Phillips Embraces Community

July 19, 2002
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HOLLAND — In banking, the relationship with your customer is everything.

As he gets to know his customers better, Kevin Phillips wants them to know that their relationship is for the long-term. He plans to stay around for some time as head of National City’s corporate banking operations in the Holland-Zeeland market.

“I have no intention of being one of those guys who packs up every two years and goes to a new town. I’m just not one of those guys,” Phillips said.

Phillips, the father of two young children who also coaches Little League, came to Holland last fall as community president for National City. He oversees corporate banking at National City’s five banking offices in the Holland-Zeeland market, as well as the bank’s community and charitable involvement.

A 15-year veteran of the banking industry who previously worked as a vice president for corporate banking for National City in Kalamazoo, Phillips wants to better connect the bank with the community. His No. 1 goal is to build market share in a fiercely competitive banking market that includes more than a dozen organizations fighting for business.

Doing so, he said, requires a consistency in National City’s local leadership in order for business customers to get to know who they’re dealing with and build a long-term business relationship so the bank can develop a strong understanding of the customer’s business and industry.

“We need to develop more personality in the community,” said Phillips, who spends the bulk of his time working directly with customers. He likens the role a bank plays in the operation of a business to that of a “trusted financial adviser.”

“We need to show people we have common interests and we want to help the businesses and consumers in town,” he said. “We have excellent people and excellent services to offer. It’s just a matter of being positive and being there.”

A native of Niles, the 37-year-old Phillips started toward a career in banking while working on a degree in finance from Western Michigan University. Banking, he said, offered him a career where he’s involved in building the business of his employer, as well as helping to build other companies and the communities where the bank does business.

“You’re so involved in so much and you see so many things. To me, it never gets old,” said Phillips, who’s also drawn to the industry by the pivotal role banks can play in a community.

“A bank, often times, is kind of the cog in the wheel. When you look at the positive impact a bank can have on a community, it’s fun,” he said. “It’s worked out great so far.”

Phillips, a licensed pilot who once considered a career in commercial aviation, began his career following his 1987 graduation from Western Michigan University when he joined a bank in South Bend, Ind., working first in credit management and then accounting.

He joined the former First of America Corp. in Kalamazoo in 1994 as credit relationship manager and then moved into corporate banking. National City acquired First of America in 1997.

When the community banking president position for the Holland-Zeeland region came open in late 2001, and at the urging of a former co-worker, Kevin Walker, Phillips decided it was time to make a move.

The position provided a chance to lead an organization in a growing market that is not too big, yet is large enough that it offers plenty of professional opportunity and challenges and enables Phillips to get a good understanding of market dynamics and his own effectiveness.

“It’s a community that you can get your arms around. If you’re in Detroit or Chicago, how do you feel you have a good feel for what’s going on?” Phillips said.

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