Spokane Journal of Business

Five business lessons learned in 40 years of banking

Investments in community, people are instrumental to succeed in business

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This year, Washington Trust Bank celebrates its 120th anniversary, and 2022 also marks my 40th year at Washington Trust—an achievement that has offered many lessons in banking, business, and community along the way.

As I reflect on the last 40 years, five themes stand out. They have helped ensure our success and can be applied to any business or organization.

1. Build and sustain relationships: As anyone invested in building a relationship knows, it takes time and a deep commitment to listen and truly understand the other party.

It’s important to be dedicated to listening to customers and tailoring products to meet their needs. It’s an essential step toward helping them achieve their dreams, whether those involve starting or growing a business, planning for retirement, building a house, or financing a college education.

2. Take care of your people: As a leader, I believe it is vital to provide autonomy. Employees who feel their skills and abilities are being put to use contribute to a supportive atmosphere and culture. We encourage everyone to ask for help when they need it, and we give our managers the flexibility to find custom solutions for their teams.

It’s also important to emphasize the value of mentorship and provide formal training and educational programs for employees in both leadership and nonleadership positions, such as career advancement training, personal and leadership coaching, as well as tuition reimbursement. Those investments in people help build the next generation of leaders and ensure that successors are well prepared to take on any challenge.

3. Invest in your communities: We believe it is our responsibility to help foster growth within the areas we serve.

Community spirit is a core value, and businesses that want to be part of a community should be dedicated to supporting neighbors, including providing meaningful financial support and encouraging and allowing staff to provide volunteer hours to area nonprofit organizations.

That involvement allows better understanding of the specific needs within each of our communities and should be a key pillar for any organization seeking to establish roots in a region.

4. Embrace change: To grow, you must learn to embrace and accept change, as nothing remains the same. It takes character and discipline to manage all of the challenges that occur in both business and personal lives. 

Technological changes, for example, are part of business. Had we, as an organization, been resistant to technological advances, the bank would not have been able to quickly implement many of the programs that ensured our customers were able to survive the unprecedented economic strains early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Look outside of your organization: When managing day-to-day business operations, it’s easy to become internally focused. However, for a business to succeed, a vital best practice is to look at what’s happening in the corporate world around you. Taking note of trends can often signal potential changes for which your company will need to prepare.

Keep a sharp eye on the economic changes, employment, the housing market, and business growth. Paying attention to these important indicators helps pivot business strategies, diversify products and services, and ensure clients are equipped for what may lie ahead.

The banking industry has certainly changed since 1982. However, integrating these five best practices helps create a culture in which customers and clients take pride in their relationship with their financial organization.

  • Peter F. Stanton

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