Abby Wendel, president of consumer banking, was recently named to the 2021 class of Women Who Mean Business by the Kansas City Business Journal for her outstanding achievements at UMB Bank and in the community. We spoke with Abby to learn more about her passion for banking, dedication to Kansas City and what it means to be a woman in business.
Tell us more about your role as the president of consumer banking at UMB?
I’m responsible for the consumer banking division, which includes mortgage, retail and private banking. I take a collaborative approach to designing and executing on strategy for the business. Fundamentally, my focus is on customer acquisition and customer experience. In order to achieve the high standards we set for ourselves in terms of customer acquisition and experience, I ensure we have sound operational processes and functionalities at branches and our other channels.
What challenges have you faced in your professional life, and how have you overcome them?
The transition from leading a team of staff professionals to becoming the head of a line of business presented an exciting challenge, especially since my banking experience for the first 22 years of my career had been largely in professional staff roles. While I didn’t “grow up” in consumer banking, my background at the Federal Reserve provided me with tools to be successful in the banking world, and my prior roles at UMB afforded me a front-row seat to learn about the business. Working at a corporate level is very different from directly managing the business, however, and I was excited for the opportunity ahead of me and yet mindful of where challenges may lie.
I overcome challenges and uncertainties by having an open line of communication with leaders and decision-makers and being deliberate in not making assumptions about my own personal development opportunities. Earlier in my career, I built credibility by achieving success in each of my roles and earning leaders’ influence and trust. I also focused on developing keen self- and organizational-awareness. To me, success is not about always being right; rather, it’s about rolling up your sleeves and doing the work of making progress on initiatives collaboratively while maintaining strong relationships and using influence to achieve outcomes.
What is a business accomplishment you are most proud of?
Earning the role of president of consumer banking is something I’m extremely proud of, but I truly believe the best is yet to come. Reinvigorating consumer banking at UMB is an exciting challenge – but also an opportunity because we have significant growth potential, and I believe realizing that potential will be my most outstanding business accomplishment (at least in the near-term). The competitive landscape for consumer banking is fierce, but we see opportunity for differentiation because of our reputation as a solid, hometown bank in Kansas City.
What contributions have you made to the Kansas City community?
Of all the causes I’m involved in, the dearest to my heart is the arts. I believe that a vibrant arts community adds great value to the city and helps exemplify the human story for others to experience. I’m proud to have taken on leadership positions on various boards related to the arts and am particularly glad to have provided age and gender diversity within these groups. By being an arts community leader and supporting development efforts, I’ve exposed my peers and other broader audiences to the beauty and power that the arts can provide.
Two roles in particular have made me a champion of the Kansas City arts community. One was serving as the vice chair of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre and the other was co-chairing the Kansas City Arts Institute Art and Design Auction with my husband in 2017. It was the highest grossing fundraiser for the school, resulting in more than $500,000 in donations.
What contributions have you made to empower women in business?
My focus is on being an authentic, transparent leader and having one-on-one relationships that help empower women to be themselves. Through my leadership and mentorship, I strive to show that there’s not necessarily any one mold to fit into to be successful – if you are your true self and are good at your job, you’ll be valued for who you are and what you contribute. My intentional approach to being personable, engaging and transparent, I believe, has helped make me a role model and a mentor, and create great strides forward for women both at UMB and in our community.
To learn more about Abby Wendel and this prestigious recognition, check out this feature article in the Kansas City Business Journal‡.
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