Griswold: Retail To Banking

September 8, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — When Patti Griswold got into banking in 1993, banks were just starting to adopt a more customer-focused approach as opposed to a focus on operations and transactions. She came into banking with a direct sales and retail sales background, a skill set banks were looking for at the time.

She parlayed her well honed retail skills into a career in banking that eventually led to her present role as vice president of retail banking for Comerica Bank branches in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Branch County.

After graduating from Aquinas with a B.S. degree in business administration and communications, Griswold went to work for Dayton-Hudson in Fort Wayne, Ind., and managed various departments within the department store chain from 1989 to 1993. A promotion brought her to the Hudson’s in Woodland Mall in 1993.

In the early 1990s, banking was in its toddler stage of the sales culture, Griswold recalled, and she was ready for a career change. She joined First of America Bank in 1993 as a sales trainer for its West Michigan affiliates and two years later began managing individual banking centers for the company. When First of America was acquired by National City Bank, Griswold landed her first regional-level role.

She made the move to Comerica in the spring of 2003.

Griswold had continued her professional and managerial training at the Consumer Banker Association’s Graduate School of Retail Management at the University of Virginia. The training involved a three-year commitment.

Tom Chirgwin, former vice president of retail banking for Comerica and now retired, was a mentor to Griswold.

“I tried to role model his passion for his job and his concern for employees, and how he balanced those needs with the needs of business,” she said. Another mentor was Jim Dean of First of America, who gave her encouragement every step of the way, she said.

Today Griswold manages 19 Comerica banking centers in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Branch County. She oversees 130 employees, 15 of whom report directly to her. She describes her job as “fun chaos” and herself as competitive person who’s self-motivated, able to implement a strategy and deliver on a goal.

Name: Patricia K. Griswold
Company: Comerica Bank
Position: Senior Vice President of Retail Banking for Grand Rapids, Lansing and Branch County
Age: 42
Birthplace: Fort Wayne, Ind.
Residence: Spring Lake
Personal: Engaged
Biggest Career Break: Joining Comerica Bank in 2003
Business and Community Involvement: Founding member and board member of West Michigan Inforum and chair of its West Michigan advisory council; Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women board member and facilitator of its Minding Your Own Business program.

According to Griswold, many Comerica bankers in this region have spent 20 years on average with the bank. The average tenure for bank center managers is 15-plus years, she noted. She said she is proud of the high caliber of people who work for the bank. 

“That’s one of the things I love about this job,” she added.

She said the present day banking culture puts the customer at the center of everything: “It’s all about making sure that customers’ financial needs are being met.”

Building banking relationships these days requires people who have the ability to communicate well with clients and ask the questions necessary to come to a clear understanding of their financial goals. It also means having the confidence to ask a client where else he’s banking and what other financial products and services he might have, in order to assess whether there’s any advantage in consolidating his banking services with Comerica, she added.

The last couple of years have been tough going for banks, which hasn’t dampened Griswold’s enthusiasm for banking, but she said she tries to remain cognizant of how economic weakness impacts employees.

Griswold is known in women’s business circles as one of the original 19 founding members of the West Michigan Inforum affiliate, an organization that is near and dear to her heart. The group asked Inforum, which is based in Detroit, for permission to form a West Michigan branch.

Inforum is one of the largest and most prestigious business forums for women in the Midwest, with more that 2,200 members from a broad cross-section of Michigan’s business community. The idea was simply to give women a way to come together and network across industries, Griswold said. Inforum was created 50 years ago for the purpose of creating opportunities for women to lead and succeed, to forge alliances and make connections. Griswold is a 2006 graduate of the Inforum Executive Leadership Program.

In a similar vein, Griswold has been a volunteer for Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women since 1997 and serves as a facilitator of its Minding Your Own Business program, a 15-week entrepreneurial training course. GROW provides training and counseling to women starting their own businesses and also offers them several support services needed to sustain or expand their businesses.

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