Meeting the community’s financial needs for 162 years and counting
Mark Turner is the chairman, president, and CEO of WSFS Bank. Founded in 1832, WSFS Bank is the oldest and largest locally managed financial services company in the Delaware Valley, and one of the oldest banks in the United States. Today, the bank is worth billions of dollars and operates from over 70 offices throughout Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Nevada.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Tell us about your background with the bank.
MARK TURNER: My career at WSFS has been a tremendous one. It started with a decision to want to make a difference. Prior to WSFS, I’d been working for a very large local institution and a very good bank, but I came to the conclusion after having worked there for not too long that I could have worked 24/7, or I could have not come in at all, and I’m not sure either would have made a difference. In my mid 30s, I wanted to make a difference with where I spent most of my time in life, which is obviously on the job.
I had a contact down at WSFS. They were looking for a controller at the time, and they were in an interesting situation in that they had nearly failed in the early 90s. And this is 1996. In 1996, they were off their backs, but still on their knees, still looking for strategic direction, and they had lost a lot of talent, so I identified that as a situation where I could go in and applying myself and make a difference.
I originally actually turned the job down, but then was convinced by the CEO and chairman at the time, Skip Schoenhals—who is my friend, boss, mentor, coach, role model—that he had big plans for the future and that I could be a big part of that. I was really impressed with both his vision and his integrity. I took the job as controller in 1996, was promoted to CFO in 1998, then was sponsored to go to the Wharton Executive MBA program in ‘99 and did that from ‘99 to 2001. In 2001, when I got out of that program, I was promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Soon after that I had a conversation with the board, through Skip, about what I wanted my future to be and I said, “I’d like to be CEO one day, and I’d like to be CEO here. I think it’s a great organization. I’ve already invested a lot in it.” He said, “okay, let’s talk about timing,” and I said, “I think in three years I will be ready but green; in seven years I will be ready but antsy; in about five years, I think I will be ready.” And he said, “we can work with that.”
Over the next five years, I engaged in a lot of different programs and a lot of different stretch projects inside the bank to get me ready to assume the CEO position, and did that in 2007, just in time for the cracks to start to form in the dike of the financial system in the economy. The first five years of my CEO-ship, if you will, were spent dealing with the financial crisis, recession, and regulatory response to that. It’s only really been over the last five years that we’ve been in a nice growth mode, both through acquisition and through organic growth. And then most recently, I was also made chairman of the bank—just a couple of months ago. It’s been a great, great ride and a great experience.
Q. You mentioned that WSFS was struggling in the 1990s. Where is the bank today?
A. Today, WSFS is a full service bank and very robust bank providing all of the services you’d expect out of a robust financial institution. We do retail banking—that’s banking for individuals and their families, normally done through branches or now through digital means and through ATMs. We do commercial banking—that’s probably the biggest part of our business: banking to small and medium size, usually privately held, many family-owned, businesses, up to, say, $100-$150 million in revenue—kind of the lifeblood of the community.
And then we have two, what we call “fee-based” businesses. One is our wealth management business, which consists actually of six different units and subsidiaries where we help other people manage their money, or we act as trustee for their money, so we help administer their money. And we also offer private banking services, so valet banking for people of substantial wealth. Some of the names in that division that you may be familiar with are Christiana Trust, or West Asset Management, which is right here on 18th and Market; or a Powdermill Financial, which is a family office located in Wilmington, Delaware; and Cypress Capital Management, which is an asset management.
The fourth business is our most unique, and that’s Cash Connect. We are the second largest provider of services to non-bank owners of ATMs throughout the country. About half the ATMs you’ll run across in this country are not owned by banks; they’re the small cash dispensing convenience locations ones, but they need bank services to make them run, and we are the second largest provider of those services, and help 20,000 ATMs throughout the country run well.
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