Van Dyke Leads Fifth Third
GRAND RAPIDS — Michelle Van Dyke, president of Fifth Third Bank-Michigan, was just 8 years old when she settled on a career in banking.
"In little girl's terms, I wanted to 'own' the bank, and that's what I told my parents. Of course they laughed and thought that was really cute, but here I am," Van Dyke reflected. "Everything I've done since I was 8 years old was toward the goal of 'owning' a bank."
Van Dyke is very goal-oriented, to be sure. She earned a bachelor's degree in business economics, and in her senior year at Calvin College she interned as an operations analyst at Fifth Third's predecessor, Old Kent Bank. Van Dyke entered Old Kent's branch management training program five months later. It was the start of a long relationship.
Van Dyke was appointed branch manager of Old Kent's Cascade banking center in 1987.
"I had been a banking center manager for about four and a half years, and my boss asked me what I wanted to do five years from now," Van Dyke recalled. "I told him I really wanted his job. He communicated that up the chain, and I became the first person to be selected for Old Kent's Accelerated Career Track Program, which was a rotational training program for eventual middle and senior managers."
That was a pivotal point in her career, Van Dyke said. In the accelerated program, she did six-to-eight-month rotations in four to five different departments and had an assigned mentor. The program was designed to expand participants' learning across all of the bank's departments, she said. Just when she would become comfortable doing her job, she'd get pulled and moved to a different department and start all over again learning a new line of business, meeting new people and figuring out what was what.
"I think that prepared me best for this position because it not only taught me about every division of the bank — what we do in those departments and how we make money there, in those departments — but it also taught me a lot about flexibility and adaptability."
Van Dyke went on to become assistant vice president of Old Kent mortgage banking. She's proud of the fact that she helped grow the mortgage division from a small bank mortgage department into a large, national mortgage company.
"I think I proved myself to be someone who can grow a business — like I did with the mortgage company — and maintain a business, which I did for many, many years in the bank branches," she said. Van Dyke also was given an opportunity to turn around a pretty bad situation in the bank's leasing company, and within six weeks she had everything stabilized and back on track.
"When I was successful at that, management knew I was ready to go on and be a senior manager."
In 1993, Van Dyke relocated to Illinois where she served as senior vice president and manager of the Illinois mortgage region. She said she accepted the position with the intention of returning to Grand Rapids at some point.
"There is nothing like West Michigan for a place to raise a family, for feeling settled and for being a part of the community," Van Dyke said. "This is truly where we belong."
After a series of upward moves, Van Dyke was named president of Old Kent Bank of Illinois. When Fifth Third Bank acquired Old Kent in 2001, she returned to West Michigan to serve as executive vice president of retail banking. As Van Dyke sees it, the way that acquisition went was "unparalleled" in the industry, in terms of the growth Fifth Third was able to achieve during the acquisition.
"Fifth Third offered so much more in terms of products and better pricing, and tools for us to manage the business," she said. "I just thought it was a huge opportunity for me and, quite honestly, it was."
Van Dyke was appointed as president and CEO of Fifth Third of Western Michigan in June 2004 and named regional president for Michigan in July 2005.
On an average day, she spends a lot of time in meetings and in community activities, but most of her day is spent at local headquarters, generally guiding the direction of the bank.
Van Dyke has a special passion for children and children's causes. Her community involvement includes serving as chair of the 2007 Strong Kids campaign for the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.
"I do a lot of that because that's what's in my heart, and I love doing it," she remarked. "My position at the bank just gives me a great platform from which to work and be able to do that, but personally I would do this even if it wasn't part of my professional responsibility."
The oldest of Van Dyke's four children just started high school and her youngest just started kindergarten, so she and husband Mike, a stay-at-home dad, run the gamut of after-school functions and sporting events. Van Dyke reserves the weekends strictly for her family: She always has and always intends to. She gets everything done that she needs to during the week. She never misses her children's school functions; their schedule of activities goes on the calendar first, and she and her husband work everything else around it.
"That's how I find balance — just by making sure I have my priorities straight," Van Dyke said.