On the door to Barb Godin’s 19th floor office in the Regions Harbert Plaza is an oversized cardboard playing card.
On it is the queen of diamonds, labeled “Queen of Credit” — a gift from her staff this month.
Godin, the chief credit officer for Regions Financial Corp., stepped into the role of overseeing the bank’s loan portfolio about a year ago. It’s a job held mostly by men, she said, explaining: “We’re still a relatively rare breed.”
Godin just landed a spot on American Banker magazine’s “25 Women to Watch” as part of its annual look at the most influential female executives in banking and finance.
Before joining Birmingham’s AmSouth in 2003, Godin worked at Cleveland-based KeyCorp Bank, after spending the first part of her 40-year career at banks in Canada, where she grew up.
Q. What have you learned from your previous jobs in risk management that you’ve applied as chief credit officer?
You’ve got to understand not only the risk you’re taking today but the risk you could take tomorrow, and so forth. Every credit decision you’re making there is an inherent risk that you clearly need to understand, you need to price for, and the fact that the economy doesn’t stand still. You need to think about that too: Where is the economy heading?
Q. What do you think of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and how has it changed your job?
It’s developing. They’re trying to find their feet on exactly which issues they’re going to address first. We think that at the end of the day they’ll be helpful to consumers.
There are things that they’re going to do that our consumers will look back and say, “This is a great thing that we had the CFPB in place.”
For ourselves, it’s an additional level of regulation that we need to think about, address, and make sure we work closely with them. They can be our allies.
Q. How do the Canadian and American banking industries differ?
There are five major Canadian banks and they go coast to coast. People think there is not a lot of competition in Canada. There’s a significant amount of competition, it’s just different than it is in the U.S.
In Canada, there’s a bank on every corner and they’re competing on the same set of products and services, et cetera. And the big differentiator is customer service. That is a great lesson that Regions as well has seen, and we’ve done exceedingly well at that …
Q. While working as a teller while in an executive role at Scotiabank, what did you learn?
It taught me that the brains don’t all reside at head office — that what the head office group thought was very helpful to our customers wasn’t necessarily very helpful, that there were products and services that we were missing and/or not delivering on that we needed to spend more time around.
Also, it really helped me on the paperwork side. The paperwork we asked our branches to fill out on very mundane things — their time was not well spent there. It was better spent facing off with our customers versus filling out pieces of paper. Also, it taught me that our customers were just like me. They were looking for products, looking for services, looking for help and assistance. They were no different and wanted to be treated like I wanted to be treated.
Q. How do you think managing risk has changed in banking over the past five years?
With the economic head winds that we have, you can’t just think about the future as being the next 12 or 24 months. You really have to think a lot further ahead about where the economy is going, what interest rates are going to do.
The changing economic landscape is an example. Five years ago, if you were unemployed, you would have insurance that would cover you for no more than 52 weeks. Now it’s up to 99 weeks and government’s talking about pushing that out. So that’s helpful to our customers, it’s a safety net. But at the same time, it changed the risk….
The other piece is risk management has taught us all about the concentration levels. You don’t want to be too concentrated in your the products or the geographies that you lend in.