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‘Diversity and Inclusion’ help give Regions competitive edge

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By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times

Working behind the teller line and with customers at a local bank branch provided a lot of lessons for the young John Turner, who is now CEO of Regions Bank and Regions Financial Corporation.

“I was struck by the diversity of people that came through the branch and you never really knew what your day was going to be like until the doors opened at 9 o’clock and people started coming through the door,” said Turner in a recent interview.  “They had a myriad of different financial needs . . . I liked the fact that you could work with people, help them solve their problems or meet a particular need.”

Turner, who was named CEO of Regions in July replacing Grayson Hall, said his humble beginnings helped him see people from all walks of life and all socioeconomic conditions.

“We had a very elderly woman who would come in often and she had some funny little habits the way she liked to do things . . . and everybody responded to her the same way that they did the wealthiest customer,” Turner said. “. . . [We worked with] all different types of people who needed help, had basic needs and as a result I was made more aware of what our customers and our associates [and] how they interact with the bank every day.”

Turner, 56, joined Regions in 2011 as the president of the South Region and led banking operations in Alabama, Mississippi, South Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle. He was named head of Regions’ Corporate Bank in 2014 and president in 2017.

In November, the bank, in partnership with nonprofit Operation HOPE, announced the opening of two financial empowerment offices that will offer free money-management training for people across the Birmingham area. Regions will provide workspace facilities in branches in Roebuck and Fairfield.

Turner said “diversity and inclusion are not just a business imperative but a competitive advantage.”

“There’s data that reflects that diverse teams produce better financial results,” he said. “In today’s environment where technology is impacting our business at an ever increasing rate, our customers come and want to bank with us in a variety of different ways. They have lots of different needs, we think having a diverse team . . . reflects our 4.5 million customers and the diverse markets we operate in. It’s critically important to our future success.”

One initiative getting a lot of focus for the company is the “Simplify and Grow” strategy.

“We think about it as an effort to create a culture of continuous improvement,” Turner said. “We look forward, and we think about what is going to drive our business, we see customers’ expectations continuing to change and change at an ever increasing rate and we recognize that we’ve got to be able to change our business to make it easier for customers and bankers to accelerate revenue growth.”

As for the future Regions will continue to make investments in technology and innovation to make banking easier for our customers and associates, Turner said.

“One of our objectives is to take transactions and try to create various ways to deal with those transactions that then free up our bankers to spend more time providing advice, guidance and education to our customers,” he said.

For example, currency counters, or the cash distribution machines, are designed to help free up branch staff to provide advice and guidance for the customers, he said.

“Customers want more convenience, more access and they want it across multiple channels and they want that experience to be equally as good across all those channels,” he said. “Whether they call the call center, use our mobile app, they’re at home using their PC or walk into a branch or use the ATM, they want a great experience from Regions every time they interact with us and every way they interact with us.”