John Davis, Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer of PBI Bank has something in common with Joe Seiler, the bank’s EVP, Head of Corporate Banking: They both learned the lending business from the ground up.
That’s why the two have made it a mission to develop bank lending talent from within PBI Bank. They want members of their internal staff to become responsible lenders, even though super-regional banks have moved away from similar programs.
“There’s not a program like that that I’m aware of, certainly not locally. We’re not afraid to put you on a vertical learning curve. Every time we sense that curve flattening, we’re going to look for ways to change your perspective, challenge your thinking, and get you back on that learning curve.”
Seiler uses an example of a treasury management person on his team who was looking to expand her career. “We are giving her credit training and put her on the trajectory to a credit administration position or lending opportunity.”
Davis and Seiler point out that they don’t always wait for staff members to come to them when they want to make a move. “We interact with our teams on a daily basis. We often have ideas about who would excel in a credit administration role and who would be good in a relationship management role,” Seiler says, “but there are also instances where someone steps up and expresses an interest who you never would
have expected. We’re always open to helping people grow their skill sets.”
Davis had an employee who never really saw herself doing much more than behind-the-scenes banking. “But we said, ‘we think you have a skill set that should be customer facing.’ We asked her to go run our Henry County market. And then not long after, she was appointed market president.”
Why not just hire experienced bankers from other institutions? “We do that as well, as it can add great talent to the team. But if you do it too often, you may lose your institutional culture,” Davis says. “Our people know the way we think, the message we want to convey, and how we want it said.”
Davis says he values employees who see working at PBI as a continuous interview. In other words, he wants people who are not satisfied with the status quo. He wants them “to keep learning, growing, and moving.”
What foundation makes a good commercial lender?
The ability to understand different businesses, various business models, and see them translated to paper in the form of financial statements. Being able to determine whether a company is an acceptable credit risk is what Davis calls the “ante.” “You have to do that to play in the game.”
However, because banking is a personal business, it’s just as important to be able to talk to people. “When you’re talking to a business owner, you’re talking about their baby. They know that business and love it as much as they love their children. Getting inside of that, getting the business owner to open up and discuss their goals and needs, really is a skill.”
What is the culture at PBI like? Seiler says, “We are a tight-knit collegial group. We work together in a mutually supportive process. And we have a lot of fun.”
They’re also very focused on the client. In fact, Davis recently organized a “field trip” for a group from credit and lending. He wanted them to visit a prospective client’s business so they could get a deeper understanding of it and see what their operations look like.
“We took a crowd to see a prospective customer that is a pallet maker. We watched them bring in raw logs, cut the logs, saw the hard woods off the logs, and take the pallet wood and turn it into finished products. We walked that plant from one end to the other and saw how the business operated from start to finish.”
Next up is a trip to horse country because the bank has a lot of money invested in the equine business. “We’re going to talk to horse owners and breeders, and tour a farm.”
They’ll follow that up with a trip to sales auctions in the fall. “They will have been to the farm and seen how a horse breeding operation works. Now let’s go see the progeny sell, because that’s how we’re getting repaid. That’s understanding the business cycle from cash to cash.”
Join the PBI team
It is this culture of learning and growing that sets PBI apart. If you would like to be a member of a team that is big enough to offer a lot of opportunities, as Seiler says, but that is “small enough where no one gets lost in the shuffle,” consider PBI. Click here to visit their career page.
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