Ralph Hamm III, one of Spokanes newest commercial bankers, will have a broad range of work experience on which to draw as he seeks to build relationships with business owners and managers here.
Hamm, 36, who last month became Wells Fargo Banks commercial banking manager for the Inland Northwest, served in the military after graduating from West Point, managed a restaurant, and played golf professionally before deciding to pursue a career in the financial-services industry. Those experiences, he believes, have given him added insight that should prove beneficial in the role he has taken on here.
Of his pro golf experience in particular, which ended before he could reach the prestigious PGA Tour because he wasnt making enough money, he says, I understand what its like for an entrepreneur to identify an endeavor they want to chase and to put all their heart and soul in it.
Hamm succeeds Cliff Lawrence, Wells Fargos commercial banking manager here for eight years, who moved to Hong Kong in mid-January to become senior manager overseeing all of the banks commercial banking operations in Asia.
Systemwide, Wells Fargo has been experiencing strong gains in commercial banking activity, contributing to record net income for its San Francisco-based parent, Wells Fargo & Co., of $8.48 billion last year, up 11 percent from 2005.
Hamm declines to provide revenue figures just for the Inland Northwest region, but says theyve been growing at a double-digit pace thats on par with or exceeds industry averages. He says further that the Northwest is one of the strategic geographic areas for Wells Fargo in commercial banking as it looks to grow that business.
Through its Inland Northwest Commercial Banking Group, located on the ninth floor of the Wells Fargo Financial Center, at 601 W. First, the bank focuses on middle-market businesses across Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
Such targeted businesses typically have annual revenues of $10 million to $1 billion, but Hamm says the commercial banking division also works with some smallerand largerbusinesses. The division strives to provide all of the types of financial services that businesses in that size range might need, from credit to cash-flow and investment management.
Its local teams of professionals include so-called relationship managers who have the responsibility of getting to know clients businesses and working with them to meet their financial needs. At Wells Fargos commercial banking office here, Hamm oversees a staff of 10 people, including three relationship managers.
Our philosophy is, we really want to get a large portion of the wallet share of a companys business by being that clients single point of contact for multiple services, Hamm says. Wallet share refers to the portion of a customers disposable income allotted to a single service or product provider.
Weve got a great base of quality names in the (Inland Northwest) market that have been great partners for us, and the bank intends to grow that base, he adds.
This is the first region-manager position for Hamm, a Texas native who for the past six years was a vice president and senior business relationship manager in Wells Fargos North Dallas Regional Commercial Banking Office.
Born and raised in Dallas, he attended the U.S. Military Academy, at West Point, N.Y., after graduating from high school.
Along with desiring to serve his country, Hamm says, I just wanted to see the world, and kind of be exposed to all different walks of life, and grow up.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant when he graduated from the academy in 1994, then became an artillery officer and served two years of active Army duty at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, followed by five years in the Army Reserve.
I got out (after completing the required two-year stint of active duty) to chase a dream of playing on the professional golf circuit, Hamm says.
He had been playing golf since his youth, winning the Texas private school state championship in high school, and lettered in golf all four years at the U.S. Military Academy, serving as team captain there his senior year.
He turned pro in the summer of 1996, competing for a year in the National Golf Associations Hooters Professional Golf Tour, which he describes as being the single A minor league baseball equivalent to the big-league PGA Tour.
The following year, he says he focused his efforts on the nationwide Nike Golf Tour, more like professional baseballs Triple A level competitively, and played in the Nike Colorado Classic, one of that tours major events.
Hamm quit professional golf a year later, saying he won some money, but not enough to cover his expenses.
It takes more resources than I had, he says, but he adds, It was a great experience.
Hamm still is close to a scratch golfer, with a handicap of 1 or 2, and says he hopes to compete in a few amateur tournaments here.
Its a great sport. You dont have to play with somebody of the same skill level to have a great time, he says.
After giving up professional golf, Hamm managed a Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen chain outlet in Dallas for a yearlearning a lot about labor-management challenges, he saysbefore enrolling in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, to seek an MBA degree.
While working on his MBA, he says, he met a couple of senior managers for Wells Fargo at a networking event and, I sold myself to them, basically. That encounter led to a part-time internship with the bank as a credit analyst, and then a permanent position after he received his degree in 2001.
Following six months of training at Wells Fargos headquarters in San Francisco, he was hired in Dallas as a relationship manager at the banks North Dallas commercial banking office. There, he was involved mostly in new business development, loan underwriting, and portfolio management.
He started in the management position here in early February, and says he got to spend about a week with his predecessor before Lawrence headed for Hong Kong.
It was a great transition. People have been so fantastic here, he says. Hes joined here by his wife, Meggan, and 8-month-old son, Ralph IV. He says his wife, whom he met in business school, also worked in the financial-services industry for a time, but has been promoted to Mom.
Hamm says hes enthused about being here.
Its a home-grown community that has so much going for it, and its really starting to blossom, he says, adding that at the office hes managing now, We have the potential for greater growth than we did in (North) Dallas.
As the national economy softens from the highs of the past few years, there will be some shakeouts in the financial-services industry, but we see that as an opportunity for us, Hamm says. Wells Fargo has been consistent in its credit policies, he says, noting that its financial stability has helped it become the only U.S. bank to earn Standard & Poors highest credit rating.
Hamm doesnt want to quantify his goals for growth of the banks commercial banking operation here.
I want to be a strategic adviser for the management and owners of the banks client companies, he says. If he fulfills that responsibility well, he adds, The growth that will take care of itself.
Contact Kim Crompton at (509) 344-1263 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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