Name: Tom Aichele
Title: Relationship Manager
Company: PNC Bank
Q: How has your role with PNC Bank evolved since you first started?
A: PNC has changed dramatically since I joined in 2008. The bank’s growth through acquisitions like National City Bank, combined with its underlying need to acquire and develop younger talent, has afforded me opportunities to gain exposure to just about every type of commercial loan a bank can make. This exposure includes large syndicated and asset backed security transactions as well as small business loans requiring the personal guarantee of the owner. In addition, seeking out special projects has allowed me opportunities to interact with senior executives and see the bank from the top down as well as the bottom up. The most interesting of these projects was the opportunity to participate in the development of a bank wide sales force effectiveness plan to ensure that all PNC employees nationwide have the tools and resources to provide both a consistent client experience as well as provocative and differentiating ideas on every call. The combination of the deal exposure with these special projects has prepared me well for my current role as a relationship manager in the middle market.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your position?
A: The most rewarding part of my job is when we as a banking team (credit officer, underwriter, product partners and I), come together to identify and deliver a winning solution for a client. Many times, opportunities arise when competitors try to sell an off-the-shelf solution that makes the client feel like they haven’t been heard. While I focus primarily on PNC products, I also try to stay informed on the solutions that other companies, like ERP (enterprise resource planning) implementation firms or health benefit consultants, provide. Sometimes I am able to arrange for companies like these, an introduction to clients of the bank and allow them to deliver a winning solution. While these wins don’t translate into immediate revenue for the bank, they do add value for the client and elevate the bank’s status from mere sales people to trusted advisors. Once that happens and you are able to create real value for your client, it almost always comes back around.
Q: I noticed that your career began with the United States Navy. Thank you for your service to our country. How have you applied that experience to your ongoing success as a young professional?
A: I was surprised how transferable many of my experiences as a Surface Warfare Officer onboard an Aegis Cruiser were to my new career as a banker at PNC. On the personal side, I recognized very quickly that the administrative assistants and loan administrators at the bank have a very similar role to the senior enlisted officer who would help you run your division as a junior officer. While technically subordinate in the chain, both typically have many more years of experience in how to get things done and, if treated like a trusted and respected advisor, can help you in ways you would never expect.
On the professional side, before any exercise we conducted on the ship (operational, damage control, weapons firing, etc.,) we would perform a risk assessment. This assessment would take into account the probability that something bad could happen based on factors like weather conditions, where we were operating and whether the exercise was being conducted during the day or night. We would also assess the severity of the consequences if an accident occurred. For instance, an accident during a weapons firing would be likely to have more dire consequences than if something happened during a fire drill. Interestingly, PNC bankers go through the same process when we make a loan, taking into account the probability of a loan failing based on factors like the strength of the company’s balance sheet and management team as well as the severity through an assessment of the collateral attached to the loan. The ability to make good decisions in risk assessment, as well as the willingness to make decisions, is fundamental in whatever you do. Having a keen awareness of both the probability and severity of the risk associated with any decision generally creates better outcomes.
As an aside, one thing that was not transferable were the acronyms like PD and DHE, which at the bank mean potential for default and direct hard exposure, while in the military they mean periscope depth and delayed high explosive. Given the confusion this caused for me in the early days of my career at the bank, I have given them up entirely.
Q: How has being a YPN member benefitted you?
A: The Young Professionals Network and the Chamber as a whole is an interesting cross roads of culture and commerce providing all kinds of opportunities to immerse yourself in both. Often times, as I meet with peers at the various YPN events, I can tell they are usually passionate about either the culture (the event itself) or the commerce (networking opportunity). What is interesting to me is the number of corporate, municipal and non profit executives that speak at these events and demonstrate a thorough understanding of both aspects as well as how culture and commerce interrelate.
Q: What advice would you offer college seniors and recent graduates?
A: Communicate and demonstrate ways you can create value for your employer. It seems basic, but having a clearly defined value proposition for your current or potential employer shows a level of maturity and self-awareness that will prevent you from being stereotyped as a member of the “me generation.” Provided this value proposition gets you a job and you are able to demonstrate your capabilities, continue to seek out new ways to create value in addition to what is defined in your job description.
Q: What do you enjoy most about living in Philadelphia?
A: I have to confess that I am a suburban resident, but when friends and family come to visit I love to show them Valley Forge Park with all of its scenery and then five minutes later show them the second largest mall in the United States at King of Prussia. From our house, we can park the car and walk to the Paoli Thorndale line for a trip into the city for a walking tour of the museums along the Ben Franklin Parkway, or hop the Market Frankford Line to Old City for the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall or the Broad Street Line to a Phillies Game. This is an easy city to navigate with great attractions to see and great food to enjoy along the way. Having lived in many places in the military, I can say definitively there is no place like Philadelphia and that’s one of the reasons my wife and I moved back.
Q: YPN has a professional development bookshelf. Is there a book that you are currently reading or recently read that you would recommend?
A: It’s probably already on your shelf but I strongly recommend Good to Great by Jim Collins. Anybody who has ever tried to run anything understands it’s about getting the right people in the right positions and getting them all moving in the same direction.
Q: Tell me about one of your skills or experiences that would surprise most YPN members.
A: I have been skydiving twice in my life. Once over State College and the other over the North Shore in Hawaii. It was an amazing experience and something I will definitely do again once my kids are all gainfully employed and my mortgage is paid off.