We spoke with Joel Falk, regional president of Omaha, about his career path to UMB, how his team adapted to the challenges of the pandemic and what he’s looking forward to in 2022.
What initially interested you in the banking industry, and how did you get started?
I started in banking because I enjoyed learning about and evaluating companies and their financial statements. On a friend’s recommendation, I started as a commercial credit analyst at a large, national bank. This gave me the opportunity to see and learn about different sized companies across various industries.
Additionally, the job was a great way to learn commercial credit and explore the broad service offerings of a large bank. This position is what spurred my passion for working with businesses. Businesses owners are always so excited to discuss their company and that passion was something I really connected to.
When I was hired as regional president of Omaha, I was excited to join the team as UMB had a positive reputation in the community and a unique value proposition for commercial clients. With nearly 10 years in my role, I’ve seen first-hand the impressive growth across the region and UMB overall. In Omaha, we’ve shown considerable success at growing our public finance, commercial lending and commercial card lines of business.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
In my current role, I am responsible for designing and executing strategies to grow UMB Bank in the Omaha region. I lead a team of experienced commercial bankers dedicated to providing creative solutions for businesses located throughout Nebraska.
What I enjoy most about my role is helping businesses and business owners find unique banking solutions that meet their needs. Every business has different needs and challenges, so every day and every situation brings a diverse set of issues.
It feels good to truly be a trusted and valued partner to our clients and while helping them achieve their goals.
I also enjoy working closely with my team. My leadership approach focuses on building trust and respect for one another, which has cultivated a very communicative and driven team.
Our team members are hardworking and can perform at a high level, so I give them the freedom to focus on their goals and offer guidance as needed. This level of trust has created a welcoming atmosphere that makes me look forward to going into the office each day.
What successes are you most proud of?
I am fortunate to have a large and complex industrial distribution company as a client. The company is successful and has grown steadily over the past several years—although their growth has come with some challenges and coaching from our team.
The most gratifying part of the relationship is that they realize UMB has been a great partner for them. The financial decision makers at the company are great to work with and we have a very open, mutually beneficial relationship. The client sees UMB as an advisor in relation to their capital structure, working with them on how best to utilize debt to support their growth.
The pandemic has made the past two years more challenging than most. How have you overcome those challenges?
I would say, and I suspect other bankers would as well, that increased communication with clients has been key. The clients appreciate the personal touches from their business partners and as bankers, we have a responsibility to understand our client’s business trends and challenges.
During the height of the pandemic, we had weekly conversations with our clients to let them know that we were there to help and provide updates on how our team was navigating the changing landscape. In return, our clients kept us in the loop on their own internal changes and challenges so we could better understand how to help them.
It was great to have a two-way street of communication during a time that was challenging for all.
As we look forward through the rest of 2022 and beyond, what opportunities do you see?
UMB has opportunity across all business lines. I have been with the company for almost 10 years, so I’ve seen tremendous improvements in terms of operational efficiencies, technology enhancements and breadth of service offerings.
In 2022, we plan to continue to grow our presence in Omaha through strategic hiring and by deepening our relationships in the community through charitable giving. This plan coupled with our high-touch service and depth of offerings, will help us retain and attract new clients in the market.
What are your personal passions?
My wife and I have become wine enthusiasts. We love learning, sharing and, of course, drinking fine wines and we’re looking forward to another trip to Napa this fall. Additionally, my family really appreciates our lake home by the Platte River near Fremont, Nebraska. Whether we’re boating or riding four-wheelers in the river with water up to your elbows, we always have fun together around the water.
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