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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 27, 2004 17 years ago

Runner-up: Bradley H. Goddard

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Wachovia vice president defies big bank image

Runner-up: Bradley H. Goddard

Wachovia vice president defies big bank image

By Francis X. Gilpin

Associate Editor

Business owners who think that all big banks are just big - and impersonal - should meet Bradley H. Goddard.

Goddard's admirers say the Wachovia Corp. vice president in the mega-bank's Sarasota business-finance department is different.

"Banks waste inordinate amounts of money with advertising to try to get business, but then they make little or no effort to understand the customer and his or her needs," says Warren G. Simonds, director of client relations at Sarasota's Willis A. Smith Construction Inc. "That's where Brad excels."

Simonds should know. He was a banker for 16 years.

"Some pundit once said a banker is a guy 'who will give you an umbrella when the sun is shining and take it away when it rains,'" says Simonds. "Brad understands his business clients and he can be counted on to be both a professional and a friend."

That's not easy to do, working for a bank as huge as Wachovia. The fourth-largest bank in the United States, Wachovia had $471 billion on deposit, as of June 30. Wachovia was third by deposits in the Sarasota-Bradenton market last year, with more than $1 billion. It could move up to second place due to a pending merger with SouthTrust Bank.

Goddard, 45, of Sarasota, is an outstanding commercial banker, says Thomas Ray, his former supervisor dating back to the days of First Union Bank, which acquired Wachovia and assumed its name in 2001. "He was a star in the organization," says Ray, now president of Orion Bank in Naples. "He relates to clients well."

With a title of senior relationship manager, Goddard says his approach is simple: "Shut up and listen. Find out what's important to the person you're talking with."

Goddard agrees there is an impression among many business owners that a big bank is not the place to go for individual attention. So, after dealing with what he estimates are about 11,000 companies over a nearly 24-year banking career, what does Goddard do to counteract the prejudice?

"If somebody doesn't bring it up, I bring it up," says Goddard. "I face it upfront."

Goddard says Wachovia allows him to maintain his relationship with clients even after the closing on a loan. Clients aren't turned over to clerical staff or a junior executive. "They're stuck with me," Goddard says.

Ray says Goddard sometimes worked with First Union/Wachovia's capital markets arm to arrange financing for local businesses that changed hands. "If you're able to represent somebody who is selling or buying their business, you have their trust," says Ray.

Goddard says he and his team participated in three of the largest merger-and-acquisition deals in the Sarasota market since the mid-1990s.

A 1981 graduate of the University of Rochester, Goddard majored in economics and international relations. "I wanted to be a spy," he says.

A job application from the Central Intelligence Agency never quite got filled out. Instead, Goddard joined Chemical Bank. He split time between Rochester and Manhattan before Chemical's merger with Chase Manhattan Bank in 1995.

That same year, Goddard came down to work for SunTrust in Sarasota. In 1997, he moved across the street to First Union.

Ray says Goddard was considered First Union/Wachovia's premier business lender in Florida when they worked together for more than four years. In fact, Goddard was among the top five in the entire First Union/Wachovia network, according to Ray.

The home office in North Carolina noticed. "I think he took one of those trips to Hawaii they give you," says Ray.

Goddard confirms that, but he is prouder of the internal recognition that his deal teams received. Some years, the Goddard team outperformed Wachovia counterparts in major cities like Atlanta and Philadelphia, despite operating in a far smaller market.

"That says a lot about the economy around here that we're all working in," Goddard says.

Outside of the office, Goddard is corporate treasurer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County and also serves on the boards of Florida Studio Theatre and the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, a leading philanthropy in the area.

Within days of Hurricane Charley, Goddard was in Charlotte County with other Wachovia employees to dispense disaster-relief supplies to homeless and jobless victims of the catastrophe.

J. Mack Reid, president and chief executive of the local Boys & Girls Clubs, says his not-for-profit recruited Goddard to its board two years ago. Treating the clubs like a potential borrower, Goddard conducted a thorough background check of the organization, says Reid. Goddard recommended Reid do the same on him.

"He's been a fantastic board member," says Reid. "He's a great advocate for the youth of our community. If there is ever a time when we need something, I know that I can pick up the phone and, if Brad can help, he will."

That goes for Goddard's working hours at Wachovia, too.

"Brad has a unique ability to put himself in the shoes of his client," says Simonds. "Although a lot of businesses like to say they do, they don't."

It is rare for bankers to bother helping clients by matching the business needs of a customer with the products or services of another business to achieve satisfactory solutions, according to Simonds. "Bankers typically play it close to the vest," he says. "It's kind of a secret world."

Not Goddard. "Brad's a unique character," says Simonds.

Simonds says it's a myth that small business owners can only get fair treatment from community bankers. "I've dealt with some of the locals and they've shown no flexibility," says Simonds. "They just want the deposits and to make loans for the twice the collateral. And I understand that. Let's face it, their job is to start a bank and sell it."

With the consolidation wave in banking, Simonds says it's nice to find somebody like Goddard in the profession who hasn't lost his bearings.

"If you're a small, entrepreneurial company and you're happy with your bank, it's frustrating when it gets gobbled up by a bank from up north," says Simonds. "All of a sudden, you're dealing with Joe Bag-of-Doughnuts from Peoria."

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