BankOnPurpose featured thought leaders from inside and outside of the industry sharing customer-centric approaches that translate to better performance and fewer roadblocks.
In this episode, Dallas and Jim talk about highlights from the speakers and the famous bat bridge in Austin.
Dallas Wells: Welcome to another episode of the Purposeful Banker, the podcast brought to you by PrecisionLender, where we discuss the big topics on the minds of today’s best bankers. I’m Dallas Wells, and with me is today’s co-host Jim Young.
Jim Young: Hello, and thank you for joining us and today we’re re-capping Bank on Purpose, our conference that just concluded last week in Austin. Dallas we got a lot of ground to cover in this episode, but first we’ll start with the key question from Austin. Did you get a chance to see the bat bridge?
Dallas Wells: I did not, which apparently means I haven’t really been to Austin. I did the barbecue thing, but I totally whiffed on the bat bridge, but I heard it was really good.
Jim Young: The barbecue thing, he says. Jeez, talk about trivializing something. I will just say before we get to the real meat of this that if we go back to Austin next year, and that’ll be one of our topics to discuss a little bit later, you have to see the bat Bridge. What it is, is basically a bridge over the, I believe it’s the Colorado River near downtown Austin, just a couple blocks away from our Hotel, the Hilton, and at dusk approximately a zillion bats emerge from underneath the bridge and fly off all at one time, forming literally clouds of bats in the sky. It’s one of the weirdest, fascinating cool things I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why that bridge, why Austin. I don’t know why that time. The whole nocturnal thing, but anyway, that was just one of many, many highlights for me in Austin.
It wasn’t all fun and games and blind flying mammals when we were there. There was also the matter of the conference. First thing, what did you think of the mix? We had some conventional speakers i.e. bankers talking about banking topics, but we also had some speakers the Roy Spence and the Lisa McLeod out there talking about non-conventional topics, at least by banking conference standards.
Dallas Wells: Yeah. It was a maybe slightly unusual mix, but I think it worked really well and the feedback we’ve gotten so far was that the mix was really good. The way we tried to set it up was to start with kind of these overarching themes, kind of a broader topic, and then get more and more specific and granular with it as we went through each day, eventually getting down to letting bankers talk about banking. I think all that context and background really helped, compared to most banking conferences where that is jump right into the nerdy stuff without any warning whatsoever. We got a little prep from some professional speakers, some context about markets in general, purpose in general and how those things are framed around banking and make the day-to-day detail stuff that we do important and meaningful.
Jim Young: Yeah, I’ll admit I was a little bit nervous going in. When we first started outlining what the topics were I was like, oh this is really cool. We’re going to talk about purpose. We’re going to talk about culture. Story telling. All that sort of stuff. Then as it got closer I started thinking, man maybe we should be more hardcore banking on it, but yeah the feedback I got from talking to bankers there was that they liked the fact that it was different. It was different from what they were accustomed to at banking conferences. It zigged a little bit where those conferences zagged a little bit, and I’m going to go ahead and throw in a plug for out book, Earn It, and that it’s, again, that similar model. You start off with these big themes and then you gradually get down, peel away layer by layer on it. Talking about getting down a little more granular down on to the nitty gritty, what were your thoughts about the two big banker presentations by Greg Demas of Popular Community Bank, and Andy Max of First National Bank of Omaha, and can you give people that weren’t there a little quick synopsis about what each of them talked about?
Andy Max, First National Bank of Omaha
Dallas Wells: Yeah, so what Greg and Andy talked about was really taking those broader themes that we heard about from Roy Spence and Lisa McCleod and Mikey Trafton, and Mike Bosworth. Those big background themes. Those guys talked about how they’ve taken that context and now started to build systems and processes that fit those broader overarching changes in the economy and in customer expectations. Andy’s a little further down the path than most bankers in this regard in that they started this really customer-facing focus several years ago, and building their whole process around it. Andy talked about how they’ve integrated a bunch of systems, and they’ve integrated some systems that a lot of people don’t think of combining, the real off in the weeds analytics stuff with their CRM tool. They’ve really made Salesforce a platform so that the customer facing part of everything they do goes with each step in the process. As a loan goes down the assembly line, the customer interaction is there all along the way.
Andy talked about the why behind that. Why they started setting up the systems that way. Some of the hurdles that they faced, the change element. To spin things 180 degrees like that in a bank the size of theirs is not an easy task and they’ve spent the last several years making that work. Then talking about some of the results of it, both in terms of their customer experience just being a lot better. Not just some more transparency into the process, but really the time to close and how they’ve been able to shrink that time and they measure that religiously and really look for the bottlenecks and the gaps in there to clean out. The customer experience has been better and then that’s translated to some better financial results too.
Greg is with Popular Community Bank and they started a year and a half or two years maybe behind First National Bank in this process, but Greg did a great job. He’s a good story teller and he really told the story of where their bank was early in 2014. Finally feeling like they were peeking their head up above the ground from the crisis and being able to reevaluate from that purpose perspective. Why are we here, what are we trying to do? They basically lopped off a big portion of their bank and sold it to get back to some focus and to be able to pay attention to what they were really good at. They’ve now started building what he called an ecosystem, of systems all focused around that customer interaction. They spend a ton of time in resources and money writing their own code in a lot of cases to get all those systems to work together and it’s become this really seamless process that’s pretty impressive. Both those guys told that story. I think it was pretty inspiring to a lot of bankers there, especially the banks saying, well that’s a great vision of that point on the horizon but I don’t know how realistic it is to get there, and here’s two guys who’ve done it and they’re well down the road.
Jim Young: Yeah, two things from that that really stuck with me is one, they were both frank about the internal hurdles and I think that was a theme I heard a lot at the conference was people that they got it. They understood a lot of the things we’ve been talking about, but a lot of time as I said, it’s not a matter of me thinking we need to change things, it’s me figuring out how to get that message across to others. I think that’s where Greg and Andy I think give them some valuable ammo. Also, personally, I got misty eyed when Greg talked very forcefully about the need to trust your lenders, because as you know that’s a theme right there in our book, in chapter four actually, which will be coming out in the newsletter. I’m plugging this like crazy right now. That was really neat to see.
Dallas Wells: Nice job, Jim.
Jim Young: Thank you very much. That was really neat to see that, this is what you and I talk about but to see a guy who was down in the trenches echoing the same theme was really pretty cool. All right, difficult question now for you, who was your favorite speaker and why?
Dallas Wells: Well, obviously, my favorite speaker was the emcee who was the best one that I’ve ever seen at any conference. Yeah, he was really, really good. After that, of course, I think it’s a little unfair to Andy because Andy had to do this presentation, a version of this, at our advisory board meeting last year. Andy was fantastic, but I’d heard it once before, so I think Greg’s story of where the bank was really just two short years ago and where it is now, I thought was awesome.
Jim Young: Let me rephrase that then. Favorite speaker overall, period. Wasn’t asking you to pit Greg versus Andy there, just saying overall period from the conference. It can still be Greg, but I’m saying out of all the people you heard speak.
Dallas Wells: I think it was Greg, because it’s one thing to listen to, I mean those overarching themes were great and obviously that lineup of speakers they’re fantastic, they do this all the time, they’re professionals, they’re good story tellers. To hear that story from a consulting firm or a professional speaker or us it always feels like it has a little spin to it. To hear the real story from Greg and Andy, I thought those two were exceptional, and since this was our first time of hearing Greg’s and what I heard from several of the bankers is Greg kind of blew them away. We need to be careful with Popular Community Bank. Greg may have a couple job offers after that. He had a great stage presence. For a finance guy and a self-proclaimed math nerd to get up there and speak the way he did was really impressive. Anyway, I thought he did an exceptional job.
Jim Young: Okay, yeah, and like I said I wasn’t saying you couldn’t choose one of those guys as your favorite speaker.
Dallas Wells: Putting me on the spot though, yeah.
Lisa McLeod, McLeod & More, Inc.
Jim Young: As for me, and I totally get what you’re saying. I think for me it was Lisa McCloud, and part of that is, it’s got to be really hard to follow Roy Spence on to a stage because Roy is just such a gifted speaker. Part of it was is I was kind of rooting for Lisa when she got up there. Like you said you kind of get these pie in the sky themes of culture and purpose, and you say, okay, that’s really great, but you know what, we’ve got ROE, we’ve got to grow, we got numbers to hit here, and I thought she did a great job in her talk of crystallizing that, of, look, this is what it looks like when if you’re focused on, this is what your purpose is, and it’s not making this quarter’s numbers. If you have a purpose, a guide, to how you do things internally in your company that shows externally and it shows in your actions and how you do things, and that really resonated with me.
It hit home again for me later on when Todd Classen of Moody Analytics told what I thought was a really moving story in the panel about his family in Nebraska and his father, a farmer, getting turned down for a loan when he was a kid, and how that actually ended up being one of the best things that could have happened to them. He didn’t end up overstretched and survived during some tough times. I was talking to Andy Max about this. If that banker’s purpose is to make money, he makes that loan, because hey that’s loan growth, that’s another notch in his belt, and Todd’s family goes belly up and we may not have him on the panel. This affects us now. Instead, his purpose was I’ve got to figure out what’s best for my customers, and that was in this case actually not making a deal. That was just one of several really neat stories to come out of it.
One who’s story she’s shared a little bit of it, and I’d like to hear the rest of it, is Jill Castilla of Citizens Bank of Edmond and go ahead and ask you. Jill calls you up and says, “Dallas I need you to come work for me,” be honest with me here, it’s got to be pretty hard to turn down an offer from her.
Dallas Wells: Carl, if you’re listening, ear muffs for a minute, I really have to consider it. She’s an impressive person and has really become one of the faces of the banking industry. If you looked at the size of her bank relative to most of the other attendees there, she was a little bit of an outlier. We didn’t have a lot of other 200 million dollar-ish size banks. Everybody there was wildly impressed with Jill and what they’ve been able to do at that bank. The quick synopsis of Jill’s story is she came back to work at this small bank in Edmond, Oklahoma. There were some family ties there, but she came back to this bank that was really on the ropes and really on the verge of failure in 2009 and brought it back to not just surviving, but they’ve become a real poster child for how to do this community banking thing. They have great performance. They have a really great social presence, both locally and broader, regionally, for a bank their size. They’ve put on a lot of great local events and they really have become that pillar in the community that all banks claim they’re going to be. Citizens Bank of Edmond has done that as one of the smallest banks in town.
She’s obviously a charismatic leader and has a real vision for where she’s headed with that thing. I thought she was great and we were thrilled to be able to, she’s very busy as well, so we were thrilled to get her to join us for that panel.
Jim Young: Yeah. I said that, obviously joking with you, because, of course, you’re never leaving here Dallas, but because I had a couple of bankers come up to me afterwards and said man, she was really impressive, I’d work for her. Like you said, it’s all the stuff that they’re doing, they’re really on the cutting edge in terms of technology. They put on a street event, a local event that gets about 20,000 plus on a regular basis. I mean that’s just phenomenal. They got 10,000 followers on their Twitter account. Yeah, she was really impressive
Finally, I know Brandi Haymore and Brandi and Ashley are sending out feedback surveys to all the participants and one area they’re looking at is suggestions on where would you like us to hold this conference next year? I’m casting my vote for Austin 2.0, how about you?
Dallas Wells: I’d probably have to lean the same way. We started being very practical with that, we’re like well it would be warm and it’s centrally located for people from both coasts to be able to fly in fairly easily. It met all the check marks. Austin once you get there, it’s a very fun city to be in. It’s very walkable downtown. It think it makes sense to make it a, that’s the destination and the place and the event are tied together. We had these talks about, like most conferences do, rotating it around and doing the grand tour, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting some familiarity to Austin. Plus, I missed the bat bridge so I need a do over.
Jim Young: That was exactly what I was about to say. You have to go see the bat bridge at some point. I’ve got about six or seven more barbecue joints on my list to check off as well.
Dallas Wells: Yeah, so we need at least one more year.
Jim Young: Exactly one more year should do it for me, but obviously in Brandi and Ashley I trust when it comes to this sort of thing, so I know they will pick an outstanding location. That’ll wrap it up for this episode. Thanks again for listening. We’ll provide links to a few of the resources and the show notes for this episode. You can always find those at precisionlender.com/podcast. If you like what you’ve been hearing make sure to subscribe to the feed in iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. We’d love to get some ratings and feedback on any of those platforms. Thanks for tuning in, until next time this has been Jim young and Dallas Wells, and you’ve been listening to the Purposeful Banker.