Perspective is everything. Stepping outside the box and looking at something from another angle reveals a whole new view of the same old situation.
Three years ago Rancho Santa Fe National Bank did just that.
The 18-year-old, $200 million community bank with headquarters in Rancho Santa Fe broadened its perspective by establishing a business council, and as a result, obtained a new view of its business and its customers.
“It’s been like an out-of-body experience,” said bank President James Boyce. “We get to see ourselves as our customers see us, not just as we see ourselves.”
Rancho Santa Fe National’s Business Council was established in 1997 and teamed a diverse group of successful business persons with the bank’s senior management group.
– Original Members
Were Bank Customers
All of the original 14 members were bank customers, and included owners and executives of locally based companies serving the health care, automotive, real estate development and construction, escrow and title, retail and insurance industries.
Each agreed to serve a one-year term, with the opportunity to serve additional terms as needed. Nearly all of the original members remain today.
“It’s been a marvelous experience,” said Robert Graul, owner of Rancho Santa Fe Pharmacy and Spirit Shop. Graul is one of the original members of the council, and a Rancho Santa Fe National customer as well.
“This is not a typical business relationship. It’s very open. As a customer, I gain insight to the bank’s business practices, and get to share the changes and trends in my field.”
Gary Burrows, owner of Torrey Pines Insurance and one of the council’s original members, said council members keep the bank abreast of what’s going on in the members’ respective industries.
– Members Refer
“We meet quarterly to compare notes about the local economies and businesses, and I have been able to refer my clients to the bank,” Burrows said.
Those business referrals are a welcomed by-product of the group.
“The council members have identified strong prospective customers and assisted the bank to successfully acquire new business,” Boyce said. “Because of their personal stature and credibility, they are invaluable to us in bringing in new bank customers.”
Business councils are not a new concept. Often referred to as corporate support groups, members are volunteers, not employees. Traditionally, business referrals by the council are the biggest benefit to the corporation.
But Rancho Santa Fe National gets more than new business from its group. The real benefit is to the customers through the council’s perspective on the bank’s products and services, as well as a view of each member’s respective industry’s needs and market trends. Customers also profit from the vision, support and goodwill the council brings.
“In effect, we have an extended consulting team willing to share their expertise,” Boyce said. “For a handshake and a free meal, they’ve allowed themselves to be guinea pigs for new projects, offering insight during the planning process so our customers get a product that is complete and user-friendly. We are very fortunate to have them.”
– Council An Aid In
Boyce said the council’s input was invaluable when earlier this year the bank introduced Internet banking, converting its old DOS-based system to a Windows format.
“We avoided the nightmares a change like that can create,” Boyce said.
Strong working relationships as well as friendships have formed between members and bankers.
Aside from Graul and Burrows, current council members include James Ashcraft, Ashcraft Real Estate; JoAnn Lockard, vice president, Chicago Title/Ranch and Coast Escrow; Lou Milone, president, AJ USA, Inc.; Thomas Puckett, chairman, HPC Puckett & Co., Inc.; Paul Thomas, investor and developer; and Ted Weeks, president, TFW Construction Development, Inc.
In June, two new members who will join the council are Michael Hoerr, president, Grangetto’s Farm & Garden Supply Co.; and James Blackburn, president, Vernon Tool Co.
Rancho Santa Fe National also has offices in the Golden Triangle, Escondido and the Carlsbad area.