Michael Ward: Cookies, Color Runs and Customer Service
by Phil Neuffer Monitor 100 2023
Michael Ward has developed a thriving leasing operation at Prime Alliance Bank by recruiting and developing top-tier talent and, more importantly, ensuring the bank delivers incredible customer service, particularly to its many broker partners.
Michael Ward, President and CEO, Prime Alliance Bank
Like most banks, Prime Alliance Bank sent an email to provide assurance to customers the week Silicon Valley Bank collapsed. However, Michael Ward, president and CEO of Prime Alliance, went a bit further, including his personal cell phone number and encouraging recipients to reach out with any concerns.
For the next two weeks, Ward’s phone rang constantly, but to him, every conversation was an opportunity to provide the exemplary customer service on which the bank prides itself. Customer service is so important to Ward because he doesn’t consider financing to be the bank’s most important output.
“Our end product is our interaction, our direct interaction with people,” Ward says. “That’s what’s going to make or break the success of this bank.”
Prime Alliance reached a new level of success this year, ascending to the Monitor 100 for the first time with $520.2 million in total assets, good enough for the No. 81 spot in the rankings. As Ward explains, leasing has always been a core focus for the bank, which launched 19 years ago. In the nearly two decades since, Prime Alliance has remained a one-branch bank but one that leases in all 50 states and whose business is nearly 90% leasing thanks to its extensive broker relationships. In fact, when Ward discusses the importance of customer service, he is very much including the brokers with whom Prime Alliance does business.
“We don’t have in-house salespeople that are out there generating the business. We rely upon the strong brokers that are out there in the industry to bring us the transactions,” Ward says. “[Some] of our most important customers are those brokers.”
Ward, who takes the “stumbled into equipment finance” cliché to another level as a former executive for Mrs. Fields Famous Brands and The Color Run, has a passion for creating an empathetic working environment and building teams with only A players — whether they perform at a high level immediately or need some coaching to make the leap — that trust each other.
“I went from selling cookies to throwing that colored powder on them to now being in banking,” Ward says. “You’re building jobs, you’re building security for companies and what that does for individuals and families and even the overall economy. That’s a fun thing to be a little tiny [part] of.”
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