn’t just about understanding, but about empowerment—fostering an environment where each team member feels heard and valued, leading to the creation of impactful, resonant content.

Navigating the Kaleidoscope

Givens has a resolute commitment to fostering women’s advancement. At M&T Bank, she played pivotal roles in women-centric initiatives, serving as the National representative of the Women’s Interest Network and Co-President of the NYC Multi-Generational Resource Group. “I championed innovative and diverse candidates,” Givens states, reflecting on her time in recruiting and mentoring with resource groups.

Her advocacy started early—during college, when she pioneered pathways for future female leaders as the first female President of the Columbia Sports Business Club and Senior Sports Writer and Designer at Columbia Daily Spectator. She continues this drive through volunteering, supporting her alma mater’s organizations like Columbia College Women, Columbia Undergraduate Recruitment Committee, and Columbia College Today.

Presently, Givens contributes to the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Lab with the Seen and Heard Project. Collaborating with other Madison Dearborn Partners’ portfolio company leaders, she shapes strategies for HR, advertising and future trainings. Givens’ commitment to advancing women’s professional journeys is unwavering, enriching workplaces with diverse and empowered voices.

Writing History

The branding unveiling was pivotal,” recalls Givens, reflecting on a career milestone. Months of collaboration with Rabe & Co., known for their Indiana Pacers uniform re-design, shaped the remarkable new website and logo. “Working closely with our leadership team was unbelievable,” Givens adds, emphasizing the rewarding process of building branding and user experience from scratch. The culmination, greatgray.com, stands as a testament to this effort and the organization’s rich fiduciary heritage. Givens’ role in this transformative journey underscores her dedication to crafting impactful and visually compelling narratives.

Unlocking the Future

Personalization is the future of retirement brand marketing,” envisions Givens, discussing Great Gray’s approach. Through collaboration with Beacon Digital, they’ve meticulously crafted targeted personas, ensuring content speaks to individuals. “Segmentation is key,” Givens emphasizes, adapting thought leadership content to advisors’ knowledge journeys.

Givens also foresees modernization sweeping the retirement industry, exemplified by their innovative ‘boardingpass™’ tool. Their streamlined approach to participation agreements reflect modern innovation, granting plan advisers easy access. “It’s about convenience,” Givens highlights.

Looking ahead, Givens anticipates industry evolution, including wearable tech integrations and Alexa skills for plan management. “The retirement industry will harness modern tools,” she predicts, anticipating how such advancements will revolutionize client experiences. Givens’ insight underscores her role in shaping the industry’s progressive trajectory.

Bequeathing Wisdom

Brand marketing thrives on constant learning,” asserts Givens, underlining the dynamic nature of the field. Rapid evolution demands continuous investment in education to prevent stagnation. “Testing new strategies is vital,” she adds, urging responsiveness to client feedback for swift optimization.

Givens stresses that a resilient brand isn’t built overnight. It melds empathy, strategy, adaptability and a deep grasp of human psychology and sociology. “The ultimate goal is longevity,” she emphasizes, cautioning against fixating on short-term gains.

The litmus test for a strong brand, as Givens puts it, is whether audiences would unmistakably recognize it even without its LinkedIn handle atop a post. Her advice resonates across industries—nurturing a brand demands a blend of enduring principles and the agility to navigate an ever-shifting marketing landscape.