Talking Points: Phyllis Campbell


Phyllis CampbellWhen she took over the local operations of US Bank, Phyllis Campbell became the first woman CEO of a Washington bank. Starting in 2003, she then led the Seattle Foundation through a dramatic expansion in the organization's activities. This year she has been tapped to build JPMorgan Chase's Pacific Northwest business on the foundations of Washington Mutual.

Childhood: My mother was a Japanese-American from Hawaii who went to Spokane for college. My father was interned during World War II and later ran a dry cleaning business in Spokane. I got to handle every part of the business from customer service to bookkeeping.

Career: There weren't a lot of women in management [when she graduated from Washington State University], so I really had to sell myself. To get the management training position at Old National [in Spokane], I called every day for two months until they got tired of me and hired me. It was a lesson in persistence. I did everything there from being teller to operations management.

Keys to success: Make sure you are an organization that takes care of your customer and community. The more you give, the more you get back. You have to ensure that you really understand your customers and markets and are underwriting properly. You also have to ensure that you are diversifying risk, your customer base. 

WaMu and Chase: Washington Mutual lost sight of some of those principles. I got my first student loan from WaMu. I had a lot of pride in the fact that a local institution had become a national powerhouse. It was hard for me to witness when things went down so quickly.

I felt it was important that the good parts of WaMu were carried forward. It was a challenge and opportunity to bring and add new businesses from JPMorgan Chase. [JPMorgan] appointed me because they know of my civic involvement. They wanted to make sure the bank did the right thing by our communities.

Growth and lending: WaMu was almost all consumer banking. We're keeping that. We did not close any branches, and we kept all branch employees. Going forward, the main areas of expansion are commercial lending and wealth management. We expect to hire 30-40 new people in Seattle. We will serve everything from businesses with as little as $1 million in revenues to the large channel. We're also hiring bankers to handle people in the $5 million and up range. ... I'm a little cautious on the lending side. Community banks have one of the higher percentages of troubled loans. They are a major source of business lending, and that has essentially dried up. We can't take up all that slack. Our growth will be the result of doing the right thing and doing it responsibly.

Civic role: Personally, I like to serve in education to assure that there is access for kids who can't afford to go to college.... If I hadn't gotten a scholarship to go to WSU, I wouldn't have been able to go to college. But my main job is to make sure we collectively do a good job in serving on boards. Our charitable giving will be the same this year as [WaMu's] in 2008, about $2.65 million.

Legacy:  I have always had a passion for building community. I really believe a bank can be an important piece to that. If we look back after five years, my sign of success would be if I could say that we have a stronger community because Chase was part of that.


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