Grand River is flowing into its next level

May 20, 2012
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Patrick Gill took over the reins at Grand River Bank a few months ago, and he told the Business Journal he has settled in nicely at the community bank headquartered in Grandville.

The bank’s holding company, Grand River Commerce Inc., brought Gill aboard in February to replace its first president and CEO, Dave Blossey, who was instrumental in getting Grand River up and running.

Bank Chairman Robert Bilotti said one reason Gill was selected was because of his background in the industry. “His lengthy track record of success, strong team-building skills and knowledge of West Michigan make him well-qualified for this key leadership position,” Bilotti said.

“With a passion for community banking, a thorough understanding of our market and a demonstrated commitment to relationship-building, Pat is uniquely positioned to help our bank capitalize upon our many opportunities.”

Gill has roughly four decades of banking experience, with about half of those in West Michigan. Prior to joining Grand River, he was president and CEO of OAK Financial Corp. and its subsidiary Byron Bank. He played a key role in transitioning Byron Bank into Chemical Bank, and admitted he has enjoyed his honeymoon period, as he called it, at Grand River.

“I was very pleased to join Grand River and get back into the business and be, hopefully, active again in the West Michigan community, and be part of a team that is making a difference,” said Gill, who had to sit on the sidelines awhile due to the non-compete agreement he signed after negotiating the sale of Byron Bank.

Gill said he was itching to get back into the business to which he has devoted his entire career. “A hiatus and I did not agree well. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this business, and I did miss it when I was not in it. I never intended not to go back to the banking industry,” he said.

“I wasn’t out of it completely,” he added. “I did a fair amount of consulting during that time period with other bankers outside of my geographically prohibited territory. But it’s not the same as getting up every day, coming in and being part of a team that’s trying to make something happen on a longer-term basis. It’s much different when you’re not in that environment.”

Gill said he and others in the industry like what they do because they are capable of having a positive impact on the individuals and businesses they work with and serve. He felt he could continue to do that by joining Grand River. “In an organization this size, it’s really easy to see whether or not you’re making that difference on a daily basis, and that’s really appealing to me,” he said of the young bank that turned three years old in April.

“The other thing that was appealing to me is that, consistent with the culture that we created at Byron Bank, this is a very entrepreneurial sort of organization. So we’re really a bunch of entrepreneurs that are bankers, and that is not always the case in our business.”

Gill made it clear that the entrepreneurial spirit Grand River embraces doesn’t mean it is reckless in its dealings. Instead, he pointed out adopting that sensitivity allows the bank to better connect with its clientele.

“We’re clearly in a position to understand the nature of the activities that our customers are involved in, and being entrepreneurial and being able to make a difference are things that are really important to me. And among the opportunities that I had, I thought Grand River represented the best opportunity to make that difference and to use whatever skills I may have left in my career to do some good.”

Gill said he also chose Grand River because of its personnel. “One of the other things that was very appealing was the quality of the team that has been assembled here. We really have outsized talent relative to the size and the age of this bank, and in our business it’s always a thrill to work with really talented people.”

Prior to joining OAK Financial, Gill served as president and CEO of Pavilion Bancorp Inc. and the Bank of Lenawee, which has since become the First Federal Bank of the Midwest in Adrian. Before that he was chairman of the Bank of Washtenaw, an Ann Arbor-based bank formed by Pavilion.

Grand River board members felt those positions, among others, were perfectly suited for their bank.

“Grand River Bank’s community focus, local decision-making and skilled relationship management are fulfilling our vision of serving small- and mid-sized West Michigan businesses,” said Bilotti.

Gill said the bank’s independent culture is the key to ensuring he and the others who work with him can do good things in the community on behalf of its customers. He said when the culture is done right, the result manifests itself.

“As a publicly traded company, that feeds into doing good things on behalf of our shareholders, clearly on behalf of the people whom we do business with as a company: our strategic partners, our vendors, our community members with whom we interact. And that’s really a gratifying thing,” he said.

Gill said it’s not about any single person taking the bank — or any company, for that matter — to the next level. He emphasized it will be the team that takes Grand River from its infancy into its young adulthood.

He feels now is the time for Grand River to tweak its focus and energy away from some of the initial start-up activities it has gone through over the past three years and begin to move toward a process of growing the business and maturing it.

“That’s really what Bob was referring to when he said, ‘Take the bank to the next level.’ It’s really a matter of coming out of our start-up phase, building on its success, and then strategically pointing the company in the direction that we think is appropriate,” he said.

“I think our primary focus has been, and will continue to be, on our commercial banking and treasury management activities and, clearly, now is our opportunity to continue to add to the talent pool here. It’s an opportunity for us to continue to build relationships. Nobody banks with us because of our brick on the building or our names on the accounts, and in many cases not because of the interest rates. They bank with us because they have relationships with the people inside. They bank with us because they trust us.”

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