Right: Candace Hunter Wiest
CEO Series: Candace Hunter Wiest
Earlier this year, Candace Hunter Wiest, president and CEO of West Valley National Bank, launched AZ Dental Bank, a specialty group that she unveiled at the Western Regional Dental Convention in Phoenix. Az Business sat down with Wiest to talk about trends in her industry.
What qualities do you think an effective CEO needs to have?
Candace Hunter Wiest: Sense of humor. Perseverance. Clear focus. Integrity.
What attracted you to the banking industry?
CHW: They describe me as the Cinderella CEO. I was in the restaurant business when my husband left me with three kids at age 21. I had to have a job and I had a high school diploma, so I went to work for a bank-owned insurance agency. After I turned that around — they forgot to tell me it had never made money when they hired me — they offered me a job at a bank here, so I threw my kids into the truck and moved to Arizona. I like the diversity of the banking industry and how it’s a puzzle and you have to figure out how to make it work.
What enabled you to become such an effective leader?
CHW: I never take myself seriously. When you start taking your own press releases seriously, you’re in trouble. I will just not give up. When I want something, I will not quit until I get it. This bank has been a challenge because we opened in 2006 and I like to say we did the right things and the right time for the right people and we are starting to see the benefits of that. I also had three kids who needed shoes and clothes and food and that’s a real motivator.
What prompted you to start AZ Dental Bank?
CHW: We weren’t growing after the Recession and we were trying to figure out where the growth was coming from. Our bank has a significant number of shareholders and directors in the medical and dental industries. They believe local physicians and dentists are under-served and would welcome an opportunity to do business with a local bank. As a result, we have spent the last 30 months learning about the challenges and opportunities local dentists face every single day. This is a pun, but we now have deep roots in the dental industry.
What is the benefit of a specialty bank?
CHW: We believe that a bank founded by dentists and physicians for physicians and dentists will be able to provide superior service and products because of that knowledge. We also have a community board consisting of professionals who serve the dental industry who have helped guide us as we formed this new entity. They will also contribute regularly to our website to provide local expertise for our clients and potential clients.
What are some trends you’re seeing in the banking industry?
CHW: The days of banks being able to be all things to all people is over. The mortgage industry showed us that. What we like about the AZ Dental Bank model is that we will be able to replicate this process and there are similarities with other industries. We have three other industries targeted, but I’m not going to say what they are yet.
What advice would you give to other women who aspire to be a business leader?
CHW: Be brave. I like something Pink said. “Be humble in victory, be brave when you’re afraid, be strong when you feel weak, and be bad-ass every day.” I’ve been scared to death my whole life, but I was brave when it counted.