Sean Davis grew up in Maryland, north of Baltimore. “I swore I’d leave here at some point,” he says, “and I never did. Life just has a funny way of working out.”
Likewise, his role as director of total rewards for Ocwen Financial Corporation was unexpected. HR was not on his radar. What led the son of two police officers on this career path?
“I stumbled into it,” he says with a laugh. “There are certain aspects of my personality in terms of creativity, planning, and organization that have been hallmarks for me through my entire life, but did that directly translate towards a career in compensation and benefits? No, but it certainly fits.”
But he loves the balance of left brain and right brain that the job offers. “I couldn’t do numbers all day,” Davis says, “and I couldn’t do creative all day.”
Davis leads Ocwen’s compensation and benefits practices for the US. He also leads global executive compensation and performance management processes—everything from long-term incentive plans and sales incentives to career architecture, performance management, and healthcare plan design.
Davis had been in marketing before joining PHH Corporation in 2005. His marketing experience, particularly his graphic design skills, helped him get his foot in the door, he says. “I was brought in to help with HR communications. I developed diversity awareness campaigns and recruitment materials. I had a great mentor there who saw potential in me and encouraged me to take on other projects. That led to benefits communications and then performance management. I was fortunate to have opportunities to dabble in pretty much every area of HR.”
In 2018, Ocwen acquired PHH, and as the new director of compensation and benefits, Davis had his work cut out for him. “It was a lot of work putting together two large mortgage companies with different cultures, talent philosophies, and practices,” the director says. “We had to build a new foundation on career architecture and pay structures, develop new processes, and replace underperforming vendors who were creating more work for us.
“We made pretty significant changes to get us to where we were valued [as] strategic consultants to the business,” he continues. “It’s been interesting and we’ve come a long way. Ultimately, we built an efficient foundation, proved ourselves, and earned trust.”
Davis’s practices have inspired other leaders in similar roles. “Sean is a great HR leader, and his positive attitude and hard work is what makes him special,” says Glenn A. Shapiro, partner and senior vice president of employee benefits at USI Insurance Services. “Most importantly, he is always looking out for the best interests of his employees. We are very lucky to get to work with him and Ocwen.”
While integration is always challenging, Davis is proud that Ocwen has been able to merge 401(k)s, pensions, healthcare plans, and incentive structures. “We try to create for sustainability,” Davis says. “We haven’t increased employee medical premiums in three years, and we’re always evaluating new ways we can support employees and their families, whether it’s physical, mental, or financial health tools.”
As Ocwen has continued to grow, integrating newly acquired businesses into its compensation structure created challenges Davis had to overcome. Creating transition plans for incentives and building salary grades and other elements of career architecture were some critical wins for the team.
Davis leads a team of three. He describes his leadership style as “open and collaborative.” He adds, “I would illustrate myself as a tree trunk supporting the branches of my team. They have the support and freedom to grow and be fruitful.”
“I’m not one for micromanagement,” he notes. “I’m more laissez-faire: Let’s come to a consensus on what our objectives are, what’s best, and hold ourselves accountable. I’m fortunate that my team shares the same desire for excellence. None of us are satisfied doing B-level work. We’re self-motivated. We take a lot of pride and ownership and try to refine things to make things better.”
The best advice he says he ever received came from his boss early in his career. “I was in my early twenties,” he recalls. “My boss essentially told me not to treat executives differently than you would treat the rest of the employees. Don’t be intimidated by the hierarchy. Executives have different types of decisions to make, but they are looking for you to give them advice based on your subject-matter expertise. If you have an educated opinion, say it.”
Davis also credits his hours on the soccer field, where he has coached his children, with informing his encouraging leadership style.
“You’re going to have days as a team when you’re successful and days when you’re not,” he says. “The more teammates get accustomed to one another, and get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the better chances for the team to be successful.”
He continues, “I’ve always liked sports and I stay active as much as I can. I enjoy the competition and the camaraderie. If you give it everything, you can walk out of the office or off the field at the end of the day with your head held high.”
As he enters his fifth year at Ocwen, Davis remains focused on coming up with innovative ways to motivate people. “I promote transparency and accountability,” he says. “If you say you’re going to deliver, deliver. Don’t overcommit; be realistic [about] what you can accomplish. And if you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world, but only make the mistake once.”
A self-described recovering perfectionist, Davis believes that one must know when to say things are good enough. “You get to a point where things work well, and you have to take time to celebrate before you say, ‘So now what?’” he explains. “We always have a view towards continuous improvement and adapting to anticipate the ever-changing needs of our clients.”
NFP is a leading insurance broker and consultant that provides employee benefits, specialized property and casualty, retirement, and individual private client solutions through our licensed subsidiaries and affiliates. Our commitment to excellence and innovation allows us to help Sean Davis and Ocwen Financial create successful retirement plan outcomes for participants.