Most Powerful Women in Banking: No. 23, Huntington's Sandy Pierce

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Senior EVP, Private Client Group, Regional Banking Director and Chair of Michigan, Huntington Bancshares

Sandy Pierce wanted to better understand how to help colleagues further their careers, so she came up with four questions that are now used in talent reviews at the $108 billion-asset Huntington.

During 41 years in banking, Pierce has mentored hundreds of colleagues and interviewed countless employees. But she struggled to understand what truly motivated them.

“Each of us has a story that shapes who we are — it is the ‘why’ behind everything we do in life,” Pierce said. “What could take years in annual performance reviews and formal coaching sessions, I discover in one conversation.”

All of Huntington’s 16,000 employees are encouraged to answer the four questions as part of their review.

The questions are simple enough: What is your story? What drives you? If you could have any job in the company in two years, what would the content of that position look like? And, on the path to achieve your professional passion, what areas of development do you feel would be most helpful?

“It’s so powerful,” said Pierce. “When we have talent reviews and talent planning, other executives ask me, how do you know that about a person? And I know, because I ask.”

Asking probing questions led Pierce to find a solution to another perennial problem — the deeply ingrained way in which banks operate in silos, with one business unit not know what the other is doing.

Last year, Pierce was put in charge of Huntington’s regional presidents council, a group of 13 regional presidents and 23 community presidents tasked with creating a consistent strategy across the company. They found that just 4% to 6% of customers bought insurance from Huntington.

“A light bulb went on that said, we are doing something wrong,” Pierce said. “It’s because we were not engaging. We were not aligned and we were not talking to each other.”

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Pierce created another group — consisting of Huntington’s four business segment heads and a subset of regional presidents — that is now ensuring each region knows what the others are doing, so they are not competing with each other for the same customer.

She also launched a dashboard tool to help bankers track their progress on a variety of metrics, such as how many of their customers have their primary checking account with Huntington.

To show how the strategy works, Pierce described how a banker who is the company’s top revenue producer in Michigan also had the lowest number of customers who use Huntington as their primary bank.

"Can you imagine the opportunity?" she said. "Instead of criticizing him, we showed him the opportunity that was there and off he went to try to establish us as the primary bank."

Pierce did not disclose details about incentives, but said Huntington has created a strategy around the behavior it wants to see.

“We are deepening every customer relationship we have based on need, not product pushing,” Pierce said. “This will be written up as the way you take a large organization with line of business silos and work together rather than compete against each other.”

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