Dialed in

By: 
Dec. 16, 2016

It only took David Call a year to help lead Fifth Third Bank to a top market position among regional banks in the Naples-Fort Myers area. And that was in the recession, in 2010.

Recently promoted to Florida president of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third, Call now has bigger goals that encompass the entire state, short of the Panhandle. One is to do what he did in Southwest Florida, and help grow Fifth Third's market share. Another goal: Maintain and improve the bank's employee culture and customer service targets. And he has to balance both objectives.

“We aren't the biggest bank in Florida, and we don't want to be,” says Call. “We want to be the best.”

Fifth Third has about $9.5 billion in deposits in Florida, with 1,200 employees spread through some 150 branches. Call was promoted in October, and he recently relocated to the Tampa area from Naples, where he had been Fifth Third South Florida market president. In Tampa, Call replaces popular area executive Brian Lamb, who had overseen the Fifth Third market in the north half of the state.

A Business Observer 40 under 40 winner in 2012, Lamb chaired and sat on numerous boards and groups in town, including the Tampa Bay Partnership, University of South Florida, Enterprise Florida and the Florida Council of 100. “I've got some big shoes to fill,” Call says.

Lamb accepted a newly created Fifth Third top executive position in Cincinnati, chief corporate responsibility and reputation officer. The role is essentially a proactive approach to prevent a Wells Fargo-like scandal in customer service and unethical sales tactics.

“Our industry has taken a step backward,” says Call, without addressing the Wells Fargo issues specifically, “and we need to take a stand against that kind of behavior.”

Call says in his new role, much like he did in Southwest Florida, he will invest a significant amount of time and resources to improving customer service, in training and grading employees. “You have to set yourself apart somehow,” says Call. “I believe you have to put customer service at the center of everything you do.”

A native of Huntington, W.Va., Call joined Fifth Third in 2002. He ran the bank's Ohio Valley unit for several years, and he led Fifth Third's integration of the First Charter bank acquisition in 2008. In 2009, the bank moved Call to Naples, at first to help stabilize the bank's portfolio in the region, which was scarred by the real estate collapse.

Part of the issues stemmed from bad timing. Fifth Third made its big push into Florida at the peak of the market in 2005, when it bought Naples-based First National Bankshares of Florida, a $5.3 billion bank. Fifth Third inherited some bad loans Call helped work through.

On a corporatewide scale, Fifth Third is also working through some issues. A top 15 bank nationwide with $140.7 billion in assets, Fifth Third's profitability has slipped in recent quarters. In response, the bank recently launched Project North Star, a series of initiatives designed to cut expenses and clean up the balance sheet.

In Florida, for business loans, Call says the bank targets middle market companies with up to $500 million in annual revenue, particularly in health care and retail. His biggest challenge, he says, is to make sure customers and could-be customers get the bank's service-first message. “I think we are doing well in Florida,” Call says. “But we need to show clients we are the best of the best.”


What's in a name?
Fifth Third Bank's unusual name dates back to the Bank of the Ohio Valley, which opened in Cincinnati in 1858. Third National Bank acquired Bank of the Ohio Valley in 1871.

The Queen City National Bank of Cincinnati, meanwhile, was formed in 1882. That bank soon changed its name to Fifth National Bank.

In 1908, both banks — Third National and Fifth National — merged. The new name: Fifth Third National Bank of Cincinnati.