Jeff Cressman, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Jeff Cressman, commercial banking leader, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

Commercial banking is a relationship business. While technology has its advantages and can make communication faster and more convenient, it is important not to use email and texting as a replacement for face-to-face communication. I often see bankers and customers relying heavily on email and other electronic forms of communication. There is no substitute for an old-fashioned phone conversation or face-to-face meeting.

The most rewarding part of my job is watching a customer grow their company, in part because of the expertise, products, and services provided by my team. I also enjoy watching talented young bankers on our team hone and develop their skill sets.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

There are a number of individuals in the business community whom I have great respect for, including many of my clients. I’ve always admired Costco and its founder James Sinegal. My family and I have been fortunate to live near Costco Wholesale stores in a few different locations. The company offers great value to its customers through completive pricing; however, I’m always even more impressed with the quality of Costco employees and their focus on the customer. Mr. Sinegal built an empire by taking care of his employees by offering higher pay, solid benefits, and growth opportunities for employees. Costco has the lowest employee turnover rate in the retail space. Mr. Sinegal saw an opportunity to do things differently in retail and grew his business into the second largest retailer in the world. He did it the right way, with strong core values and a long-term, sustainable approach.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

In 2011, I moved my family from Georgia to Madison to help Wells Fargo develop a local commercial banking office where we had a lot of success and were able to grow the customer base. During this time, I learned a lot about Wisconsin and its people and businesses. I felt very welcomed into this community. Growing our commercial banking office and the Wells Fargo brand in Wisconsin has been the highlight of my career.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

I would tell my 21-year-old self the following: expand your network, take a few more calculated risks, be open to different ideas, and develop mentor relationships with people you aspire to be like.

I had a tendency to “follow the herd” when I was in my early 20s. I thought there was a specific formula to success in the professional world. Over the past 20-plus years I have seen that there are a variety of paths to success. The keys are to find something that you love to do, associate yourself with people who inspire you to learn and grow, and don’t be afraid to take a well-calculated leap of faith.

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What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

Dane County is an amazing place to live and work!  There is a certain “energy” that you can feel here that makes the community unique. I believe the university, the capitol, our world-class health care systems, and the fast-growing companies in the market contribute to this. Businesses here seem to raise the bar and dare to go beyond the norm.

On the personal side, Dane County is a wonderful place to raise a family. It starts with first-class schools and teachers, which have been a strong positive influence on my kids. There are thousands of activities and cultural experiences one can dive into here. It doesn’t take long to understand why the area is growing and consistently winning accolades.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

One talent I taught myself over the years involves cooking barbecue. I enjoy the long, slow, through-the-night cooking of pork and beef, mostly. My specialty is pulled pork, where I will slow cook several pork shoulders at 225 degrees on my charcoal smokers with pecan or applewood smoke. When cooked right, the meat literally falls off the bone! Growing up in Georgia, this is how we enjoyed eating barbecue pork. I particularly enjoy doing a good cook on a crisp fall weekend and serving up my meal with some Badgers or Packers football.

What are your guilty pleasures?

A long time ago I was a decent golfer. I played competitively through my high school years and was lucky enough to win a few tournaments. I don’t get to play as much these days, but I still enjoy swinging the clubs and hitting an occasional good shot. Sometimes, when I am traveling for work meetings I’ll find a hole in my schedule and sneak off to a local golf course to practice some putting or chipping. Rolling a few putts on a quiet putting green can have a positive effect on my outlook for the rest of the day!

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