Heading a Bank That Pays Attention

You could say that banking is in Raul Valdes-Fauli’s blood. He knew from an early age that he would pursue a career in the industry given that much of his family was in this line of work. After nearly two decades of executive experience at large banks, however, he never thought he’d become president and CEO of a boutique bank like Professional Bank. But in August of 2011 Valdes-Fauli did just that, joining the small Florida-based financial institution specializing in concierge-style banking for executives, entrepreneurs, and other professionals. Professional Bank has more than $160 million in assets, and Valdes-Fauli is determined to keep business growing by making sure he and his team deliver superior service.

“I think there’s so much opportunity for a bank of our culture and of our size. People want their bank to pay to attention to them, to listen to them," Raul Valdes-Fauli says. PHOTO: Fox-Mar Studios

I’d spent my whole career at bigger banks. I was president of the South Florida market at CNLBank for three and a half years. Prior to that, I was the South Florida market president for Colonial Bank. I was with that bank for about 10 years. There are a lot of lessons you can learn at a bigger shop that apply to a small boutique community bank—lessons on managing a team, on building a team, on building a culture. I feel lucky to have had some of those learning experiences.

Providing concierge, high-level service is critical for us. Every morning that I come in and turn on the lights, I know that bigger banks around the country have cheaper cost of funds than I do. They can offer lower rates than I do. So we recognize that service is the only way we’re going to make it. I think that great service starts with making each of our employees a shareholder in the bank. That way, they view going the extra mile in a whole different light than someone who is just approaching this as another job. We strive to make it easy, convenient, and even pleasurable to bank with us.  It’s a lot of little things but they add up to meaningful service.

I think there’s so much opportunity for a bank of our culture and of our size. There’s a lot of dissatisfaction between big banks and their clients. People want their bank to pay attention to them, to listen to them. If they need to tell a story about a certain deal, they want a bank that’s going to sit there and listen to them and try to get creative and get something done versus at bigger banks where some matrix dictates what you can and can’t do. That’s not what we’re about in any way, shape, or form.

Part of me never saw myself at a shop this size, but I’m so glad I made the move. The banking industry has changed so dramatically in the last few years and I felt like I needed a new challenge and I needed to reinvent myself, but I didn’t want to get out of banking. So I joined Professional Bank and it’s been the best move I’ve ever made. I’m having fun getting out of bed and coming in to the bank every day for the first time in too long.

It sounds cliché but it’s important to get involved in your community. I’m involved in some really interesting and exciting organizations such as the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. The most rewarding organization I’ve been involved with was Big Brothers Big Sisters. I’m still close to my little brother today and it felt great to chair that organization [for] about 10 years ago. I don’t want to sound overly altruistic either. [Through] getting involved in some of these groups, I’ve met some really interesting people with whom I’ve made some deals. It’s good for business.

I joined the Peace Corps at the perfect time in life, just after I graduated from Lake Forest College in 1990. I wanted to do something productive but wasn’t ready to jump into banking just yet. I served in a little town in the mountains in western Honduras for two and half years and it was a wonderful experience. It made me realize how fortunate I was to have the family that I do and to have had the upbringing that they were able to give me. I also realized that to not work hard and succeed would be throwing away everything that I was fortunate enough to have received.