The Rider

May 7, 2010

Making A Difference at Huntington

Filed under: Pelotonia News, Rider Profiles — The Blog @ 6:01 AM

This is the second of a 2-part series about Nighat Bukhari, a Huntington colleague whose mom has beaten cancer four times. She also leads the bank’s financial – and riding – commitment to Pelotonia.

Part 1: Talat’s brave battle (yesterday)

Part 2: Huntington teams with Pelotonia

Nighat Bukhari traveled a long and interesting road to Columbus – and her new career as an advocate for cancer research.

She grew up in Dallas, graduated from Southern Methodist University and began her career in banking, working her way up the ladder at Bank of America. Then she quit to open a boutique.

“It was always my dream,” she said, adding the boutique featured clothes, art and furniture from South Asia, which is where her family is from.

About eight years ago, Nighi moved to Columbus and began working as a consultant to non-profit agencies, advising them on fund raising. She then worked for LifeCare Alliance, a local non-profit that provides a variety of services to seniors and the chronically ill.

Nighi liked working for non-profit organizations that helped people – and saw this as her career path.

And then along came an opportunity at Huntington that sounded intriguing – and combined her financial background, entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to non-profits.

“What appealed to me (about the position as vice president, Private Financial Group) was that I would be implementing and developing Huntington’s strategy internally, with our colleagues, as well as externally with our clients, our vendors, partners and suppliers, to introduce them to Pelotonia.”

This strategy was to donate money – $2.5 million over five years – to Pelotonia and also put together a peloton of riders that will number 1,000 strong.

Huntington executives - and their bikes - during a recent Pelotonia kickoff party at Nationwide Arena

The idea to partner with Pelotonia began with Dan Benhase, Huntington’s senior executive vice president,  Private Financial Group Director. Dan took the idea right to the top, to CEO Stephen Steinour.

“He said we need to do something, to get even more involved,” Nighi said, describing Dan’s pitch to the CEO.

The bank’s boss jumped at the chance to be part of Pelotonia.

“We had about 50 riders last year and I said, let’s think bigger,” said Steve, who will be a rider this year. “Let’s set a goal of 1,000 riders.”

Huntington VP Dan Benhase (L) and Pelotonia Executive Director Tom Lennox

It’s Nighi’s job to make sure this happens, and Team Huntington is already close to 200 riders.

A side effect – and benefit – of the partnership with Pelotonia is a changing corporate culture at Huntington. This new culture includes a growing awareness and commitment to cancer research – and a commitment to a healthier lifestyle. Hundreds of Huntington associates will start riding and benefit from all the benefits of regular exercise – and the social aspects of riding.

The bank recently held a Pelotonia kickoff rally at Nationwide Arena to introduce a few thousand employees to the ride and explain the bank’s involvement and commitment. Many of the bank’s top executives arrived on bikes! Employees will receive regular updates on Pelotonia events and Huntington events related to the ride. There’s also a friendly competition among the major divisions to see who can recruit the most riders.

When you’re at Pelotonia in August, look for the small army of green-and-white clad riders from Huntington, as they will be everywhere.

Huntington CEO Steve Steinour (L) with OSU Prez Gordon Gee. Both will be riding in Pelotonia

“It’s about making a difference,” Steve Steinour said.

And one of the ways to make a difference is through funding for research that will fund cancer research – and save lives.


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