Growth is Strong at Customers Bank

Jay Sidhu launched Customers Bank during the recession, but his high-tech, customer-first strategy empowers its enduring growth

The man behind a Pennsylvania-based bank’s growth spurt is an industry veteran with a decades-long track history in turnaround success. Jay Sidhu received his master of business administration degree from Wilkes University and is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s CEO leadership course and London Business School’s program for growth companies. During his twenty-year career at Sovereign Bank, Sidhu grew the small, $450 million company with an IPO value of about $12 million to the seventeenth largest bank in the United States with a market capitalization of almost $12 billion. In 2009, he took his growth strategy to Customers Bank, then known as the $265 million asset-troubled New Century Bank. Under his guidance as chairman and chief executive officer, Customers Bank is now the $6.8 billion asset, high-performing bank it is today.

Launching Customers Bank during the recession may seem risky, but Sidhu’s growth strategy—a focus on strong customer service, technology, and niche lending—proved the move successful. It’s what Sidhu calls his “new banking playbook,” leaning toward organic growth and expense controls instead of acquisitions, according to a 2013 article in American Banker. Based in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, Customers Bank aims to build heritage with a new vision.

Sidhu spends about a quarter of his time out of the office to help with business development. “We are not about growth for the sake of growth,” Sidhu says, according to a 2013 article in Bank Director. “That is not in our strategy. But we see so many growth opportunities that we can’t stop.” From Boston to Washington, DC, Customers Bank’s expansion throughout the northeastern United States stems from Sidhu and his team’s support of his mission to move the company forward.

One of the first steps in a turnaround strategy is hiring the right people, according to Sidhu. “I am also blessed to have colleagues and staff who have helped me shape Customers Bank into a company that adheres to our vision of customer service and growth,” Sidhu says, in a press release about his selection for the 2014 Most Admired CEOs award. Sidhu also says he gives his direct reports a clear vision and helps them with tactics to accomplish the mission, providing support whenever they need it.

The CEO’s open and transparent management style also correlates to the company’s relationship with the public. As the company’s name suggests, Customers Bank’s growth strategy prioritizes a customer-first operation. Always looking forward, Sidhu plans to continually expand the portfolio of loans to small businesses, multifamily projects, mortgage companies, and consumers. A high level of convenient banking options delivers on the promise of excellent customer service, exemplifying the company’s “high-tech, high-touch” approach to banking.

In January 2015, Sidhu launched BankMobile, a virtual bank offering checking, savings, and joint accounts as well as credit lines of up to $5,000. Sidhu hopes to appeal to millennial customers with mobile banking features, focusing on interchange revenue and loan margin instead of fee income. BankMobile also allows customers to make a deposit by simply accessing their account through their smart phone and taking a picture of the check. Sidhu foresees this reinvention of the retail banking business model as “the Uber of banking,” according to a recent interview in American Banker.

Customers Bank’s high-tech strategy gives customers better access to their money, yet Sidhu hasn’t neglected personalized customer service. The bank also provides a concierge service, where a banker will visit a customer’s home or office twelve hours a day, seven days a week, to handle his or her needs. “We want all customers to be VIP,” Sidhu says, according to American Banker. This new era of Customers Bank, led by Sidhu, is proving that the most effective approach to the banking business is merging innovation and quality customer service.