Huntington Adopts New Attitude Focus

June 13, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Over the next several months, a “new” Huntington National Bank with a new attitude is expected to emerge.

Under a restructuring plan outlined in July by Thomas Hoaglin, Huntington Bancshares Inc. president and CEO since February and its newly named chairman, Huntington is divesting of its Florida operations and consolidating 43 banking offices in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia

Huntington’s new strategy adopts a community bank orientation and pushes decision- making down to the local level. The restructured company will hone in on customer service and focus resources on growing its core Midwest franchise.

Huntington has been going through a huge cultural change under Hoaglin’s leadership, said Jane Ashley, senior vice president and director of regional marketing. Ashley is transferring here from Huntington’s Orlando office along with newly appointed president of Huntington National Bank-Michigan, James Dunlap.

“Community banking is about attitude, not size,” Dunlap said. “We’re a big organization, but you will not see us act that way. We’ll take our business seriously but not ourselves.

“You’ll see, I hope, a very friendly, open and interactive group of associates who work not just for our company but for the communities they serve. I think our customers will find a more friendly, and certainly a more open and caring environment.”

Dunlap joined Huntington in 1978 and has been primarily involved in executive field operations He has held virtually every banking position — from running retail banking operations to integrating newly acquired banks into the corporate culture.

For 17 years he was in charge of Huntington’s franchise operations in northwest Ohio, and he has spent the past five years running Huntington’s Florida franchise. Since his appointment in mid-July, he has been splitting his time between Florida and Michigan, overseeing both regions simultaneously.

Huntington expects to wrap up the sale of its Florida branch network within the next three weeks and Dunlap will officially report for duty here Sept. 4.

Customers can expect to see a different Huntington National and local managers that have significant authority to make decisions within their communities, he said.

“I believe in guardrails. Giving people direction and a destination is all they need. You let them go as fast as they can down that road,” Dunlap remarked. “It’s a wide road, and it’s my job to create it and pave it. After that, it’s my job to get out of the way and let them go. That’s how we’re going to work things.”

The first change people will see is increased visibility of the Huntington name and image.

“It will be out there, it will prolific, it will be active, it will be involved, and we will do what we say we’re going to do,” Dunlap stressed.

“I believe strongly in community involvement and my personal community commitments will be substantial. We will give back very, very extensively, whether it’s philanthropically, financially or my personal time commitment.”

Huntington operates about 130 banking offices and 192 ATMs with some $4.3 billion in deposits in Michigan. The company has total assets of $28 billion and more than 500 offices and a network of more than 1,400 ATMs in Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia. It competes in seven major metropolitan markets, and 85 percent of its deposits are concentrated in Michigan.

Sixteen of Huntington’s 130 Michigan banking offices will be eliminated in the consolidation, but no jobs will be cut. The company has yet to announce which branches are targeted for closure.

The number of closures may seem significant, Dunlap pointed out, because it’s been a long time since Huntington actually looked at its distribution system to see where branches overlap and where new branch investment opportunities might exist.

“What I don’t want to do is leave a community without an option. So if we happen to be closing a facility that’s within a mile or two of another facility, I may want to do something like open it as a community center, or sell it back to the community or underwrite some sort of financing for that facility so they can create a boys and girls club. There are lots of options.”

Huntington will also be building several new banking branches, starting with one in Grand Rapids, but Dunlap said he hasn’t decided yet “which corner” it will be on.

“We’re going to immediately be taking some of those consolidation savings and putting them into new brick and mortar in communities that we don’t currently have business in.”

Dunlap is a native of Findlay, Ohio, and a graduate of Bowling Green State University. He lived in Muskegon for three years during the mid-1970s. He says he’s well suited to the Midwest where “people’s handshakes and people’s promises mean something.”

Dunlap will bring to Grand Rapids his wife of 25 years, Kathy, and their 19-year old son, the younger of their two children.

He wanted the position in Michigan because Michigan is the biggest piece of Huntington and the bellwether of the company’s future. In his new position, he can have a direct and profound influence on that future, he said.

In Michigan, Huntington has some repairs to do on previous conversions, and he thinks the bank’s reputation needs some shoring up.

“Your reputation is the only thing you take to your grave,” Dunlap said. “I will re-establish our reputation and what that is about is making declarations, keeping promises, showing up and participating, and being true to the things that you profess to be about.”

According to the Orlando Business Journal, Huntington’s exit from the Florida market “will leave a large philanthropic void for local nonprofits to fill” as the bank has been a prominent contributor to Central Florida civic and charitable organizations.

Both Dunlap and Ashley have been recognized for their volunteer fund-raising activities on behalf of such organizations as the American Cancer Society and the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute Foundation.

Dunlap’s departure leaves a “leadership vacuum” as well, the Orlando Business Journal noted. Dunlap was the 2001 chairman of Heart of Florida United Way, was chairman of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau and was planning to take over as chairman of the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce next year.

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