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Welcome to the third edition of Accrued: After Hours 🎙️! This weekly newsletter will provide you a short recap and the main takeaways of each episode from LoanPro’s Accrued podcast series on Fintech Confidential.

Hosted by Tedd Huff and LoanPro’s CMO, Colton Pond, Accrued explores fintech through the lens of lending with insightful conversations from experts and leaders across the industry.

Listen to the Accrued episodes on the following platforms:

Today’s newsletter will cover season 1, episode 3: Hubris Kills Banks: The Critical Balance between Ambition and Humility in Banking Success w/ Brent Beardall.

In this episode, Tedd and Colton talk with Brent Beardall, President and CEO of WaFd Bank, about how Brent has developed his leadership style and his insights into the future of banking and lending as the president of a digital-first bank.

Here’s what went down

Before diving straight into banking specific topics, Tedd and Colton apply what they’ve learned from the previous episode with John Maxfield and ask Brent to reflect on his personal experiences that have shaped who he is today.

Personal Journey and Leadership Style

Brent shares two personal stories: one concerning his father’s death when he was just 15 years old and the other recounting his survival from a tragic plane crash in 2023 where he lost his friend.

Both of these defining life experiences have taught Brent some important life lessons that have shaped his leadership style and his overall outlook on life.

Long story short? Brent is passionate about what he does, and he empowers his team to share that same level of passion and love what they do at WaFd. He believes that the real key to culture is making a difference and ensuring that your employees truly care about the mission and purpose of the bank.

“If I’m going to challenge everybody to love what they do and make a difference, I have to empower them to make that difference.”

Brent Beardall

WaFd has been making some big moves in the past 2 years with their Vision 2025 initiative that will move the regional bank to be digital-centric. To make this shift, Brent instills confidence in his team to “fail small, fail quickly” and recognize that it’s okay to fail. The most important thing is to not let the failures keep you from continuing to think outside of the box and innovate.

Advice for regional banks

Brent goes on to share his advice for regional banks on how to stay relevant in the industry today. His main point is a similar adage to John Maxfield’s advice for bankers: learn from historic bank failures. Hubris, Brent recounts, is a common theme that he’s observed from these past failures.

“One of the things we are missing in our society today is constructive disagreement. Let’s be able to disagree. At the end of the day, we all need to rally and get on the same page and I need to be humble enough to admit when I’m wrong because there should be times when I’m wrong. That is what I think is part of making a difference here at the bank.”

Brent Beardall

Brent advises that regional banks deliver products to their customers that make them go “Wow!” and that these products don’t necessarily need to be super complicated. With regional banks being smaller, they have the advantage of building their own stuff and taking risks. As banks work to create simple, personalized experiences from the get go, improving them and making them better can follow after.

Understanding the market and the people

Brent describes the challenges that WaFd has faced in the lending industry and how they’re working to overcome them, such as the lack of a cloud-native architecture, understanding the customers needs, and the overall lack of availability due to repayments slowing down. AI is something that bankers can use to address these concerns, but Brent advises them to use it cautiously with the hopes that there will be improvements with it in the future.

At the end of the day, it’s the relationship with the customers that matters. Fostering authentic banking-customer relationships can be done seamlessly through automation, and Brent believes there are many opportunities for lending when we treat each customer individually instead of putting them all in a box.

What can we take away from these experts?

❤️ You have to be passionate about what you do. The “secret sauce” of WaFd’s success, according to Brent, is the passion that he and his team shares about driving forward outcomes that help their customers to be served. To quote Brent, “Love what you do and make a difference.”

💬 Avoid hubris, embrace disagreements. You don’t want to surround yourself with people that always praise you. As a leader, be empowered to have constructive disagreements, especially in the banking world.

📊 Use technology to become customer-centric. Banks have the most data on a customer and with the right tools, that data can provide a holistic view of the customer that will allow banks to move forward with personalized experiences.

Spencer McWilliams

Product Marketing Specialist