I recently had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Dave Becker, President and CEO of First Internet Bank. I was interested in learning more about his career and the evolution of his remarkable success. Here are 7 takeaways from our conversation that I thought would be valuable to share with those that strive to grow their career and improve their leadership capabilities.
People can always surprise you. I received a handwritten letter from Dave in response to mine, which showed great thoughtfulness and class. If someone as busy as he is can take the time to write a legible personal note, we should all take note! He’s not above doing the “little things” and that is refreshing.
It’s all about a vision and confidence in pursuing it. Several years ago, Dave had the foresight to see where the Internet would take us. It was as simple as watching his teenage son be so drawn into the vastness of this tool that lead him to think about banking in a different way. While others thought he was chasing the wind, he forged forward, believing in his vision and making it a reality. It takes tenacity, courage and the willingness to risk failure. Very few achieve his level of success without this ability to push through the fear and stay the course. It is admirable.
See great opportunities where others see failure. In the midst of a mortgage crisis, defaulting loans, and the majority of people exiting the business, he dove in and started rebuilding. He thrives on harnessing chaos and building strong infrastructures that eradicate the areas where previous mistakes were made. He is not afraid to try what others have said could not be done, and he doesn’t discount the profit that can be made from prudent choices.
Patience is a virtue worth having. We hear a lot about instant gratification and the desire to make money fast and then move onto the next thing. Dave is about building sustainable businesses that add value and have the capacity to evolve. His patience has paid off as he has built and sold many profitable businesses, but not before he was ready to release them. In his latest endeavor and his first experience launching a publically traded company, he said “I’m in it for the long haul.” I predict that the wolves of Wallstreet are in for a great challenge and my money is on Dave!
Money is a great scorecard, but it doesn’t drive fulfillment alone. Dave has an incredible mind and if he weren’t so understated, he could be incredibly intimidating. He doesn’t need a flashy suit or grandiose gestures to represent his value. You can see the operating numbers racing through his head at the speed of light, but this is his “normal.” He is motivated by creation and building new foundations that can continue to grow and evolve. When he doesn’t have the benefit of a roadmap to follow, he creates one. Fortunately for Dave, his talents and passions have lead to strong financial outcomes, and he’s not going to tell you he doesn’t enjoy the perks. However, he will also tell you that his monetary success also comes with great responsibility. He knows that the livelihoods of his employees are tied to it and that matters to him. When companies sell, helping employees find their next home is a priority. In fact, they are often fortunate enough to find themselves engaged in his next venture.
Great leaders help others succeed. Dave has helped several former colleagues become millionaires by supporting them in starting their own successful businesses. When asked about his greatest accomplishments, this was at the top of his list. It can be lonely at the top if you don’t let anyone join you. Dave understands the value and the personal reward in helping others maximize their potential. It is no surprise that his inner circle is comprised of many that have known and worked with him for decades.
He has the same care and concern for his family that most of us do. While Dave doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from (although he is not above cruising through the Burger King drive thru at the end of a long day), he does have to balance his passion for his work with being a supportive and involved spouse and parent. Time is finite and possibilities are endless, so there are always trade offs and negotiations that have to take place. Supporting his children as they pave their own way and make their own decisions brings its fair share of challenges. His work ethic is the legacy he has fought to pass onto them, and like any dedicated parent, he understands the value and the pain of watching them make choices that differ from his own. In addition, after having sons, he was graced with a beautiful, spirited daughter that has opened his eyes to an entirely new set of complexities. This may prove to be his most complicated road map to conquer!
As I left my time with Dave, I felt hopeful. I may not be wired to have the vision and foresight to see what doesn’t exist yet, but I do have the fortitude to seek out great people that do, and I also have the capabilities to help that team bring their visions to fruition. Dave focuses on building teams comprised of smart, capable professionals with diverse skill sets who can get the job done and help him to manifest his vision. Two out of the seven First Internet Bank Management team members are women. At 28%, he is far above average. When you have a work ethic similar to Dave’s and are committed to contributing your best self every day, partnering with a leader that appreciates what you bring to the table is a dream worth pursuing.
Bottom line, Dave created an experience for me where I felt heard, valued and respected, and for me, that is priceless. As I told him, I am very clear on my values, and while my integrity is not for sale, my strategy and execution skills are. After all, while I love what money can’t buy, I definitely like what it can buy, and he reminded me that the two could align.