Q1: How did you choose banking as your career, and how has it changed over time?
I began my career in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1987 after graduating from Aquinas College with an accounting degree. I was recruited into the industry with the expectation that I would learn how to counsel businesses and individuals in creating financial success. I was attracted to the interpersonal interactions along with the importance of technical competency. The industry has changed dramatically in many aspects since the time I entered the field – everything from how products are being delivered to the advent of open competition via deregulation. Also, increased competition across state lines coupled with swift changes in technology have resulted in a sense of urgency to consistently update all customers with a more convenient, simplified approach to their banking. This being said, I do not believe that the mission of providing all customers with advice and tools to be financially successful has changed; however, the channels of delivery and expansion of financial services have significantly evolved.
Q2: How will your role as regional president of First Merchants impact our community?
My view of my new role is to represent the guiding principles of First Merchants inside and outside the organization. It is my responsibility to staff the markets we serve with professionals who are focused on building genuine relationships with our community and customers. Banking provides professionals an opportunity to make a distinct difference in many ways, and one of my most fundamental expectations is volunteerism. I expect each team member to seek out opportunities to better our community, and First Merchants looks forward to supporting them in these individual pursuits. Furthermore, I am confident that our team will interact responsively with all individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations in our markets with advice that is tailored to their best interests. By accomplishing this, I expect our communities to experience an organization that is rooted in their success.
Q3: How will this ‘regional’ focus change your team’s approach with customer relationships?
One of the most exciting benefits of the merger with First Merchants is that all of our customers and markets will benefit in some way. Individual customers will have access to expanded loan products, more service delivery channels (Apple Pay, Google Wallet) and simplified deposit accounts. Business customers will have an enhanced treasury management product suite and will benefit from expanded loan products as well. Due to First Merchants’ size and footprint, we will be able to reach more industries and address their financial needs as well.
Q4: How would you describe your leadership style?
I want to win, and how you get there matters. First, I believe that setting expectations for each role and being unafraid to reinforce those expectations consistently matters. Second, leaders must be willing to engage in controversial and ethical discussions and be decisive in those matters. Even though differences of opinion or style may exist, I have concluded that individuals will follow and trust a leader who is guided by a strong moral and ethical base. Lastly, I am not always the “boss.” There are many times when I need to serve the team. For instance, I place the majority of my calendar time in the hands of our team since they serve as the advocates of our customers and community. Hence, if my time is required to reach a needed outcome, team members have direct access to my schedule and can pull or push me to where I am needed.
Q5: What are your favorite things about Fort Wayne?
I had the unique experience of being raised in Fort Wayne through high school, then moved away for college and returned 30 years later. The eyes of an 18-year-old are different than those of a now 50+ year old. Most people often reference the cost of living in Fort Wayne as a positive, and it truly is. Personally, I have found that I also enjoy:
Q6: What activities and passions do you engage in that get your blood pumping?
I enjoy playing golf and tennis and traveling with my wife. At this time, what really energizes me is the competition of business. Presently, I still feel that the “wolf is at my door.” While business leaders have made significant progress in recent years in improving our skills in execution and advice giving, I believe we have the potential to be even better. This potential yet unfulfilled is what motivates me every single day to be my best.