Bank of Marin (BOM) reinforces its brand promise by building strong relationships with its customers, as well as through employee and line support, commitment to community and discipline when it comes to sticking to what it does well, according to CEO Russ Colombo.
“We are not a faceless bank, looking for short-term gains. We continually strive to get to know our customer’s businesses in depth so we can help them can grow. Public companies often feel pressure to show high quarterly returns, but this can be risky. We’re in business for long-term success, an approach that has always kept Bank of Marin on the fairway, not in the rough. It’s all about building trust.”
He said today some financial institutions have lost trust, which is hard to get back. “We focus on doing things that convey assurance, which is vital to reinforce the brand promise. Tradeoffs and compromises can erode confidence, but standing firm to what you value leads to sustainability over time.”
He said brand promise goes beyond customers to influence all constituents. “Employees have to know your company culture supports ethical behavior and will do the right thing when faced with critical financial issues. When you take good care of your employees, they take care of your customers and shareholder reaction should be positive.”
Consistency pays off. During the Great Recession, BOM’s annual revenues did not take a big hit, declining modestly from $12.6 million to $12.5 million, and the bank’s employees did not suffer.
When it comes to customer loyalty, Colombo said, “People bank with us because of our commitment to our 270 employees and the many communities we serve. Giving back pays dividends in multiple ways. As we grow, we continue to create opportunities for people. This reinforces the cycle of giving, while also supporting our brand. You have to remain true to your values.”
If this approach is working, why isn’t it the norm among BOM’s competitors?
“We have a five-year strategic plan that enables us to take a longer view of where we want to be as an organization, while others take a shorter view
Does this mean being satisfied with where your firm is today?
“To have a meaningful brand, it has to stand for something,” Colombo added. “BOM is about what we deliver, our culture and what we do for customers. We know where are roots are – offering quality, building relationships and letting people know we will be there for them. This means we must perform at a higher level. At the same time, your stock price cannot lag or take over as the driving force.”
Will the next generation entering the workforce, called millennials, want to work in banks?
“I’m sure they read about problems in some financial institutions, but we’re not one of them. We appeal to things millennials value and stress giving back, offering meaningful jobs and doing things for communities where we have branches and where our people live.”
To build solid relationships, what should come first?
“When you speak with a bank about a loan, for example, if the conversation leads with price, you’ve probably lost them. Always start by building strong relationships and establish trust.”