Photo by Cathy Pinsky
James Landy leads by listening. To customers. To employees. To just about anyone who can possibly contribute to the success of the $2.8 billion Hudson Valley Bank where he has worked for 35 years. Landy is so interested in hearing what you have to say that his direct telephone number is prominently featured in all the company’s advertising, not a common practice for CEOs of companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Landy even pays attention to where he sits in meetings so he doesn’t dominate the discussion. “When you go around the room for votes or opinions,” he says, “you should be last, not first, so you hear everyone’s honest thoughts.”
The 57-year-old Landy pays particular attention to customers. “Without a doubt, customer relationships are the most important part of my job,” he says. “Future planning, hiring the right people, the regulatory aspect, are all important, but my strength is customer relationships, which is probably why I gravitate to them.”
Hudson Valley Bank is the largest community bank headquartered in Westchester, with 36 branches with some 500 employees. Deposits have grown 33 percent in the last three years.
Landy also avidly encourages input from employees—at all levels. The bank gives monetary awards for ideas that float up from the ranks. One employee recently came up with a quicker way to process loan payments while another suggested an easier way for employees to access electronic credit files.
“Listen to your people, particularly at the grassroots,” Landy advises. “Don’t just listen to consultants and top management. The people actually doing the work will come up with a simpler, easier, cheaper way to do something every time.”