Categorized | Salary

Why Big-Bank Executives Seek Community-Bank Jobs

Posted on 11 April 2009

Can an executive who worked for one of the world’s largest banks for 30 years find happiness in a community bank with just two branches? Bill Bordin says he can.

In 2004, the former senior vice president at Bank of America resigned from his employer of three decades to join Borel Private Bank and Trust in San Mateo, Calif. Borel, which is owned by Boston Private Financial Holdings Inc., has two branches: San Mateo and Palo Alto. He’s now vice president of deposit sales for Borel, which employs a total of 88 people. His job, Mr. Bordin says, is primarily developing new business. This allows him to “go out and knock on doors and talk to people, which I enjoy.”

The seeds of Mr. Bordin’s change were sown after Bank of America merged with Nations Bank a few years ago. Mr. Bordin, 56, had managed two downtown San Francisco branches for B of A, and then its A.P. Giannini branch in San Mateo. After the merger, branch managers started to lose some of the autonomy they had under previous B of A management.

Expecting this trend to continue, he began networking for a new role elsewhere. In San Mateo, he had competed against Borel for new accounts and admired its customer-oriented approach. He met Borel executives at local Rotary Club meetings and began talking with them about opportunities. When he learned Borel was creating new-business -development roles so it could ramp up its campaign to attract new customers, he applied. He started work in January, with a pay increase and a bonus opportunity based on performance.

Mr. Bordin has been asked to find new high-net-worth and small-business customers and to service their accounts personally. It’s a change he wanted. “I wanted to be in a small group where I have more latitude,” he says. “I get to talk with customers rather than doing reports. If there’s an operational issue, the person I need is 25 yards from my office. I don’t have to call Los Angeles for a decision.”

Sandy Wandelt, senior vice president and director of human resources for Sun Bancorp Inc. in Vineland, N.J., says many large-bank executives are attracted to his institution for the same reason that Mr. Bordin chose Borel. With 680 employees and 71 branches in New Jersey, the Philadelphia area and Delaware, Sun is small enough to keep a community-bank culture, he says.

“People from big banks tell me they are totally overloaded, they have lost the ability to spend time with customers and can’t get decisions on a timely basis,” says Mr. Wandelt. “Sun has a different culture. [Employees] can use their skills and talents here and be productive.”

The bank recently hired several vice presidents and regional vice presidents of commercial lending and small-business banking. All came from larger institutions. “Most of the time, they don’t leave a big organization because of the money. It’s because of the environment, lack of authority and lack of decision-making ability they have,” Mr. Wandelt explains. “Here you have the ability to make decisions autonomously.”

Sun has more openings to fill, mostly for mid-level lending executives. For positions in local branches, the bank usually seeks new hires from the area. The best way to get on the radar screen is to attend business and professional gatherings and get to know Sun’s branch-office or regional executives, who often attend such functions. They, in turn, recommend promising candidates for Mr. Wandelt to contact.

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