Informational Interview with Sue Reinke-Walch

An informational interview is an informal interview with someone in your field or desired field that will shed light on the specific skills and abilities needed to progress in that career. It’s important not only for the educational benefits, as you will likely learn things in the interview that you couldn’t gain elsewhere, but it’s an important networking opportunity. The following informal interview was conducted with.

The Contact

• Name: Susan Reinke- Walch

• Title/Position: Relationship Manager Team Lead

• Company: US Bank

• Industry: Community Banking — commercial lending

Questions about the Contact

1. How did you start out in your career?

Susan started her career in credit as a credit analyst. She was responsible for analyzing a floor plan at her first bank. Her role was often described as a collector because she was also responsible for collecting past due notes. The credit industry has changed since Susan has been a credit analyst and this is no longer part of the duties of an analyst.

Susan then moved on to being a relationship manager for a few years. She moved through the ranks and obtained leadership roles as market president for two banks before coming to US Bank. Susan is currently looking to work another five years before retirement and is eager for the leadership challenge at US Bank.

2. Is there something you wish you’d known or a skill you wish you had starting out in this industry?

Susan indicated that she would’ve liked to have obtained a degree in accounting versus finance since accounting offered more opportunities for employment. She also indicated that accounting would’ve been more beneficial for her type of career since she looks at financial statements daily as part of her job.

3. What’s your biggest challenge in this role?

Susan is a new employee of US Bank and has been in her role only for a month. Her biggest challenge currently is learning the systems, policy, and process of US Bank. She indicated that once she gets up to speed her biggest challenges would be growth of the team through mentorship and retention of employees.

4. What is your typical day like? What percentage of time is doing what?

The largest part of Sue’s day is with staff management, which accounts for roughly 70% of her time and the next is customer relations management, which accounts for the other 30%.

5. Do you have any outside obligations to your employer?

Susan indicated that while there aren’t any official obligations it is expected of her to be part of the community. This means being seen in the community by attending events and being involved in the community.

6. What are the major frustrations with this job?

Susan indicated that the biggest frustrations are sales and service. It takes a lot of commitment and time to work with a customer and sometimes things don’t go as you’d like. This means sometimes you have to tell the customer that the deal can’t be done and it’s not in their best interest. Sometimes the customer will listen and other times they will move on to the next bank who will lend them the money.

7. What do you find most enjoyable with this job?

Susan indicated that she finds working with the customers as the most enjoyable. Relationships can last years and its enjoyable to see the customer succeed. She enjoys taking on a difficult situation and seeing it through to the end.

8. What sort of career advancement opportunities are there after your role or complimentary positions.

Susan could take on the position of market president or regional president.

Questions about Communicating for Leadership

1. How would you describe yourself as a leader?

Susan describes herself as a collaborative leader. She has an open door policy and she focuses on motivating and training employees. She says she is not competitive and works towards a common goal for the customer’s best interest.

2. Could you tell me a story about challenge you faced as a leader? How did you solve it? How did it change you?

Susan tells of a story where there was a subordinate who asked if he could take on a real estate business in his free time. Sue was aware of the difficulties it takes to run a real estate business and told the employee that it was not in the banks or the employees best interest to pursue the business. The employee did not heed her words and behind her back started the business. He used company resources to do many of his dealings and raised numerous flags in regards to ethics. Susan found out about the employee not listening to her and going behind her back. The way Susan solved the situation is that she let the employee go. It changed her because it was extremely difficult to make the decision and then to have to face her co-workers. In the end Susan believed she made the right choice.

3. Could you tell me a story about a time you needed to communicate to get a group of people to change?

Susan moved into her role as market president and moral was low. The previous president had left due to disagreements with upper management. The company had also recently been bought out by a larger bank and there was a lot of uncertainty and fear of losing jobs. Susan realized the situation and communicated to her employees that there would be changes, but that everyone needed to remain positive.

Questions seeking Advice for you

1. Do you have any advice for someone seeking to qualify to get into your type of work?

Susan indicated that the person should be proactive. Take time to learn the industries of the customers. She said you should be purposeful in what you are doing by making positive customer relationships and getting to know the credit approval process.

2. What skills would you need in this role?

Susan indicated you need time management, good communication skills, and be likable.

3. Any specific courses you would recommend in an MBA track?

Susan indicated that project management would be helpful. She says being organized, keeping a timeline, and keeping a team on task is important.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

In this interview I learned that being a relationship manager team lead takes not only good people skills, but time management is important. I was mostly surprised by the project management course she recommended. While I agree being organized and having a plan is important I would’ve thought more emphasis would’ve been put on communication skills. The main takeaway from this interview is that communication is important, but time management is equally important. In the credit approval process things need to move quickly and if you’re not quick to offer what the customer needs you could lose the deal. Knowing this information, I’ll be more keen on developing better time management skills and focusing on improving my communication skills.

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