A Conversation with Richard Davis About Listening, Learning and Leading

One sentence on LinkedIn sparked today’s post.

Yes, a comment shared by a fellow W&L alum, Melissa Sawyer, inspired me. She noted:

Much attention is being paid to the well-orchestrated CEO transitions at Merck and Amazon this week, which reinforce the important role that thoughtful succession planning and good governance play in corporate America.

A partner in the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, I interviewed Melissa as part of our Looking Ahead series in 2019. Since meeting her, I continue to find her perspectives on governance and regulatory issues timely — and spot on.

So when I saw her take on Kenneth Frazier’s and Jeff Bezos’ career decisions this morning, my mind immediately went to a conversation I had with the former CEO of U.S. Bank about his well orchestrated succession plan.

Filmed in advance of our exclusive Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquiredcontent pop-up,” Richard Davis provided valuable insight into sharing intelligence to build others up. He also explained the steps he took to position his successor, Andy Cecere, for success. Rather than edit my conversation down to just that clip, here is the full conversation between Richard (now President & CEO, Make-A-Wish Foundation of America), and me.

We start by talking about culture, purposes and values (1:21). Next, how industry leaders can inspire the societies and communities they serve (5:06). We talked about laying the foundation for a well received transition (8:20) before exploring the equation IQ+EQ+CQ (12:22). Finally, how companies become places that employees want to work for (15:49).


*Another dot to connect? Our Editor-at-Large, Jack Milligan, talked with the Senior Chairman of Melissa’s law firm, Rodgin Cohen, as part of this digital program. The two explored the heightened cybersecurity threats facing banks today, his outlook for bank M&A in 2021 and how regulation could change under the Biden Administration. For those with access to Inspired By Acquire or Be Acquired’s exclusive digital content, take a look at An Interview with Rodgin Cohen.

In advance of Washington & Lee’s annual Entrepreneurship Summit

Good morning from the campus of the 9th oldest university in the United States: Washington & Lee. Yes, I am back in Lexington, VA to speak at my alma mater’s 3rd annual Entrepreneurship Summit. So in lieu of my traditional Friday post on banking, today’s column highlights three points (specific to social media) that I will expand upon in a few hours.


I am fortunate to share today’s stage with a number of successful fellow Generals.  I love this school, and thought to share the presentation I put together for this two-day event (see: W&L 2014 Presentation). As you will see — and maybe hear — I’ve broken it into three parts that all relate to leveraging social media in a small, growing and profitable business:

  1. You can’t manage what you can’t measure — with a look at “the stats” we use at Bank Director to gauge progress and success;
  2. A juxtaposition of JPMorgan Chase’s #AskJPM fail with TD Bank’s wildly popular Automated Thank You Machine; and
  3. Inspiration from our recent FinTech day at the NASDAQ MarketSite and a conversation I had with BNY Mellon’s head of innovation about Staying Relevant While Standing Out.

If you are a student at W&L, I hope you will pay close attention to the final slide in this shared presentation. It speaks to the internship opportunities we have for interested and qualified applicants looking for a paid position in Nashville next summer.

Aloha Friday!

Creating a Social Business

I am back in Lexington, Virginia today to speak at Washington & Lee’s 2nd Annual Entrepreneurship Summit.  I love it here and am very excited to share my thoughts on “Leveraging Social Media in New Ventures” later today.  While my company, Bank Director, isn’t a “new” play in the traditional sense, I am eager to share what I have learned since I graduated from W&L in ’99.  So, in lieu of my traditional focus on banking, today’s post highlights three points I’ll expand upon in a few hours.

W&L - BD - Social Media cover slide.001

(1) Let me start by sharing the presentation I put together: W&L – BD – Social Media.  As some might know, we began to “re-imagine” our then-20 year old company in September of 2010 upon the sale of our sister company, Corporate Board Member, to the NYSE.  Building a new reputation upon an established brand reflects three tactics I’d picked up in business school, seen applied by technologists at my old firm (Computech) and had reinforced by bank CEOs and Chairmen at our many events.  First, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.  Second, “fail fast” doesn’t always apply, but slow + steady doesn’t necessarily win the race either.  Finally, be open, interested and ready to adopt new practices or strategies while relying on your team to shout things up or down.

(2) We talk a lot about “community building” within Bank Director.  As we focus on issues fundamental to a bank’s CEO, senior leadership team, chairman and independent directors, we are constantly thinking about building strong + lasting relationships with these leaders across the U.S.  Admittedly, we embraced social media pretty quickly — figuring out the best uses of LinkedIn and Twitter — while we designed our digital strategy.  By participating in, and not always driving the, conversations through such channels, we identified various trends and opportunities that made their way into our conferences, research, etc.  Nothing groundbreaking here, but it does surprise me when people ignore the classic marketing adage “know your customer and give them what they want.”

(3) In a sense, you can look at Bank Director as an example of company that is “passionate” about connecting people through shared experiences.  So too are younger ventures like DC-based SocialRadar and Boston-based EverTrue.  I choose to highlight these two companies in my presentation as they share this same commitment.  If you’re not familiar with SocialRadar, it looks to combine your smartphone’s location with your social network – thereby “allowing you to walk into a room and already be aware of the people around you and how you are connected to them.”  EverTrue, started by a football teammate of my brother at Brown, offers colleges and universities “alumni networking platforms” that create stronger communities through an interactive mobile directory and better data from LinkedIn and Facebook.  Two up-and-coming companies that fit nicely with the title of today’s post.

Aloha Friday!

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