Insights from Conversations with the First National Bank of Sioux Falls

In our experience conducting searches for hundreds of senior level executives, professional coaches can have a tremendous impact on a company’s ability to retain new executives, shorten “startup” times, increase learning and improve productivity, particularly within the critical first few months. Consequently, to demonstrate to our clients and to the new recruit our belief in the importance of onboarding, we’re providing a dedicated onboarding coach for newly hired executives – at our expense – for the first 100 days.  

To offer insights into how this works in practice, we recently spoke with Jeffrey K. Russell who joined our client, First National Bank in Sioux Falls, (FNBSF) as the Chief Deposit Officer last May and his boss, William L. Baker, Chairman and CEO of the bank. Jeff was recruited by TalentRISE partner Jim O’Malley from a large bank with international operations to run a critical group for this fourth generation, family-owned community institution. The contrast in cultures alone was an interesting aspect of the both the search and onboarding processes.  In the interview that follows, Jeff and Bill discuss the search and selection process and how the onboarding coaching, provided by CoralBridge Partners, has worked.

TalentRISE: How did it come about that you selected TalentRISE for this search?

William (Bill) L. Baker, Chairman and CEO: Once we embarked on this national search for a Chief Deposit Officer, we identified several consultants. Jim O’Malley [of TalentRISE] was one of several we interviewed and brought to Sioux Falls for a daylong meeting to describe our culture and communicate our needs. We intentionally structured this meeting in the same way in which we conduct our interview process. Jim, with his credentials and banking background, turned out to be the favorite of my executive team and, by going through the interview process himself, he gained a firm understanding of not only our culture but what the selection process would be like for the top candidates for this job.

TalentRISE: Bill, as CEO, you play a huge role in establishing a very unique culture. Can you elaborate a bit more about your culture and what makes it so unique?

Bill Baker: We have a core set of values that shape our culture more than anything else, known as the “FIRST Values” which stem from our values as a family-owned bank. These have been articulated precisely, with the letters of the word “first” standing for Family, Independence/Innovation, Relationships, Stewardship and Teamwork. I mention this because these values are the guideposts against which we measure ourselves and are key in our decision-making processes. They also support our mission in the community.

TalentRISE: Can you describe how this culture came into play in your recruitment process?

Jeff Russell, recently appointed Chief Deposit Officer:  As a resident of Sioux Falls, I’ve always been aware of the bank and admired the role that it plays in the community. Even during my 12 years at Wells Fargo, with my office across the street from this building, I kept in touch with people at First National and I heard about the opening when this position was posted. The bank is unique as it is family-owned and TalentRISE, while being totally fair to their client, provided me with excellent information, for instance, on how the interview process would be structured. When TalentRISE reached out to me, it was clear that they knew the culture, perceived that I would fit and convinced me to apply. They were helpful throughout the application process. The process itself took a while and included intensive interviews with the group leaders as well as a consultation in Minneapolis. It wasn’t a quick decision but TalentRISE made sure I knew what I signed up for.

TalentRISE: When TalentRISE offered to provide onboarding coaching to the new hire, what was your reaction?

Bill Baker: Very positive. When Jim described the onboarding coaching process, it seemed like a great idea. Ultimately, however, I wanted to be sure we had Jeff’s buy-in because it needed to be a voluntary process. He readily agreed that it would be worthwhile.

TalentRISE: Jeff, once you accepted the position, how did the onboarding process unfold?

Jeff Russell: TalentRISE did a very nice job of presenting the availability of onboarding coaching, particularly as my situation was somewhat unique in moving from a large bank to a family-owned community bank. They understood that there could be some challenges. It has worked out well, and the coach has been very helpful in offering his insights into a number of things such as metrics setting. I would certainly use an onboarding coach for outsiders joining the bank as it can provide a big benefit. We are somewhat of an island here and coaching would be very helpful to someone moving here from Chicago, for instance, to take a job.  

TalentRISE: What impact do you think that the onboarding coaching has had?

Bill Baker: From my perspective, it has proven to be very effective. The consultant provides me with regular updates but I am intentionally not directly involved, and that’s how it should be. My belief is that the coach and Jeff need to work autonomously and independently. I do know that the process has gone well. For example, the coach has set up and used tried and tested exercises with Jeff and the team and that these have been very effective as icebreakers.

TalentRISE: Any other comments you’d like to add about the experience?

Jeff Russell: Now having been part of the bank for a while, I realize the many ways in which TalentRISE has ensured that the structure of the process has worked well for all sides. More structure, in my opinion, is good. Yet they have also been flexible, shifting course along the way based on feedback, for instance, to craft a more specific description of the position. Overall, this been a great experience. Jim [O’Malley], my main contact, has been down-to-earth and very fair; always acting with integrity on behalf of the client. In addition, my coach has both a banking and an HR background which has been a big plus. It’s clear that they have really taken the time to understand the culture here.

A study conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and The Miles Group in 2013 found that while nearly two-thirds of CEOs and half of all other senior executives do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, 100% of those who received coaching said that they enjoyed it.

J. James O’Malley

About the Author

Jim has spent 25 years on both ends of the table, developing HR and talent solutions to align leadership, talent, and business needs.

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