What my move to Phoenix has taught me
John Damiris, senior vice president and commercial banking team lead at UMB Bank in Phoenix, was recently honored as a 40 under 40 winner by the Phoenix Business Journal. John moved to Phoenix in 2005 to build UMB Bank’s presence from the ground up and shares the life lessons he’s learned along the way.
Early in my career, I had the unique opportunity to start something from the ground up. I left Kansas City, where UMB Bank is the number one depositor and commercial lender, to establish UMB in Phoenix alongside two other officers. This move came with a lot of uncertainty as we were essentially working like a startup.
Soon after I arrived in Arizona, the Great Recession hit and there were a lot of changes within the financial services industry. Our small group could have let the pressure take over, but instead, it became an opportunity to implement a new strategy. We were extremely focused on how we were going to brand ourselves in a new market, and how we wanted to go after new business opportunities. Our strategy was to be the top commercial bank in the market through the hiring of experienced officers and supporting them with the resources they need to be successful.
Today, I am proud to say I manage a group of commercial lenders and am one of three officers comprising the Arizona loan credit committee that manages more than $1 billion in assets for the Arizona region.
Create Your Own Path
I was excited to return to Phoenix after graduating from Arizona State University knowing there was a big challenge ahead of me. Launching UMB Bank into a new market was not an easy undertaking, but it gave me the chance to grow professionally and personally. During these transformative years, I had to decide what type of lender and banker I wanted to be. I was able to fully immerse myself in Phoenix’s industrious culture and become a banker people first knew, and then trusted.
Understand the Community
The relationships I have made with our customers and friends are why I choose to live in Arizona. I have found Phoenix to be a merit-based community made up of people who are passionate about being involved and making a real impact. This energy is infectious, and I am proud to be a part of this welcoming atmosphere.
Sit Back, Listen and Collaborate
Find what you are passionate about. Aside from banking, I dedicate my time to supporting several organizations that are important to me. Through my volunteerism, I have learned there is power in networking and being a part of a team because you can learn from people with different backgrounds and ways of thinking. Many times, when business leaders get together, everyone wants to be the first to talk or offer a solution because we are mostly Type-A personalities. I encourage people to sit back and listen. Find people who are different from yourself and learn from them. Instead of being the first person to offer a solution, take advice and counsel, and then formulate your own opinion.
Look to the Future
Arizona is growing at an exponential pace and I’m excited for our future. Historically, our region has been led by commercial real estate development, but recently, we have seen the technology and manufacturing industries prosper. Arizona is extremely well-positioned from a distribution standpoint with its proximity to the border and ports in California. I’m excited to see what our city will look like 10 years from now and even more excited to be a part of that growth.
Since moving to this amazing city nearly 20 years ago, my focus has been on ensuring that I leave it better than I found it and have a positive impact on those around me. I’m humbled and honored to be recognized by the Phoenix Business Journal‡ as a 40 under 40 award winner and look forward to many more years of making a difference in our exceptional community.
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