At work with Larry Magnesen

Efma feature

13 January 2020

Larry Magnesen, Fifth Third Bank’s Corporate Communications Director, spoke with Efma’s Boris Plantier about his career path in America and what it takes to succeed not just in financial services, but in any industry.

Tell me a little about your background.

I’ve been in banking 38 years. I graduated from Kellogg at Northwestern University in 1981 with an M.M. (MBA) in Marketing and Finance. As part of that program, I studied at ESSEC just outside of Paris. My career includes Citibank, Bank One (Chase), and Fifth Third Bank, a large regional bank. I’ve been on both the line and the staff side, and I think that doing both greatly increases your effectiveness. I have managed a network of 300 branches, a mortgage origination business, and a small business unit, but most of my career has been in Marketing, Corporate Communications and Reputation Risk Management.

What does your workplace look like?

I split my time between the Loop in downtown Chicago and a suburban headquarters near O’Hare Airport. My office downtown is highly collaborative with an open design and our executive space is shared with Fifth Third’s innovation group. In the suburbs, the layout is more traditional. Both spaces are well designed and help foster interaction between teams.

Could you describe your usual working day?

I arrive about 7AM and join a PR call at 7:30 with other regions. It is rare that there are isolated, regional media stories now. In a digital world, anything can become viral. Most of the day, I work with teams on major initiatives and community affairs. The city of Chicago faces some major challenges and as a community partner, we are involved in finding solutions. If you build a stronger community, you build a stronger bank. Throughout the day, I respond to media inquiries.

What is your favorite food?

I really love couscous, preferably in Paris. I have a favorite place in the Marais and another one just north of the Luxembourg Gardens.

What do you do when you need a break from work?

I am very big on walking. While at work, I walk up and down eight flights of stairs three times a day and I am on the treadmill every night. Recently I turned 60 and backpacked the first 200km of the Camino de Santiago over six days. It was a trial run for the full 800km when I retire.

How do you build a successful team?

Hire people smarter than you are, people who are different than you are, and try not to get in their way. Make sure everyone knows what the goal is and agree on what success looks like. Acknowledge individual and team accomplishments along the way. Listen more than you speak.

There is a saying that we learn more from failure than success. Tell me about one of your failures and what you have learned from it.

Back in the late 1980’s, when I was at one of the largest banks in the US, we needed to be more rigorous in examining loans that were sent to us by mortgage brokers. You have a whole different level of risk when you are not dealing directly with the customer. Unfortunately, the entire industry had to learn that lesson again in 2007 and 2008, on a bigger scale. We also collectively learned that residential home values can go down as well as up. That seems obvious now.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to succeed in financial services?

I would give the same advice for any industry: when you are given an assignment, do more than is asked of you. A good employee accomplishes what is requested, comprehensively and on time. A great employee thinks of important aspects that were not part of the original assignment, and addresses those as well.

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Keywords : Workforce management

Geography : USA