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Teaching moments courtesy of the Bankers of the Year
If you make American Banker’s “Best in Banking” list, you probably have a tale (or perhaps more) to tell.

The stories run the gamut: Skepticism about business strategies. Achievement. Colorful anecdotes passed down through generations of a family bank.

This year’s Bankers of the Year had all those things, but the 2017 class provided something more in in-depth interviews with our reporters that went beyond the sound bites and the line items. This group was unusually candid and reflective, talking about their worries, their failures along the way, the slights they endured and the obstacles they overcame. Yet their insights were ultimately uplifting and provided memorable takeaways for every bank and any financial services employees regardless of where they are at in their careers.

And that’s really the point of reading anyone’s story — not to gawk, not to suffer through, but to learn something about how to do things better.

Executives cannot help try harder, to think bigger, when KeyCorp chief Beth Mooney says: "We will be judged by shareholder metrics, but that starts with doing the right things, the right way. If we really put our customers, our employees, our communities first, do the right things by them, then our shareholders win."

But the didactic element of leadership gets lost in a world of quarterly targets, downsizing and “collapsing of layers.” Howard Bank’s Mary Ann Scully reminded us of that indirectly when she said, "People told me to look at insurance companies and banking because they had the best training programs." Many lament that such programs are no more and that the consequences of their absence could be felt for a long time to come.

So that’s why these Bankers of the Year are important. When longtime New York banker John Kanas talks about the “cold sweat” induced by a credit crisis, that’s a good tale. But when he talks about how he powered through it and possibly saved a bank — and his career — from the brink of failure, that is something more. It is especially valuable when he repeats it to make a point to his successors.

"Never, never, never give up,” he said he tells young employees. “If you're honest and competent, and if you return to work, you can fix just about anything."

The following slideshow shares some of those takeaways from each winner. That’s the value. That’s the teaching moment. That’s the Best in Banking.


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