The chief executive officer is usually the single most important person in any organization, but it’s a job that most individuals grow into over time. The transition is often filled with challenges and difficult learning experiences.
Such was the case for Ira Robbins, the chairman and CEO at Valley National Bancorp, a $54 billion regional bank headquartered in Wayne, New Jersey. The 48-year-old Robbins was just 43 when he succeeded long-time CEO Gerald Lipkin in 2018. Lipkin, on the other hand, was closing in on his 77th birthday when he passed the baton to Robbins after running the bank for 42 years.
Robbins is deeply respectful of Lipkin but shares that one immediate challenge he faced was changing a culture that hadn’t kept pace with the bank’s growth over the years. He said Valley National was a $20 billion bank that operated as if it was still a $5 billion bank. Changing that culture was not easy, and he had to make some very difficult personnel decisions along the way.
Robbins is thoughtful, introspective and candid about his growth into the CEO role at Valley National. His reflections should be of great interest to any banker who hopes to someday become a CEO.