Link To Guest Website:

Title: “Operating A Family-Run Bank & Charting A Path Through The New Normal”
Guest: Jay Tuli – Leader Bank
Interviewers: Jeffrey Davis – MAGE LLC & Evan Macedo – Sapers & Wallack / FEI Boston

Click here to read the transcript

Jeffrey (0s):
But I’m going to let you introduce our next interviewee someone, you know, very well.

Evan (6s):
Absolutely. Well, our next interviewee, we have Jay Tuli here, President of Leader Bank. Welcome Jay. Oh, you’re a you’re on mute.

Jay (20s):
Evan. Jeff, how are you?

Jeffrey (22s):
Great to see you again.

Jay (24s):
Good to see you.

Evan (25s):
I know at Jay’s one of our returning guests and we always love to have him back on. So Jay, to kind of get things kicked to get things kicked off. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what leader bank does and I guess more so what makes leader bank a little bit different than all the other banks out there?

Jay (43s):
Sure. Happy to. So a little bit about leader bank. We were founded in 2002 and we have a little bit of a family business element in it that my father started the bank from scratch in 2002. So we are one of the youngest, Boston area banks. And we were started as a startup and I’ve been here about 15 years and we’ve grown from the original 6 million in capital that was needed to start a bank to now we’re about two and a half billion in assets. We have almost 400 employees. And as far as what we do, you know, we do a lot of traditional banking things.

Jay (1m 25s):
We take deposits, we make loans, but I would say where we really differentiate is we’re one of the largest home mortgage lenders in the state. We are in fact, the largest bank, a mortgage lender in the state. We have a lot of customized business banking solutions for businesses who keep their deposits with us. And we, we are quite an active commercial real estate lender.

Evan (1m 51s):
Well, that’s a, that’s quite a bit to get started with over here. And I know, oh, sorry.

Jeffrey (1m 58s):
Well, and Jay, I just want to say it’s great. It’s very refreshing to see a family owned business in the banking industry, especially with all the consolidation going on in new England, you must be, you must be feeling that you’re standing alone in the room right now.

Jay (2m 14s):
Yeah. You know, I love when there’s consolidation, there’s always an abundance of opportunities and the banking industry is one with a lot of consolidation.

Jeffrey (2m 25s):
Good. So Evan, I’m going to let you go first. I know you’re always quick to have a question. Yeah,

Evan (2m 31s):
Absolutely. Jeff, I wanted to go back. You talk about the family business for a minute. You know, I know that you’re doing it with your father. I know that you’re currently the president of the bank, but did you start as the president or can you tell us a little bit about where you started at the bank and how you’ve kind of grown throughout the years? Maybe what your key factors of success were to kind of get to where you are now?

Jay (2m 55s):
Yeah, sure. I mean, when I started again, 15 years ago, at that time we had about maybe 20 employees, I was working in investment banking. So I worked at JP Morgan for a while and I’ve worked for a smaller firm in Boston and I got tired of, of the long hours. And so, you know, my dad was saying, Hey, I need a little help. Why don’t you join me? And if it works great, if it doesn’t, we can always get another job. So I came in right at the bottom, I was doing a little bit of marketing stuff. I was a loan officer at the bank back then we had two loan officers of which I was one and I wasn’t particularly good at it.

Jay (3m 36s):
So in the beginning I realized as a young person coming in, my source of differentiation had to be out-working. So I came in early and I left, you know, 8:00 PM. I mean, I was a single guy back then that that was easier for me to do so I could just put in long hours, I could get more, you know, I didn’t know anything. So all I had was just pure brute effort. And over the years, you know, you just, you just start to learn more and you start to get acclimated with the business. You start to have a couple of successes, the existing employees start to realize that, okay, this is somebody more than just the, you know, the CEO’s son.

Jay (4m 22s):
And they start to see you for you rather than you being a family member. And then as time continues and you start to grow businesses. I mean, there was one point where I had like hired everybody at the bank. So when you’re hiring new people, they’re, they’re not questioning anything. You know, it’s just the way things are. And so the family dynamic became less and less a piece of it. We were just, you know, father and son in the bank, but we were a bank. And, and so that, that became less of an issue, but it it’s been a joy to work with my father. I mean, I don’t think a lot of people have the opportunity to say that, but I think we’ve created a really good working relationship.

Jeffrey (5m 3s):
You know, I come out of a family business. My, my wife is at a family business. So we’re family business, surreal experiences. And I’ve consulted mostly to family businesses for the last 30 years. And I, I like to take a high road with you since you’ve been the president. Have you seen situations where you sort of say to yourself, wow, I’m more like my father than I thought I was.

Jay (5m 28s):
Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think the, you know, in the, in the beginning I was always trying to push new ideas, you know, push for change, push for let’s think about this radically different. And as I’ve kind of evolved business, now, president of other people are trying to do that to me. Right. They’re pushing for new ideas. They’re pushing until now I’m wearing a hat that he was wearing. We have to like, kind of think of it in a different lens of how many, how much is that going to cost, which the reputational risk, all those types of things. So, yeah.

Jay (6m 8s):
I start to see some of those earlier conversations that we had decades ago, you know, come back to me now.

Evan (6m 15s):
Great. And Jay, I mean, with all that being said, I wanted to kind of talk about some of the initiatives that you’ve done last year and this year. Cause I know you are, you have ideas in your staff has lots of fantastic ideas as well. Do you want to talk to us about what you’ve done over the past year and maybe what you’re looking to do as the next year or so continues to proceed on?

Jay (6m 39s):
Yeah, sure. I mean, and the, I would say probably it’s changed in the last five years. Like the kind of key strategic initiatives. If I go back five years ago, we really were focused on product differentiation. What can we build in the bank that allows our product to differentiate from other banks? So I would say that was more like engineering of products and how we can be different in the last couple of years, as we’ve grown so much, it’s really been about efficiency. What can we do to scale and be much more efficient and automate things because we’re just not enough humans. You can throw at certain problems like PPP loans and that happened, phone’s ringing off the hook and all this stuff, you can’t throw enough bodies at it.

Jay (7m 21s):
You need to start thinking about automating stuff like that. And this year in the next couple of years, we really shifting now that we have some good products, we have some good automation, much more brand awareness and marketing, and that’s different for me because for the longest time I always put that on the side. That’s something big companies do. That’s something big companies worry about brands and stuff like that. But now I can really see that we increase our brand awareness. We create that connection with customers. I do really believe our business is going to substantially grow. So I’ve been really starting to learn about that.

Jeffrey (7m 59s):
I support that clearly. That’s something I’ve believed in since my early days at, as a madman at Doyle Dane Bernbach. And that is that I’m a big fan of organizational personality and that people like to affiliate with something that they understand. And so I think you’re right, but that’s part of the evolution of building a business. I know you saw it as a developmental process and I would agree it’s part of the development of any organization. What are some of the biggest challenges, you know, as we’re now starting to go massless again and changing our organizations again, we’re always going through this change. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing, going into the next 18 months?

Jay (8m 43s):
Yeah, I mean, I think post COVID from workforce perspective, there’s challenges and there’s opportunity. So the challenges are, what are you going to do with all your commercial space? I mean, we operated the last year, a hundred remote productivity went up and we grew more than we’ve grown in years. And so it’s hard to justify to employees like the need to come back. So I think we’re probably have a hybrid model. I mean, we’ll never be the same, you know, we’ll have some people that never have to come back left. Some people that can come back, they need to come back once in a while and then we’ll have a smaller segment of people that always need to be, you know, like branches, for example, the plus side of it is that we’ve now started to say, okay, well, if that’s the case, do we really have to just limit our recruiting to the greater Boston area?

Jay (9m 35s):
Wages are higher. There’s limited workforce. Why can’t we hire in Virginia? Why can’t we hire in Florida? Why can’t we, you know? And so we’ve been doing that. We’ve been expanding the geographical pool for workforce and that’s been really great. The other thing about it is then you have to think about like, okay, how do you hire people and train them and onboard them in a completely virtual format without them thinking that just like playing a video game, like they feel connected to the company. So we’ve had to really think through creatively about how we check in with these people, you know, how do we, how do we bring them into the culture? And that’s been harder than you would think, but I think we have some ideas and we’re experimenting and some good success stories in there.

Evan (10m 25s):
Yeah. I think that you guys have done a tremendous job, you know, I know we got to talk earlier last week about all the different, the magnitude of the different people you’ve been hiring, which is just amazing. I know we’re getting short on time. So we have one more question that I’d like to kind of ask. And I just want this to be geared towards our CFO listeners out there for any of them that are working in an organization that is experiencing this expansive growth mode, where they have to hire many people all at once and have to pay for it and make sure that structuring it in their, you know, projections properly.

Evan (11m 6s):
What, what would, what kind of advice if you were to go look back at this past year, what kind of advice if you were to do it all over again, would you give them

Jay (11m 15s):
From the perspective of cost management, Evan, or from the prospect? There’s a lot of angles,

Evan (11m 22s):
Cost management and strategy of it. Cause I know I do the hiring for my firm. It’s a lot of work.

Jay (11m 29s):
Yeah. I would say when it comes to. Okay. So I would say really going after great people and I know everybody says, okay, but I think we made a really deliberate shift in the last five years. We we’re like, we want the absolute best. We don’t care what industry they’re in. We don’t care where they live, but we want them I’ll point you to this Silicon valley study in that probably people have heard of it when you hear it again, it really makes sense. And was like, no, the, the top soft, they did a study of giving software developers like a code, like S program to code and the top performers did it 10 X faster and better than the average.

Jay (12m 21s):
Okay. And I’ve been just thinking about that. When I look at our salespeople, my top salespeople are about 10 times better than the average. My top underwriters have bought 10 times I’ll put the mean average. And so I think about that everywhere I go, like, how do I find that 10 times better person that’s worth paying a little bit more. And so I think for CFOs, you can get stuck in like, well, the average salary is this. We’re paying a little bit more, but for the right person, it’s, it’s really worthwhile.

Jeffrey (12m 51s):
You know, Jay, I can’t agree with you more. I mean, this is the stuff I do every day. Everybody’s had professionals help them write a resume. Everybody gets coached on interview questions and it’s really hire the person. You hire the person of character of hard work of values who likes to learn and is dedicated. And it’s always surprising what they’ll produce. And I learned that early in my career, when I got recruited by a fortune 50 company, their philosophy was, you know, we’re hiring the best. We’re not hiring just resumes or retrench people. So I think I agree with you completely every time you’re on radio entrepreneurs. I love listening to you.

Jeffrey (13m 31s):
You’ve been on I think three or four times. So you’re a part of the big alumni. But if someone’s looking for Leader Bank that is growing, it’s still locally owned. How do we find a leader bank in this economy?

Jay (13m 44s):
Yeah. You can go to the leader, You can email me. I’m J T U L I as leader, you know, plenty of contact information. So I won’t flood you with all the little details for some of the, website’s been a pleasure to be here again, Jeff and Evan, and glad to be back.

Jeffrey (14m 1s):
You look healthy and Evan, before we go, you know, you’re at Sapers & Wallack. You’re not just the CFO, your part, and you’re not just part of FEI. I mean, you do it all. Or you’re also at Sapers and Wallack. So can you tell people how to contact you?

Evan (14m 15s):
Absolutely. If you’re trying to get in touch with Sapers and Wallack, I would just go to our website, www dot sabers, heightened I can see the whole breadth of services that we provide to our clients, our teammates. And if you want to contact us, you can click on any one of us to get our email addresses. So, so thank you, Jeffrey,

Jeffrey (14m 37s):
And both Sapers & Wallack and radio entrepreneurs are partners with FEI and we enjoy these segments and you and I co-host these segments on a, at least quarterly basis through the whole year. I also want to say that I am the founder. As you said earlier of major LLC management consulting firm, we’ve worked with over 700 organizations to help build a stronger and more successful organizations over the years. And we can be found at online I’m at And I just want to remind everyone that if any of these radio entrepreneurs, segments, that you want to join us of over a million people who have heard radio entrepreneurs, you can find us at rating at Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Google podcasts as and stitcher.

Jeffrey (15m 29s):
So if you like radio entrepreneurs, you can find is just about anywhere. Not, not just on the air daily. So Evan, I want to thank you for your participation in all of this. And you have been a great partner and a co-host.

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