Leslie Godridge spent the last three years zigging while her competitors were zagging.

She beefed up hiring and cherry-picked talent as other banks cut their corporate banking staffs. She added new offices as the others closed theirs. And instead of cutting back on travel, she purchased plane tickets for her team to visit more potential clients across the country.

Measured against "the revenue you can generate, those costs are insignificant," Godridge says. "One or two new customer relationships can cover the investment."

Godridge majored in history, and as a banker she is keen to remember it. When getting started in the 1980s, she saw how healthy banks aggressively moved to land new commercial banking clients as competitors sank in the wave of bank failures during that era. She now sees an opportunity to take the clients not only of failed banks, butalso of those that retreat from a particular sector or product area."When everyone else is pulling back, there is a huge void," Godridge says.

Three years ago, Godridge and her team began pursuing healthy businesses with revenue over $250 million. They particularly wooed firms in industries U.S. Bank specialized in-such as energy-and touted its high rating and strong capitalization.

U.S. Bank also recruited new hires away from the likes of JPMorgan Chase, BNY Mellon and HSBC to add expertise in sectors like insurance, retail and apparel, transportation and other areas.

Action, Godridge says, is "the best way to take advantage of an opportunity."

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