Bank of the West

An Interview with Bob Dalrymple, Executive VP of Midwest Region of Bank of the West, Trustee, Business Ethics Alliance (2014)
By Mark Matthews and John Spellerberg, Creighton University MBA students

One of the most unique aspects of being a Creighton MBA student is the opportunity to be involved in the Omaha community.  In the Business, ethics, and society course especially, we students are fortunate enough to spend time around distinguished guests and business professionals on a regular basis.  Week after week this Business, Ethics and Society class is involved in an intelligent discussion with a leader of ethics not only in Omaha, but the Midwest.  Further, we are privileged to be able to branch out and interview additional business leaders on the ethical compass of the city, what drives ethics in business, and how ethics tie to corporate strategy.  The Aiming Higher Interview assignment focuses on ethical lessons from business leaders in the Business Ethics Alliance. 

Mr. Bob Dalrymple is the Executive Vice President of the Midwest Region at Bank of the West.  In 2014, he became a Trustee for the Business Ethics Alliance.  His drive and passion for what he does has allowed him to explore many fields of the banking industry and his experience rivals a small business itself.  When asked about careers, he simply stated, “what’s most important is what makes you excited to go to work in the morning.  Default to what you love to do.”  There is no question that Mr. Dalrymple wouldn't be where he is without an ethical lens and a passion for his job. 

Mr. Dalrymple has a pretty simple view of ethics and what it means to be an ethical professional.  “Do the right thing, treat others the way you want to be treated.”  Such a humble answer makes one wonder why there is any confusion to the topic of ethics in the first place.  There is “absolutely no difference” between personal ethics and ethics in business.  “Ethics is a personal brand,” said Mr. Dalrymple.  Bob mentioned a personal ethics situation that took place on the golf course involving another member.  “Somebody left their wallet on the course, it was a wad of bills.  There was never a thought in my mind that I wasn't going to turn it in.”  In the discussion we also tied ethics back to his daily routine while serving as Executive Vice President. A major portion of Mr. Dalrymple’s job is selling.  When asked how he incorporates ethics into this task he had this to say, “When talking about selling, product pushing is on my short list of no’s.  Why encourage a credit card if they don’t need it?  Especially for twenty-one year olds, there is no need to product push.” 

This guy sounds like somebody I can trust to be responsible for my money. His focus is on providing the best possible service to his customers.  There was an occasion where an elderly brought a deposit to the bank consisting of 5 $500 bills and 20 $1000 bills, both objects in currency of supreme rarity. Instead of allowing the deposit to sit in the bank he instructed this customer to withdraw the bills and seek to gain the true value of their worth.

Bank of the West not only takes care of their customers, but also the community.  He believes it’s vital for a large corporation situated in a community, to give back.  Bank of the West’s employees are mandated to be involved in community activities, although he believes they all would be more than happy to give back without the mandatory policy.  They are also involved in a low-to-moderate income scholarship program for teenagers, a program that enjoys a 95% graduation rate in the area.  Ethics is more than just company-wide, but can impact an entire society. 

Then we asked about the acquisition and ethical ramifications of the previous company he was employed with.  Bank of the West bought Commercial Federal in December of 2005.  “The hard part of acquisitions and mergers is the possibility of a culture clash.  Sometimes people may not be willing to adapt.  That’s just the way of the world, some people will want to change, and some won’t.”  Throughout Dalrymple’s career, he has been involved in seven mergers.  A major part of his job is to be as clear about the mission as possible, that is to clearly communicate the direction the company’s going and why.  Customers are happiest when an entire company is aligned with their mission.  Bank of the West does their best to accommodate the needs of acquired companies, and it shows.  Only 13% of the employees that left Bank of the West went to another financial institution. This due to the loyalty they have to their employees and the investment the put into them. A situation arose where the Davenport, Iowa branch had to be closed.  Rather then write those employees off, under Mr. Dalrymple’s leadership the bank found other positions for those displaced employees with other locations across the state.

Dalrymple not only had an ethical lens, but a knack for putting himself in other’s shoes and making decisions that reflected as such.  In the industry he is in, trust is so important.  He wasn't someone you think you should trust, but one you know you can trust.  He also provided some great insight for us college students as we seek to transition into full-time, professional business careers and how we might tie ethics into that pursuit as well. I’ll never forget one of the quotes Dalrymple left us with.  It speaks towards his character as a business leader and his drive towards making the future of the banking industry the best it can be. 

“You never drive your car with eyes in the rearview mirror, do you?”