Idaho Business Review took the opportunity to chat with KeyBank’s new state market president, Scott Schlange. He has been in the finance industry since 2001, starting as a teller, at a previous firm, then finding different places within the bank that he could be successful. He is very proud of KeyBank’s recent charitable giving in Idaho:
2021 Community Benefits Plan Results (since 2017):
“For a bank our size, I feel like that’s a real investment and value in the community here,” Schlange said. “(To use) a boxing metaphor, pound for pound (packs) a good punch for Idaho.”
Yes, Schlange has been a boxer too.
“In this position,” he added, “I get to help steer (our charitable giving) and deliver it, sometimes. I feel blessed.”
The following Q & A has been edited for length and clarity.
My hope is to continue to grow the brand; to increase our visibility, for lack of better term kind of proselytize how we come to market, how we help our clients, how we serve our community; that’s the role as I see it: helping to champion those different voices that we currently have within our organization, but bring that to our community in a different way.
I think it looks a little like what I’ve been doing, which has been being really active in the community; it’s finding organizations where we as a company can support them or I can bring in team members to join and participate in things. I think to a degree it means helping the career paths of the employees I have, helping them continue to grow in their careers and learn and get better. And it means helping our clients be even more satisfied and deeper with the bank, I.e., being their bank, not a bank, but their bank.
I like helping people. I went to school to be a teacher. I enjoyed the social aspect of helping people and helping kids. And I have found that through my career, I’m able to help peers, help employees. I still apply the teaching components that I’ve learned in my college years to this. And from a business standpoint, which is really where I’ve gravitated for the last part of my career, in the same way that I think with a child you help give them tools and skills and then as they achieve things in the future, you get to say, “Okay, I helped that person.” In the business community, it’s similar where you provide financing, but that financing means so much more: growth of their business; new employees; a building that’s brand new, that makes the community look better. The developmental cycle that you get to help influence feels for me like a legacy.
The economy that we’re in doesn’t allow for some global tome to say it’s one thing because the economy is affecting different industries differently. There have been economies and recessions where everybody was affected negatively. But that hasn’t proven in this economy to be true. I try to individualize advice to the degree possible.
In all cases, economies are always changing, so I always think it’s beneficial to be growth minded. And then be pragmatic about what your costs and expenses and challenges will be, but then create a plan for it. I think the only thing you can do wrong right now is not have a vision, or a plan that you’re projecting or trying to hit. Same thing with our personal lives.
I think it’s important to stay close to your clients. Make sure that you’re asking what their needs are; that you’re trying to be proactive to meet needs. This is an economy where I think you have to be close and be thoughtful about people.
Get your discipline down. I worry that sometimes people want to move up when they haven’t worked out what they’re supposed to know currently. I think there’s a value and sticking with a skill set until you have mastery, I’m not sure that that’s so popular anymore. I have found when you’ve hit mastery or you’ve gotten to a place where you have at least have control of what you’re doing, usually the next opportunity or promotion comes to you, you don’t have to go looking for it; when you do a good job, people talk about it.
Philanthropically, we’re starting to look at opportunities for next year. This is a time of year that I look forward to having community partner meetings; we start to go to events and kind of figure out where needs are; needs change in a community, so every year, you have to reevaluate what’s out there. If I was to show you my calendar right now, there’s a lot of opportunities for me to meet with people and figure out what our needs are.
On the business side, I think a lot of people expect the economy to be tougher next year. I don’t pretend to be an economist or Nostradamus, so I don’t know about that. But I am optimistic that Key is well positioned to grow in the market that’s coming. And I think we have made stable investments and good credit decisions so that we can grow in an economy like this.
What I hope it looks like is that we’re available; that we’re seeking them out. I look at what we do as a partnership. I think sometimes we’ll look at our industry as a commodity or transactional, but within the client base that we have, it’s very partnership.
In the LMI, that’s a category that’s being hampered right now with inflation, with costs increasing. The ALICE population — (asset limited, income constrained, employed) families that are a paycheck away from an event that could be really disruptive — I think that’s an area of society, not just Idaho, that is going to have more challenges.
From a business standpoint, I still think there’s a ton of demand for Idaho; there’s a lot of growth opportunity. What I hope doesn’t happen is that people overcorrect and don’t want to continue to grow because they get worried about what the future might look like. But again, it’s hard for me to tell somebody don’t do that; you have to plan for yourself. But I hope that we all are continuing to make investments in the economy, we’re all continuing to want to grow and that doesn’t pause because the interest rates change or because inflation is going up or there was an election or something.
I think we as a bank are always trying to meet our clients’ needs no matter what the economy is doing. We’re always ready to meet people’s needs. I think we’re well positioned independent of the economy to continue to do that. I’m really confident in the people that we have in our organization, that all of us are in lockstep trying to grow, trying to meet our customers’ needs. As a bank, you are a partner in the community. You are a partner to the individual that you’re helping. I think everybody looks at that as a mandate that they have. So, I’m really proud of the people that we have that you would interact with, that will be out there to meet these needs.