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Powerful Women: Let's Talk - 96: Lauren Davis

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Huntington Bank
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Lauren Davis

Lauren Davis, Regional President of Huntington Bank West Michigan, is Shelley Irwin's guest on this edition of Powerful Women: Let's Talk

Lauren Davis is Huntington Bank's Regional President in West Michigan, having a passion for banking since she was very young. She enjoys building strong teams, is passionate about the community, and she plays the saxophone. Welcome Lauren to this edition of Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.


Full Transcript:

Produced by women, about women. Powerful Women: Let's Talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world, transforming who we are and how we live.

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Shelley Irwin: Lauren Davis is Huntington Bank’s regional president right here in West Michigan. She has passion for banking, she's had since she was very young. She enjoys building strong teams. She's passionate about the community. Plus, she plays the alto sax. Welcome Lauren to this edition of Powerful Women: Let's Talk – where’s the sax?

Lauren Davis: I didn't bring it. I don't play as much as I used to. And when I do my beagle howls. So I don't know if it's because he appreciates the music or he thinks that I need more practice. I'm not sure.

SI: Next time the saxophone and the beagle in studio and we may get to this. I think playing musical instruments has to do with being good in the number industry. I think I've heard that.

LD: Yeah. And they do say intelligent people know how to read music so that can be part of it too.

SI: Okay. That's why you're here. And we have much to learn about you. Congratulations. Obviously on the success. What's it mean to be a regional manager of a of a bank?

LD: Yes. So we have a lot of different lines of business to support our clients from the mortgage team to our wealth team, to our commercial team. And we're looking for ways to help improve people's lives in our communities. And so for me, I have loved banking since I was a young girl, how it impacts communities and people’s lives. So, this is an exciting time both for Huntington and for myself and my career.

SI: Yes. Young girl. How are you interested in banking? Give me a story.

LD: You're going to love this Shelley. So when I was about 7 years old my dad owned a small business and when my sisters and I played store. Remember the business checks are likethose long business checks? And I would write out the business check for my groceries while they'd use play money. And so I learned early in my life that banking impacts so many people's lives. And I wanted to be a part of that.

SI: So did you claim that is your first major in college.

LD: So I’m from a family of 7, children. So I'm one of 7. 2 older brothers and 4 sisters and my parents could really afford to put us all through college. And so I started out at Northwestern Michigan Community College in Traverse City. It's a community college where I could get the basics and maybe an associate's degree so I could begin to have some advanced learning and hoping to continue my career. And with that I was able to get additional scholarships and grants to pursue my degree at Central Michigan and at Central is where I met a professor who was very focused on banking and she saw my potential and she really encouraged my focus on banking and finance. So that's kind of how I pursued that. And then when we met with banks for interviews, she would help me with my resume or with interview questions so that I would be prepared. And she helped me with networking. And so I ended up in February before I graduated from college, I actually had my first job with Old Kent bank and few weeks after graduation in May. I moved to Grand Rapids.

SI: Wow, and here you are even a bigger and better. Let's stay with the mentor that director that wrapped you in her arms and said I believe in you, how important is that and how important should that be a today?

LD: Yeah. Yeah. So I think about through my career. As I said, I started at Old Kent and I've had a lot of mentors, a male and female within the organization. And I and I really focused on that early in my career. I found ways to always raise my hand for learning opportunities and then those advocates for me or mentors for me would always find new opportunities. So that gave me the opportunity to work in different facets of the banking industry. So, started out on the retail side of the bank. What most people know is when you go into a branch, I was a branch manager and then move from there to operations and compliance, and audit, and finance. And then have the opportunity most recently to go back to the commercial side. The bank because I really wanted after 9 or so years of helping people who help the client, I wanted to go back to a customer facing roll where could work with the client directly and I loved being a relationship manager, you know, helping businesses, business owners, try to figure out how to mitigate the risk, how to use technology for their cash flow. And you know how to how to improve people's lives at their businesses. It was so different than the consumer side of the bank where I first started. So using those opportunities that gave me the ability to find people in the community who could mentor me. So I went from finding my mentors and advocates within the organization to finding those in the community as well because they just give you a different perspective. They may not know banking, but they know business and they know life and then they get to know me and could give me really good advice about things that I needed to focus on or develop.

SI: But obviously you said yes to taking risks and to them having someone believe in you. You could have said no, thank you.

LD: True true. But anybody who knows me knows I love taking risks. I see risk taking has an opportunity when there's change or turmoil in an industry or at your company, if there's challenging issues to discuss, there's always an opportunity for us to grow and develop. And so I see a risk as taking an opportunity instead of a risk. So more is a positive instead of a negative.

SI: What's it mean to build a strong team?

LD: Yeah. So to me building a strong team is identifying people with different backgrounds, different ideas. At the same time, I want when I’m building a team - individuals who think about others when they're making decisions when they are winning, when they are challenged with issues, very collaborative and people that are looking to the future of talent because, you know, what we're doing today yes, it matters, but our future matters, too. And we need to find ways to develop the talent of the future and that goes back to my mentor, you know, people that mentored me. I want to pass that along to other, either young women or young men, who want to work in our industry.

SI: And they're watching you right now. Men in the industry. I think we can hopefully soon stop bringing this up, but did you begin to work in the industry where was traditionally male dominated and how did you maneuver?

LD: Great question. You know, I don't really think about it like that. But I can see from the outside world where it may seem like that and the retail operations side of the bank there were a lot of men and women who I worked with. On the commercial side, it tends to be more men who prefer to manage a PNL or manage portfolio relationships. But I'm constantly encouraging women to consider the commercial side of the banking. I will tell you, instead of focusing on the fact that I was different than those who were male maybe in commercial banking, I just focused on my strengths and with that, I think came confidence. Were there opportunities that I may be worked harder for than my colleagues? Maybe. But it made me stronger. You know, I learned more about myself. I push myself further because I wanted to prove that I was supposed to be at the table. And when I think back to, you know, over my career, one of my greatest strengths is my husband. You know, he's my biggest advocate yet harshest critic. He helps me understand, a lot of times, how men think that helps me make my decisions and look at things differently and at the same time he's really great at kind of encouraging me to really push my confidence forward. And when I do that, I feel like I'm unstoppable.

SI: Does he cook too?

LD: He does. Shelley, he does. I don't know how to cook.

SI: How about the boys in your life? Your 2 boys. Are they supporting you? Are you teaching them these ways?

LD: Yeah. So my sons, Jacob and Colin, both college age. When, you know, I've had challenges over the years in my career, they were their supportive, how can they help mom get through this, you know, happy mom, happy life, is all they look at it. But then when I found out that I was going to move into this role, they were super excited. They couldn't wait to tell their friends they couldn't wait to be at work events where they could help, you know, share what our family is about and how we want to support the community collectively and yeah, they are very supportive of powerful young women.

SI: And why is your community important to you? You serve on several boards.

LD: Yeah. Great question. You know, I have a lot of people ask me, you know, how do you decide what boards to serve on. And, for me I've always focused on, we’ll go back what I shared with you, I’m from a small town in northern Michigan and it was rural community and maybe everyone wasn't granted the same opportunities as everybody else. So when I came to Grand Rapids realized I wanted to focus on organizations that we're really focused on women and children. So the YWCA is one of the boards that I'm on. Michigan Women Forward with you, and also I'm on the ACG West Michigan. That's a networking organization. But I really started because they had women in finance mentorship program that they wanted me to help start and I found that there was a lot of ways that I could use my career, my experience and my connectivity to help young women who are moving to Grand Rapids starting a career and didn't know where to begin with the networking process. So, you know, empowering women helping women see that that this, what I'm doing today as possible.

SI: What is your advice for young women to begin the networking process?

LD: Yeah. I would say first, you know, reach out to people in your own network. But at the same time don't be afraid to reach out to someone who maybe is in your local government or someone local in banking, someone local at your church that you can reach out and say, you know, you're a great speaker. And what can I learn from you or you do a great job, you know, advocating for something, I want to learn that talent. So when I found people that I wanted to connect and network with identify those that it was a skill that I didn't feel like I had, but I have had observed in another and then I would reach out to them and kind of asked them, can you teach me? Can you show me how to do that? Can you help me build that skill? And I've not once had anyone in Grand Rapids who said nope sorry, I won't do that. I mean, it's a great community.

SI: Back to taking risks, that's probably the toughest part is the fear that there will be a “no” and most likely no is the not the answer.

SI: So if you weren't into banking, what would you be doing?

LD: I love this. So I told you early in my college career I wanted to be a Fed chair. So that was kind of my dream job is to be a Fed chair Minneapolis, Detroit, Dallas, something like that and really impact monetary policy. Now today, not sure I want to be part of the that. But I'm still fascinated about how it really impacts the economy and how globally, not just domestically. So I've always found interest in that. Who knows. Maybe that will be on my docket in the future. But if I were to be anywhere, it would be northern Michigan on a boat enjoying nature.

SI: You could do that this weekend. That's a whole other conversation. You have 6 siblings. Positives negatives?

LD: Yes. So it's interesting because coming from a big family. I remember young, you know, kindergarten first grade they were like, okay, we got to teach you how to share. And we need to teach or to stand in line. And I'm like that’s so yesterday! You kind of have to learn those things in a big family. You also have to make sure your voice is heard. You know, we'd all come home from school and you wanted to tell mom about your day, but you had to talk over your siblings. But then you also learned that not everybody approaches things the way you do and people view things differently or some siblings are more emotional than other siblings. And so you really almost learn how to work as a team because, you know, our family is first and we're going to take care of our family. And so if you know somebody was bullying a sibling, I’m going to stand up for that sibling. So even if I just got to fight with them in the morning.

SI: Still happens today I hope.

LD: Yeah, we can argue want somehow to. But we have good relationships.

SI: What about swimming in the middle of Lake Michigan, speaking of boating?

LD: So again, big boating family. At one point we had our boat in grand haven and decided to take a trip up cross to Milwaukee for summer fest with some other friends and we all thought how cool would it be to stop in the middle of Lake Michigan where the two states met borders met and jump into Lake Michigan. You can’t anchor in the middle like Michigan so you kind of let your boat free and everybody jumped in and it was like for me, it was kind of like how many people get to do this kind of thing. So that was a lot of fun and a good experience for me.

SI: You couldn't see land? Could you?

LD: Not no not in the middle you can’t see either side

SI: So you couldn't see East Jordan, Michigan

LD No you couldn’t

SI: What’s your tie with this and why should we care about this statement?

LD: so East Jordan, my hometown. Most people known as Eastern ironwork. So when I say where I'm from. If you've seen a manhole cover anywhere in the United States and internationally it's probably Sterno York's they know now go by E J group is the name of the company. But a lot of the community is employed there. And so that's kind of my claim to fame for my small town.

SI: nice, what’s your leadership style.

LD: Oh great, great. My leadership style. I tend to want to challenge people to move out of their comfort zone. I feel like we do our best work when we are challenged and we're kind of out of our comfort zone. And then we look back and we like that wasn't so hard. Kind of like me coming here today.

LD: And then other style, other parts of my leadership style. I think that are important for people who work for me to realize is that when there's a problem or a mistake. I don't want to focus on what went wrong. I want to focus on how we can move forward and fix it. I think that's really important for people to feel comfortable that they can grow and develop with you is it's OK to make mistakes. You got it. You have to take risks in order to grow. And then if you take that risk and you make a mistake and you learn from it. That's impossible growth. So I really think that those are two characteristics of my leadership style. The other is I love to have fun, Shelley, well you probably know this about me. I just I just love being around people. I love learning about people's backgrounds, but I want people to remember like when they're around me that they had fun and they were laughing and it was a good experience.

SI: But you’re also a regional manager of Huntington and I guess on that note, is there a motto that drives you, that picks you up if you ever need that or that drives you to work even harder.

LD: Yeah. One that I really live by and it kind of goes back to what we were just talking about. What is, you know, people won't remember what you said to them. People won't remember necessarily what you talked about. But they're going to remember the interaction that they had with you and how you made them feel. So it's by a famous author and she you know, she had she had her own struggles and she focused on, you know, the interactions that people have with you every single day matter.

SI: Wonderful. So is it OK to keep feeding my piggy bank?

LD: Yes, it is. Yes, it is

SI: Get me where I want to go.

LD: And yes. you know, we're definitely going through some challenging times. A lot of unknowns. But yeah, saving those pennies is still going to be super important in your future so.

SI: Thanks for your leadership and for what you do for Huntington and certainly for what you do with our powerful women let's talk series.

LD: Thank you.

SI: Lauren Davis, thank you.

LD: Shelly, it's been fun.

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>> Produced by women about women, these powerful podcast focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live. Want to hear more powerful women: Let's Talk? Get additional interviews at wgvu.org or wherever you get your podcast, please rate and subscribe. Powerful Women: Let's Talk is produced by WGVU at the Myer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU, Its underwriters or Grand Valley State University.

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Shelley Irwin is the host and producer for The WGVU Morning Show, a newsmagazine talk-show format on the local NPR affiliate Monday through Friday. The show, broadcast from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. features a wide variety of local and national newsmakers, plus special features.
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