Esprit de corps in dedication to core values

Esprit de corps in dedication to core values


Accountability. Communication. Continuous Improvement.
Inclusion. Passion. Service. Teamwork.

Accountability. Communication. Continuous Improvement.
Inclusion. Passion. Service. Teamwork.

Core values like these can be internalized and practiced, felt in the marrow of an organization’s culture … or they can be empty words displayed on a wall.

When Steve Steinour became Huntington CEO in 2009, feelings about core values lay somewhere in between.

“I think there were different levels of awareness of those words,” Steinour said. “Service was very strong, but accountability was not. The early view was that we wanted to evolve the culture.

“But the company had a lot to work with,” he added. “Really great in the community, really strong customer service, people cared for each other. So we had intangible assets to work with, but we felt there was an opportunity to be clearer about what we were trying to accomplish.”

Huntington continued working through the worst of the economic downturn.

“As we set a strategic plan … it gave us a moment to be different, to distinguish our path forward. And, frankly, to the board’s credit, we made some very significant investments in things that were very important but not necessarily as obvious during the throes of 2009.”

That summer, Steinour’s team began working toward a plan to evolve the culture. The task involved work and hard metrics. One goal was boosting market share and wallet share in checking accounts for businesses and consumer households.

Rebranding followed. The bank’s signature color, font, signs, tagline and branch layouts were updated. Along with the “Welcome” slogan, Huntington launched a “free the pens” campaign, replacing the ubiquitous “chained” pens found in banks nationwide with readily available green Huntington pens for customers to keep.

“Taken individually, each of these changes might have been a ‘so what,’” Steinour said. “But in aggregate, it became a rallying moment for us.”

Free pens were well and good, but a greater gift to customers soon followed as “fair play banking” launched. During countless town hall sessions, Steinour had heard loud and clear that colleagues were spending uncomfortable amounts of time talking with customers about overdraft fees. These customers needed a break, not a fine. So, in summer 2009, Huntington introduced 24-Hour Grace®, which gave customers an extra day to address overdrafts.

Industry analysts initially panned the idea.

“Nobody had done it,” Steinour said. “Why would you want to give up revenue? This was as close to anarchy as anyone came during that time. And yet, we felt it helped us create distinction.”

“We were becoming a ‘category of one’ among banks,” he added. “It let us be audacious, seizing the moment in terms of going in contrarian directions.”

More contrarian moves followed. Huntington added jobs, extended building leases, created a low-income housing market, doubled down on auto lending and created simple Asterisk-Free Checking®, while other banks pulled back. Huntington’s actions resonated; the bank grew.

Suddenly, the mission and vision felt not merely aspirational, but earned. The values were not just listed, but lived. The bank broadened and further codified its values, adding inclusion in 2011 and continuous improvement in 2013. In July 2015, Steinour asked board member Kathleen Hayes Ransier to spearhead the creation of the Community Development Committee, providing oversight of Huntington’s commitment to diversity and inclusion—including its many affinity groups supporting women, minorities, and military and LGBT communities—as well as promoting the bank’s “mission of local involvement and leadership in the communities where Huntington is located and where its employees work.”1

Continuous improvement has come to epitomize Huntington’s approach. The worst of the downturn is far in the rearview mirror, but much work remains.

After 150 years, Huntington’s codified core values speak to a bank, and a company culture that doesn’t stay still — they’re always looking to evolve.

Copy of DSC_0217 - new teller shot for video - Taylor

Huntington colleagues live the bank’s core values every day at their individual branches. Photo Credit: Huntington- Taylor Gaspar.