When Beth Sippel joined First Commercial Bank (then a division of Synovus Bank) in 2004, it was the sixth-largest bank by market share in Madison County. Today, 18 years later, Synovus is the fourth-largest bank in the county and continuing to grow.
Over those 18 years, Sippel has held roles as sales manager, working in retail banking, small business banking, human resources and marketing. For the past eight years, she has been the bank’s market president.
The banking landscape in Huntsville is competitive but Sippel said Synovus found its niche by focusing on small to medium-size businesses. The bank also provides financial and advisory services to help grow their business.
“Small business owners are the key to our success, but consistency is our strategy for getting there,” Sippel said. “We really built our bank around small business owners: helping them start a business, then grow their business, then transition their business into retirement where we continue to support them through our private wealth banking.
“But we find that when we are consistent in our follow up with customers, consistent in taking care of their financial needs, consistent in providing high-level advisory services and consistent in ensuring they are receiving access to all the aspects of our bank that help them consistently grow, then yes, there are a lot of new banks coming to town and, yes, there is competition. And yet, clients want to work with us because we have helped them be successful and meet all their goals in the future.”
That consistency clearly works for customers and Sippel said there is an aura of consistency among the team members, too.
“If everyone is doing the right activities every day, in their personal life or at work, and they are getting really consistent feedback from their manager that affirms what they are doing in meeting the customer’s needs, then that consistency becomes habit-building and will make them successful too,” she said.
Besides, it is fun.
“It is fun to see the team be successful and to grow their career, their skills, and their confidence,” she said. “And we have a lot of fun taking personality assessments and learning about who we are, what makes us tick, and how we work as a team. By doing that, we can confirm we are a well-rounded team that supports a well-rounded community.”
And everything comes back to community for Sippel. She serves the community thorough volunteering because it allows her to grow outside of the bank, while also giving back.
“We have a responsibility to serve the community, so our bankers are always seeking ways to provide needed services like financial literacy training and serving on boards of directors for other organizations and nonprofits,” Sippel said.
“And it’s the fun part, right?”
She sees the role she and others play out in the community as well as by sitting on boards as “connectors.”
“If you think about it, we’re sitting with clients every day and they are telling us about their hopes and dreams for the future,” Sipple said. “As I hear those things, I start to think, ‘If I connect this person with another person, I know who is interested in or involved in similar activities, that connection takes both of them to the next level and that could be impactful to both of them.”
Sippel was on the board for the Huntsville Botanical Garden, served on the UAH Business School Advisory board, and just finished a term as board chair for Madison Visionary Partners.
MVP focuses specifically on Madison, connecting people who care about projects in Madison, such as raising money to renovate Kid’s Kingdom.
“Again, I acted like a connector to find people in the community that say, ‘Hey I really care about this community, how can I make an impact?’” she said.
Sippel is also a mentor to young women.
Recently, her pastor asked her to mentor a young woman from their church. Sippel connected her to a company in the field she wanted to work in where she was able to get an internship.
“It was such an easy thing for me to do, and it was fun!” she said.
Sippel has mentored through the Huntsville Rotary Club’s STRIVE mentor program that helps increase graduation rates and academic standing. She has also mentored for the WEDC Foundation which encourages women to gain education to benefit themselves and future generations.
“I would say in every situation where I have mentored, I have learned more than the person I was mentoring,” she said. “When you spend time with someone who is not you, it opens your eyes to new experiences.
“I have learned to recognize when I do it really well, but I also sometimes look back on it and realize I wasn’t as impactful as I could have been. Yet, I learned from it so, that next time, I might handle it differently.”
How does she view the banking industry currently and in the future?
“We go through cycles in the economy all the time and we are going through one right now where there is a lot of uncertainty,” she said. “The key is having really strong relationships with clients so we can anticipate needs as we look down the path to the future.”
She said the labor market, not banking is top of mind with everyone she talks to today.
“The labor market is tight and everybody is struggling to find the right people for their team,” she said. “Over the years, I have had a lot of fun connecting people to jobs.
“I taught a career class at my church giving pointers on interviewing but, quite frankly, it’s the opposite, right now. People are looking for people instead of people looking for jobs, but our community is resilient and we will get through it.”
As for the future of her profession, it is definitely digital, but with a big caveat.
“I’m sure people realize they don’t have to go to the bank very often anymore because there are so many ways for customers to serve themselves without going to a bank,” she said. “So, as a bank, we have to offer as many digital options as we can, invest in technology, and make sure we have up-to-date ways for people to bank online and on their phones – that’s a requirement.
“And yet in the space in which we serve our clients, those people need a person, someone to call. Some of our clients have dynamic responsibilities and things are always changing, so they have to have someone they can talk to, and you can’t replace that. You need both to create a win-win for our team members and our client.”
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