Personal Branding and the Lender…A New Way of Thinking For the Community Banker

 

If you were to spend any time hanging out with me, first, I’d feel bad for you! Be prepared to hear about guitars, music, college football, and pipes. Second, I would hope you would find me to be someone who likes to find “the new way of thinking about or doing something”. This is not a recent development in my life. I was the kid trying to figure out cool ways to beat Bowser in Mario Bros or creating fun adventures in The Legend of Zelda. See, mom, all those hours of playing video games did pay off!!!

I think this is why I was drawn to Finance as a field of study. It forces us to look at the data, be honest with ourselves about it, and then ask “ok, what can we do now?” That appealed to me…and still does to a large extent. Thinking about something from a different angle may not change the end result. Many times, I have found, it does not but it does change the journey. It does change the how we get to the end or the why we even go down that road in the first place.

So, let’s think about the lender’s role in the bank differently. You, as the lender, are an asset manager. You manage an asset for the bank and your management of that asset is a reflection of you and your work. Now, this has a great deal of implications in areas like compliance, collections, and document exceptions (which we shall save for another day…because nothing reads better than a blog about exceptions!). However, let’s just stay with the production part of this idea. As an asset manager, you are tasked with growing that asset to the best of your ability. In a sense, you are running a small business or a wholly-owned subsidiary of your bank. Pretty cool, huh?

What does this have to do with personal branding and the community banker? Everything!

Recently, Wendy Maynard posted an article entitled “Build your personal brand: how to infuse your business with YOU” where she makes the following four points:
1. Your personality is your secret success sauce
2. Your personality differentiates your business
3. It takes courage to share more about YOU
4. Get yourself out there in spite of your fear
I read this and it made such good sense to me, as a former lender, about what I saw and tried to do when I was in the trenches. Look at a listing of the loan portfolios broken down by loan officer in your bank. More than likely, you’ll be able to go down that list and say something like “Oh, Bob’s in XYZ market just killing it in construction deals…Jane’s the go-to mortgage expert…Bill is the car loan guy…Susie does a good job on consumer loans”. You would go down that list and immediately identify each loan officer (and as an extension, their portfolio) by their brand!
That being the case…what is your brand as a lender?

Think about that as you look for ways to build your asset and grow your business. What do you like to do? If you do loans that you enjoy doing with people you enjoy working with, chances are your personality and expertise will coming roaring through. I am not saying to only specialize in one type of loan…nor am I saying you can’t have multiple brands. However, what I am saying is if you want to grow your portfolio (and if you don’t, trust me, your boss wants you to!) you need to think about your personal brand…your banking brand. What do you like to do? What do you like to do that you are better at (or can become better at) than anyone in your market? What can you do to move the needle for your business?

Knowing what you don’t know is as important as knowing what you do. For example, one of my “brands” was 1-4 family rent houses. I loved them…borrowers with strong financial means, easy to understand loan structuring, long term loans that are “sticky”…what’s not to love? In my former market, there was a need for a go-to lender for rentals. How did I make that a “brand”? I decided to become “the rental guy”. I studied Zillow and Trulia religiously (Still do) and threw myself into learning all that I could about property management and this type of underwriting. I had a good idea as to what houses could sell for and what one could rent them for. I showed (at no charge) some clients and prospects the simplicity of Zillow’s management features. I learned as much as I could about owning rental property as I could. It took some courage to go out there on my own and become “the rental guy” but it paid off. I worked with real estate agents and lawyers in the area and did what I could to help their part in the transaction go smoothly. Why? Because I wanted to be the preferred lender in 1-4 houses in my community and they could help me grow my business and I could help them make money easily. Everybody wins.

This can apply to all areas of lending. If you like working ag loans, be an ag lending expert and a crucial part of the farmer’s team. If you love cars and doing car loans, throw yourself into that brand…be “the car banker” in your community. Let your passion and your personality shine through and find ways to value-add to your business (through research or some type of course) that will make you the expert.

It’s scary to do things like that. It’s new and we as a species do not like new things. But, identifying several areas that you can “brand” yourself in your community that fit with your personality, skill set, and market needs will absolutely grow your business and help you become an outstanding asset manager.

Good luck out there!

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