Pinnacle in Atlanta: Our Bank was Built to Serve Cities Like Ours in Times Like These

Pinnacle in Atlanta: Our Bank was Built to Serve Cities Like Ours in Times Like These

By Rob Garcia, Pinnacle’s market president in Atlanta

March 13, 2020

Atlanta is a strong city, the economic center of the Southeast. Our people, communities, civic leaders and thriving business scene make us one of America’s biggest success stories. And yet we have even greater potential in front of us. 

Why, then, do we have so many question marks in one of the most important pieces of our economy: Banking?

The birth of a new megabank means our homegrown regional bank is leaving us. It also presents an opportunity for fresh perspectives and new ideas to come to the table.

I joined Pinnacle at the tail end of 2019 because I saw the incredible opportunity to build a new bank in Atlanta that offers something we’re missing right now. If Pinnacle brought nothing new to the market, I never would have considered it. I made the choice because this is a different kind of bank that offers exactly what our city needs at this moment. This is the pitch they gave me.

“Distinctive service and effective advice.”

That’s it. Yes, it’s our brand promise. No, it’s not something the marketing team dreamed up in a conference room. (We don’t do much marketing at Pinnacle.) It’s a unique combination that I believe only this firm is built to deliver. Here’s what I mean.

Distinctive Service
The word “distinctive” is pretty bold. We have dozens of banks in Atlanta, and any one of them can take deposits, make loans and offer many of the same services Pinnacle does. What makes our firm different than the rest?

For us, distinctive service starts with making things easy. We do a little extra work and build our internal processes so that it’s easy for clients to do business. A big part of that is accomplished by building our company according to geography, not lines of business. In practical terms, that means everyone in Atlanta reports up to me as the market president, not to a line-of-business manager in Nashville. When clients work with us, they’re speaking directly to the decision makers.

Local control leads to an abundance of benefits for clients and associates. It reduces bureaucracy, which leads to faster turnaround times and simpler approval processes. It also means less frustration for our associates, because there’s no waiting around for review or credit committees that sit 250 miles away.

Local bankers know local businesses and people best. They are best equipped to make the right decisions for clients.

All of this is possible because Pinnacle was built with a relentless focus on people and personal service instead of making sales at all costs. This bank exists because of the exact kind of disruption Atlanta is going through right now. Our founders had just been through a painful mega-merger and watched their city’s largest homegrown bank leave town under a new name. Banks were getting bigger and more disconnected from the communities they served, and client service was suffering as a result.

They asked themselves what they would want from a bank as clients and as employees. The first thing they wrote down was a vision: To be the best financial services firm and the best place to work. They designed the entire organizational structure, every system and process, to work toward that vision.

How do we deliver truly distinctive service?

  • Our people. We hire the best. Products and price can be copied. A high-trust culture filled with top talent is impossible to replicate. And once they’re here, they stay here. Pinnacle’s retention rate is upward of 93 percent, so you won't have to retrain your banker.
  • Needs-based approach. We focus on meeting a client’s needs, not selling them a product. This simple shift creates a trusted advisory relationship. It’s why we have one of the top “cross-selling” ratings in the country—even without actual cross-selling.
  • We answer the phone. When you call during business hours, a person will answer the phone within three rings. It’s so simple, yet so hard for big organizations to actually pull off.

Pinnacle was built to deliver the kind of banking you can usually only find at tiny community banks or in a time before there was a megabank branch on every corner. The difference is that even though Pinnacle feels like a community bank, we aren’t tiny. And that’s why I call our combination unique among all other firms in Atlanta.

Effective Advice
One of the key factors that sets us apart from smaller banks is our capabilities. Pinnacle set out from the very beginning to be a bank that can do it all, from simple checking accounts and mortgages to complex commercial transactions and wealth management.

We have the resources, sophisticated products and full suite of services of a large firm. We also have a team of financial professionals experienced enough to use them in creative ways to find solutions for their clients.

Guiding all of that is a fundamental philosophy of advice over sales. As we said, Pinnacle works on a needs-based approach, not a sales culture.

Working in a client’s best interest should be a given, but sales cultures often don’t incentivize it. When we truly understand a client’s situation, we can see what they need—and what they don’t—and design solutions to meet them.

Clients can tell when they’re treated like part of a campaign or scorecard. By breaking that expectation with advice backed by services that work, we can earn the status of trusted advisor and win lifelong loyalty.

Normally you can’t get those capabilities and a community bank level of service at the same place. More resources and sophistication typically come only from bigger banks, and increased size means increased complexity. Scaling up usually comes with additional processes and middle management reports and committees, and service often suffers as a result.

Pinnacle, however, was built differently from the start. Some increases in complexity are unavoidable, but the processes that affect clients most are kept on the local level—thanks to the geographic focus—and are therefore performed on a smaller scale.

It’s a unique way to build a bank, especially one that’s grown to our size. And it can’t be done unless it starts that way from the very beginning.

I’ve worked with the businesses and people of Atlanta for decades. My goal in helping build Pinnacle in our community is to erase the question marks in local banking. Our city deserves a great place to do business. Our best bankers deserve a great place to work. We all deserve a locally focused bank that will meet our needs and deliver top-tier service.

Pinnacle was built to do that, and what’s more, we were built to do it in times like these and cities like ours. Where there is a hole left in Atlanta’s banking landscape, Pinnacle and its model for service and advice were built to fill it.