Skyrocketed NIM from bottom to top quartile in two years. Achieved the second highest culture score in the country. Not average anymore…

THE MINNESOTA NATIONAL BANK CASE STUDY

Q | Roxanne

Hey Donald, glad to have you with us today.

We’ve been working together for around two and a half years now. I’m curious: What did you explore before coming to us?

A | Donald John

Well, we certainly looked at the normal training programs that you’d get with trade associations. Again, the challenge with that—which I’m sure a lot of CEOs realize—is that they change, and the authors change, and they aren’t consistent. We tried a variety of those things, and a lot of it was tracked on the honor system, but before, there was no really good way to apply it.

Q | Roxanne

You came to the Best Banks in America™ Super Conference as your first experience. What was it like listening to those stories of some of the best banks in America?

A | Donald John

Well, it was humbling. I thought: “How in the world are these banks doing this?” That was an amazing couple of days for Steve (our CFO) and myself as we sat and watched banks give high fives for accomplishments. These are things that we bankers don’t do, right? We’re all very prim and proper. Seeing that kind of enthusiasm come across in a group of bankers was amazing.

Q | Roxanne

Here you are a few years later, and you have hit the cover off the ball with your culture scores. You have much to celebrate. Tell us that story…

A | Donald John

Well, we came from basically treating each other well. And, you know, certainly being cordial with each other, but not reaching a level of transparency and authentic communication that causes people to want to walk through walls for each other.

We started at a 3.13 culture score and moved it to a 6.21 in a couple of years, which, as you know, these numbers are really kind of astronomical.

When I reflect on accomplishing that in the last couple of years with our team, it is really just about being humble and authentic with each other. That’s the foundation.

Q | Roxanne

I definitely would say you went from being average to extraordinary, and your culture scores are some of the highest in the country.

A | Donald John

Yes, we hit the second-highest culture score of all banks. We’re very excited about that. The client experiences are exponentially improved because we’re walking through brick walls for each other and our customers.

Q | Roxanne

Yes, and it shows. There is an energy with your people, and that resonates with everyone in your entire organization. It’s beautiful. What were you looking to accomplish, and where did you want to move the needles?

A | Donald John

Well, I think the biggest thing that resonated with Steve and myself was that we were being average. We knew how to do that pretty well. And we were knocking that out of the park! [laughs]

But we were trying to learn about what it is to be high-performing. We were following certain training programs. We’d follow this and that training program, but it just wasn’t deep enough—it wasn’t consistent enough. So, we knew we had to find out how to be high-performing, and that’s what we found with your company.

Q | Roxanne

Your results prove it. So, what did you move your net interest margin from and to, because everybody’s screaming for better net interest margin these days. Tell me about the traction you had there.

A | Donald John

We moved net interest margin from the bottom quartile of our peer group to the top quartile in only two years.

Q | Roxanne

Great job. So, tell me a little bit about how you changed the depth of relationship with your customers and moved your people away from just being “order-takers.” How did you move that needle? What was the number before compared to now? I think there are a lot of bank CEOs who have just given up after decades of trying.

A | Donald John

Well, I would tell them: Don’t give up. I think the retail sales process that you have developed is far and away the most comprehensive and important thing that we have ever done. We were in the low threes as far as services per household, and as you know, that’s really hardly anything at all, and now we’ve moved it to well over six and approaching seven on our retail sales. And this ratio is, as you’ve often said, the ultimate measure of customer trust.

Q | Roxanne

Yes, I couldn’t say it more often: “If it feels like sales, you’re doing it wrong.” After two years, let me ask you as you reflect: Has it been worthwhile to work with us on your culture, sales, and performance transformation?

A | Donald John

Yes! We had some break even ROI measurements we set at the beginning where we said: “You know, if we can achieve X, then we can consistently go to our board and say that this was a very, very good move.” Well, we’ve smoked those by quite a margin. So yes, yes, it has absolutely been a very good return on investment.

Q | Roxanne

Beautiful.

So, let’s address a practical problem that many banks have. Let’s say that you have obstructionists. I’ve watched over the years, where a bank will have one or two people that insist “Oh, I can do this myself” or “we just hired a new guy, that should take care of it.” Or maybe they tell me they are doing some sales training or starting an incentive program. They always sound confident. And then I look at their numbers a few years later, and the new guy didn’t get it done, or the new approach didn’t work and now the bank is sold. So, what would you recommend to the CEOs who have one or two obstructionists who won’t agree to a breakthrough process, because almost every bank has at least one.

A | Donald John

I think a lot of obstructionists aren’t necessarily doing it intentionally. Sometimes they just really don’t know a different way of doing things. They might not be an obstructionist for long with some of the tools and techniques that they would learn from you and this program.

Q | Roxanne

Agreed. I believe that most obstructionists have the best of intentions—they just don’t know they’re in the way of the bank’s progress. Regardless, they are.

Donald, what you’ve had to share has been very helpful to many people seeing a challenging year ahead who might otherwise give up hope.

It’ll be nice to see you on stage sharing your stories in April at the Best Banks in America™ Super Conference in Florida. Thank you so much for taking the time with us today. I have a suspicion that things are just going to keep looking better and better for your bank.

A | Donald John

You’re so welcome. Thank you.

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