Van Dyke Staying Fifth Third Course

July 16, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Michelle Van Dyke assumed leadership of Fifth Third Bank’s West Michigan affiliate when she was promoted to president last month.

She replaced Kevin Kabat, who moved up to the position of chairman of Fifth Third Bank, a Michigan banking corporation.

The West Michigan affiliate has $9.5 billion in assets and $6.9 billion in deposits, and Van Dyke now oversees more than 1,400 employees that serve 430,000 West Michigan customers through 137 full-service banking centers across 20 counties.

Don’t expect huge changes under Van Dyke’s watch. Her key strategy at this time, she said, is to continue the bank’s strong momentum.

She said she believes the bank has a very sound marketing strategy for the Grand Rapids market right now and plans to stick with that strategy. 

With a total contribution of more than $2 million last year alone, Fifth Third is the No. 1 charitable giver among financial institutions in the West Michigan area, and that, too, will continue, she said.

Ditto for Fifth Third’s strategy of constantly looking for new banking center opportunities.

Van Dyke anticipates the bank’s strong performance will continue, as well.

“What I think is a key opportunity for us — and I would consider it among both our short and long-term goals — is continuing to hire the best talent in the marketplace,” Van Dyke said. “I think Fifth Third is a draw for top talent and we’ve been very successful at bringing people here into the Fifth Third world.

“With the best talent, we can continue to grow our market share, continue to grow the number of households we serve and do it well. We take customer service very seriously and have an emphasis on exceeding our customers’ expectations.”

Van Dyke joined Fifth Third’s predecessor, Old Kent Bank, in 1985, when she was fresh out of college.

She has held a variety of positions over her nearly 20 years with the bank, including management positions in mortgage operations and community banking.

She recalls a couple of turning points in her career. 

In 1990, she was the first to undertake Old Kent’s Accelerated Career Track program, a two-year training program designed to groom future middle and senior managers.

Under the program, selected participants worked six months in four different areas of the bank — mortgage, corporate accounting, marketing and credit — and were assigned a mentor in each area.

As part of the program, Van Dyke attended and made presentations at board meetings and senior level management meetings.

She launched Old Kent’s debit card product during her six-month stint in the marketing department.

“I really got exposure not only to areas of the bank I had not been exposed to before, but also to the senior management of the bank,” she recalled.

“You really broadened your knowledge and experience base very, very quickly. I think it benefited me tremendously. I always look back at the ACT program as really being a turning point for me.

“I think my ability to learn businesses very, very quickly and my leadership skills could apply to any line of business.”

For instance, she learned the leasing business from scratch in about four days and ran the bank’s leasing company in Chicago for six weeks while the company searched for a new president. 

Van Dyke noted that over the last three years in particular, Kabat — also a member of the Old Kent alumni — served as a mentor. He helped her understand the different parts of the business beyond retail and imparted the knowledge to help her prepare for the position of regional president, she said. 

Prior to her promotion, Van Dyke was executive vice president of retail administration for the regional affiliate.

Fifth Third credits her with growing the bank’s savings and small business deposits by $660 million. Loan sales per banking center almost tripled during her tenure in retail administration, according to the bank.

“I think one of the things that people will learn about me pretty quickly is that I am a results-oriented person; I love to set goals and then exceed those goals.”

“I’m honored to be a role model for women in the community, but also really thrilled to be a role model for any employee that works hard and gets results.

“I think the best story of all is that our succession planning and talent management really works, and when it works in an organization, it’s fun.”

Van Dyke serves on the board of directors for the YWCA and D.A. Blodgett Services for Children and Families.    

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