Turner Has A 'Vision'

October 15, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Chris Turner seems to like tackling challenging projects and appears to have both the vision and determination to see them through from start to finish.  

Turner, who recently joined the Wells Fargo team in Grand Rapids, started his career in 1993 with Robert Baird & Co. after earning a finance degree from Aquinas College and an economic degree from Northwood University.

In 1997 he joined McDonald Investments Inc., a part of Midwest banking giant KeyCorp, and was promoted in 2000 to manager in McDonald's Grand Rapids office. Two years later, he was offered the chance to expand his responsibilities in the company's Portland, Ore., office, where he became manager for McDonald's Oregon, Alaska, southwest Washington and Arizona markets.

At the time he took the position, the Portland market was experiencing some difficult challenges. A company official had warned him at the outset that he was going to have his hands full.

"I quickly found out he was absolutely right. But in two years we more than doubled our revenue in that market. That was 2002 through 2004, and they weren't easy years in the market. We were able to go in there and turn that market around."

Today, Oregon is a "tremendous" market for McDonalds and KeyCorp, in his estimation, and the experience of enhancing that market helped broaden his management skills.

Wells Fargo had a "huge, huge" presence in Portland and was one of the financial institutions McDonald Investments competed with on a regular basis, Turner noted.

"I knew a lot of people who were with Wells Fargo out there and spoke extremely highly of the company."

When a friend mentioned that Wells Fargo was expanding into Grand Rapids, Turner said he was interested in talking with the company. Both he and his wife graduated from Forest Hills Central High School and had family in the Grand Rapids area. Besides, Turner was looking for a new challenge, so it seemed a good fit for them, he said. 

"Portland has been named by some as one of the top cities in the country to live in. But no matter how nice of a place you go to, it's just not home. This is home for us. There's a lot of new construction and great things going on in Grand Rapids." 

The challenge at Wells Fargo was not to turn the company around; the challenge was to start and build a complete brokerage business for Wells Fargo in the West Michigan market.

The market here was stable, Turner recalled, and Wells Fargo had a "great" existing team that was developing a start-up and "really putting their stamp on it," he explained.

"You get enough time in the business and confidence in the business and you get some great supporters behind you, and it's always in the back of your mind to go out and start something of your own."

Turner sees his position as regional manager of the brokerage division as encompassing the "best of both worlds," because the Wells Fargo team has one of the largest names in the industry behind it and the company is committed to putting resources on the ground.

What keeps him going is the vision and having a leadership role in all of it, he said.

"The reason you sign up for this kind of challenge in the first place is because you create this vision in your mind of having a great team of people with a great company and eventually building a very large presence in Michigan. That's the vision that will keep us going from point A to point Z. You don't stop until it's done.

"I think a leader has to have a vision. You have to be able to fly at 30,000 feet to be able to maintain that vision and not get yourself caught up in the day-to-day stuff that can really bog you down. What keeps you coming back is that 30,000-foot view again, and every day you just chip away at it."

Turner's two-year goal is to hire at least 10 people for the brokerage division, as well as advisors, analysts, portfolio managers, trust administrators, private banking people and support staff in addition to that. He anticipates the division will grow from its current four to 15 or 20 employees.

"The capabilities we bring to the table are tremendous," he remarked. "That's going to be a real help in bringing in top talent."

"The thing (that) I think is going to help me excel over and above my qualifications is my focus on execution," Turner said.

A lot of CEOs have brilliant game plans and brilliant strategies, yet they're not "hitting it" because they aren't executing the basics, he explained.

"That's why I'm a big driver on execution, not only for myself but for our team. I think that's what is really going to help us to get where we need to be."

Don VanDine, vice president and senior relationship manager for Wells Fargo, said the local office is "just thrilled" to have someone with Turner's experience and caliber in the group.

"We're a very people-oriented business and we feel like we've just got a great person in Chris. We're excited to watch him as he grows his group and they really meet and exceed their potential."    

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