Q&A: Jim Heinz, Executive Vice President, Head of U.S. Corporate Banking, Wells Fargo

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Describe your career path.

I've been in banking for 24 yrs, and with Wells Fargo for the past nine years. I received an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in my career and focused on banking because I saw it as a way to see a broad view of how business gets done. I've continued to learn and take on new challenges that have come my way and found an opportunity to flourish in corporate banking.

Describe your role at Wells Fargo.

I'm the head of U.S. corporate banking. We cover large companies, those with $500 million in revenues. I oversee 10 offices in the U.S. that cover those large corporations from a relationship standpoint. We deliver the bank to those companies. Large companies need a surprising number of services and products that banks have to offer. These range from process-oriented services to strategic ones. My job is to understand the needs of these companies and customize our offering to meet them. I work to provide a real relationship-oriented model that focuses on understanding client needs and finding value in the solutions that the bank can deliver to them.

What is a typical day like for you?

My job is to anticipate what our clients needs will be and then develop a course of action for meeting them. We never know what the headlines will be and how that changes our actions. I spend about 60 percent of my time traveling, visiting with clients. You can't do this job effectively in the office. You need to be in front of clients, working collaboratively on deals. I'm also often in meetings with our internal teams to work out the details--connecting internal partners to bring custom solutions together. We'll then get in front of a client and pitch and deliver our ideas and solutions to them. I spend a lot of time preparing for meetings and planning for what clients require and then when we win a deal the focus is on execution. Today, the largest companies have needs that cannot be met by off the shelf solutions. They have customized needs, so I spend time listening to clients in order to understand their particular needs and craft solutions that can help Wells Fargo match up needs with services.

Any advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in corporate banking?

The people who are successful in corporate banking bring a number of things to the table. You must have the capacity to think and help drive and make things happen. We can teach analytical skills, but it's hard to teach people to take initiative and have a desire to make things happen. These are skills that people must have developed along the way as they are hard to acquire once you've entered the work place. I encourage people to take courses that require writing or more specifically, business writing. Public speaking is also valuable and helps you to be comfortable with communicating on a daily basis. I also recommend people take courses that can spark an interest such as physics or history - anything that prevents you from becoming too narrowly focused on business curriculum. It's important to get involved in activities. We look for demonstrated leadership skills, which you can get through part-time work, volunteering, or athletics. We like to see something that shows you have the drive to make things happen--things that may not show up on a résumé. The person who spends their summer launching a child care business can be just as impressive as someone who does an internship at a big name European bank because it shows drive and initiative. Finally, people can really help themselves by being willing to relocate, specifically to places other than business centers such as Chicago and San Francisco. Being flexible and moving to a city such as Omaha, Minneapolis, Houston, can really help you to advance in your career.

What are the most important skills for a career in corporate banking?

You must be able to listen and anticipate client needs. There is so much available information today that it takes a critical eye to be able to distill it for a client and determine what really matters. It takes practice and skill to be effective at doing so. We need people with self-drive and who enjoy coming to work every day. It sounds simple, but many of the junior candidates struggle to demonstrate this.

Could you recommend publications to read, or other things someone can do to break into corporate banking?

The easiest, most effective way to stay current is to read The Wall Street Journal every day. Our largest customers are covered by the newspaper every day. Reading The Wall Street Journal enables you to have good conversations with recruiters and to be conversant about what is going on in the corporate banking arena.

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