Inside AJ

AJC Unearths Perfect COO for $17 Billion West Virginia Bank

A $17 billion bank headquartered in rural West Virginia faced a daunting challenge: finding a suitable Chief Operating Officer (COO) in a shallow pool of local talent. After unsuccessful attempts to recruit independently and through another search firm, the bank turned to AJ Consultants (AJC), who successfully filled the role in under eight weeks.

Let’s break down how we got there.

The Challenge: No Country for Financial Talent

While the bank had considerable reach across the Mid-Atlantic, their headquarters in a rural area presented significant recruitment hurdles. Initial attempts to find a COO without professional assistance yielded no interested or qualified candidates. Turning to a competing search firm led to even further disappointment. The candidates presented either lacked thorough vetting, demanded conditions incompatible with the bank’s needs, or used offers to leverage better positions elsewhere.

Facing these setbacks, the bank’s leadership faced an uphill battle in finding a viable candidate, seemingly stuck in limbo due to three critical factors:

  • A relatively remote location that made relocation unattractive.
  • An inadequate vetting process on behalf of previous search firms.
  • A failure to align candidate expectations with compensation and job requirements.

It was then, with little to no hope for improvement, that the bank called AJC to see what could be done.

The Solution: Dig Deep (And Keep on Digging)

AJC undertook an exhaustive and innovative search strategy, focusing on deep research and targeted outreach. Here’s how they tackled the challenge:

  1. In-Depth Research: AJC explored every potential candidate’s background, including family ties, alma mater connections, and personal motivations. This comprehensive approach ensured they understood what would make candidates consider relocating to West Virginia.
  2. Tough Conversations Upfront: They addressed critical questions early in the process. Would the compensation range be acceptable? Were candidates genuinely interested in the role and location? This upfront honesty helped avoid surprises and ensured alignment between the bank and potential candidates.
  3. Creative Sourcing: Leveraging a broad range of resources, AJ Consultants identified candidates not initially considered by the bank. They targeted executives from peer and larger banks nationwide, emphasizing those with personal or professional reasons to consider the role. Beyond the usual efforts of a search firm to verify skills and make vague judgements about culture fit, AJC built exhaustive dossiers on each potential candidate, making intuitive connections based on the person’s background (more on that later).

The Results: An Impressive Starting Line-Up

After just weeks of intensive searching, AJC presented three highly qualified but unlikely finalists:

  • Finalist A: A local executive from a directly competing bank, enticed by the new culture and career growth opportunities. Approaching this person would have seemed impossible to the client bank’s leadership due to the professional rivalry.
  • Finalist B: A former basketball star turned banking executive from West Virginia University, now residing in Florida but willing to return to a familiar locale, spurred by great memories of athletic achievements.
  • Finalist C: An EVP in Operations from one of the top ten largest banks in the U.S., motivated by personal connections to West Virginia and desires for a culture change and new challenge. Much like Finalist A, this candidate appeared completely unrealistic on paper.

The bank’s first choice, Finalist C, accepted the role and started within eight weeks of the search’s initiation. This candidate brought extensive experience, fitting seamlessly into the bank’s culture and contributing significantly until their recent retirement. The client had never considered that talent of this caliber could be within reach, but AJC took the initiative to ask—and ultimately sold the opportunity.

Successful Banking Recruitment Leaves No Stone Unturned

AJC’s success where others failed stemmed from their meticulous research, proactive questioning, and creative candidate engagement. And when we use the word “research,” it’s easy to picture someone conducting a cursory Google or LinkedIn search, maybe even taking some handwritten notes in the process. The process AJC employs is much more comprehensive and probing—almost akin to a journalist doggedly pursuing a lead.

Any recruitment firm can find talent. But it takes deeper levels of scrutiny and intuition to find game-changing, executive-level candidates in such a shortened timeline. AJC did the work to reconcile the needs of the bank with those of the candidate, filling a critical executive position, and ultimately, ensuring continued growth and stability for the bank.

If you face an executive search that seems impossible, remember that there are banking recruitment firms like AJC, whose tailored, in-depth approach is proven to bring unprecedented talent to unexpected places.

Ready to unearth your next superstar executive? AJC can help you find it.

Focus, knowledge, and proven results form our unrivaled expertise. Work with AJ Consultants and experience the difference dedication can make.