Szuch move to Signature Bank ‘like going home’Written by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Nightly news of banking blunders, like the recent report that incompetence at J.P. Morgan led to a loss of more than $2 billion, frightens many Americans. That national trend is not indicative of local banks that make news with reports like Signature Bank’s announcement, that it had appointed John S. Szuch to its board of directors and an executive officer position.
Szuch’s appointment brought a smile to local businessman Rob Armstrong’s face. Armstrong, executive vice president of Bennett Enterprises Inc., a corporation that operates 21 restaurants and four hotels in Northwest Ohio, said he is one of Szuch’s biggest fans.
“John [Szuch] has been very helpful to our organization for over 30 years,” Armstrong said. “John may well be the most respected banker in Northwest Ohio. For John, going to work at Signature must be just like going home.
“Signature Bank was a great bank before John joined. John is going to be just another feather in their cap.”
Armstrong said he is convinced Szuch’s move to Signature Bank’s staff will only enhance Armstrong’s 10-year association with the bank, a financial institution that he said has done especially well at “presenting us with direct access to any of their people. I can pick up the phone and talk to any individual, from the chairman and president all the way down the ladder. I even have the personal cellphone numbers of the officers.”
Armstrong’s “going home” reference alludes to Szuch’s work, starting in 1971, at local banking powerhouses that include TrustCorp, Capital and Fifth Third banks.
After 17 years at TrustCorp, now known as KeyBank, Szuch and colleague Bob Sullivan co-founded Capital Bank on July 1, 1988, and opened for business a year later, Aug. 24, 1989.
Twelve years later, in March, 2001, Szuch and Sullivan sold Capital Bank to Fifth Third Bank, and both men joined Fifth Third’s staff. A group of Capital Bank executives who didn’t make the move to Fifth Third founded Signature Bank in April 2002.
One month after its 10th anniversary, on May 9, 2012, Signature Bank hired Szuch, their longtime friend and former boss. For Szuch, that meant leaving the corporate world of large banks with thousands of employees who “do a huge volume in a standard format, and have everything channeled through specific people. They’re very good at standard, everything-between-the-lines things. They do it very efficiently and price it well,” he said.
In its place, Szuch enters a banking institution in which all 97 employees focus on personal attention, individual needs and creating a service environment, according to bank President Dave Reed.
“We’re like the old, smalltown banks,” Reed said. “You know the people, they know you, and we try to make it easy.
“There’s a lot of complexity out there in the world. You’d like to be able to count on some people who you know you can come to if you have something unusual, and it will get done. It will get seriously considered quickly, which is a big component of what we do,” Reed said.
Szuch chuckled upon hearing the word “quickly.”
“‘Quickly’ is a big word,” Szuch said. “You don’t know how long it takes to get something through at the other places. I mean, weeks sometimes.”
It’s Signature Bank’s timeliness that appeals to Jan Ruma, vice president and executive director of Toledo-Lucas County CareNet for the last 14 years.
“We work with Signature Bank because, simply speaking, they are able to meet our needs,” Ruma said. “We have limited staffing, and running to the bank uses up a lot of our resources. Signature provides simple things, like a courier service.
“Anything we need is just a phone call or an email away. We always work with the same people, and that’s comforting. We don’t call and get a voice recording or extension 262 to contact. We get a personal response.”
Rick Brunner, with 22 years experience in the banking industry, is Signature Bank’s chairman and chief executive officer. He says the addition of Szuch will enhance Signature’s collaborative approach to customer service.
“John has an enormous wealth of experience in a lot of different facets of banking,” Brunner said. “John has a vast network of people he’s worked with over the course of his career that will help him attract clients to Signature Bank.”
Brunner says Szuch’s 41 years of experience will help Signature Bank meet its clients’ unique needs.
“We like to make banking simple, straightforward and efficient, and a big piece of that is the personalized, customized piece of dealing with people, understanding what they need,” Brunner said. “In a lot of different industries, it’s ‘Let me tell you what you need. This is the right product for you.’ Our approach is more, ‘Let’s talk about what you need. What will help you? Are we a fit for that?’ ”
Szuch said he is humbled that Signature Bank created this executive officer position especially for him.
“Is there pressure?” he asked. “Yes, but the only pressure on me is self-imposed because I want to make sure bringing me here was a good decision.”