University of Southern California

Profiles in Business
April 23, 2007 • by News at Marshall

In this installment, Mr. Owens interviews Russell Goldsmith, chairman and chief executive officer of City National Bank, which markets itself as "California's Premier Private and Business Bank." City National provides banking, investment and trust services through 61 offices, including 15 full-service regional centers, in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, Nevada and New York City. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Mr. Goldsmith has been the CEO of City National since 1995. During his tenure, the company has grown to become the largest bank headquartered in Southern California.

Mr. Goldsmith also serves as president and chief executive officer of City National Bank's publicly held parent company, City National Corporation. He chairs the Los Angeles Economy and Jobs Committee and he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth, the Civic Alliance and the board of trustees of the Harvard-Westlake School. Mr. Goldsmith was a director of the Los Angeles Branch Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco for six years until the end of 2004. In 2002, Forbes magazine ranked Mr. Goldsmith among the 10 best chief executive officers in America.


James Owens: What motivates you?

Russell Goldsmith: I would have to say competitiveness and a commitment to excellence. If you want to do something, try to do it really well and succeed at it.

JO: Who is your hero?

RG: I am not sure if I can answer that. I admire many people from business, history, and from my personal life. But, I don't think I can say that there is one particular 'hero' that I have.

JO: What is your personal motto?

RG: I'm not sure I have a personal motto, either. But, at City National, we have 'P.R.I.D.E.' I wouldn't call this my personal motto, but I would call it my professional motto. It stands for: People, Relationships, Integrity, Dedication and Entrepreneurship.

JO: What has been your greatest success?

RG: Professionally, clearly, it has been the success we have achieved at City National. City National has grown into California's premier private and business bank and it continues to grow beyond California. Since it began 53 years ago as a small, community bank, City National has developed the capabilities and attracted the talent to provide the support and help to clients, communities, and our shareholders. This is something we are all very proud of.

JO: What has been your greatest failure?

RG: I am fortunate to be able to say that I have not had any significant professional failure, and I'm very pleased about that.

JO: What was the take away?

RG: A number of factors, including working hard, trying to select opportunities wisely, and being very fortunate to be in situations that present good opportunities. Combined with all these factors, I strongly believe that having talented, dedicated people working with me has been a great antidote to failure.

JO: What is the difference between leadership and management?

RG: I think leadership -- at its best -- motivates and provides a vision for what is possible, what can be done, and what should be done. I think good management is essential to the success of any enterprise, but leadership really helps point the way and motivates people, whereas management tends to be essential to the process, but more about executing that vision than defining it.

JO: What is the most important thing you would like our readers to know about your company?

City National has been able to achieve positive things for the four constituencies that we are focused on and responsible to: our shareholders, our colleagues, our clients, and our communities. I think we have done it with integrity, great service, and responsibility for all of those constituencies. And, in the process, we have helped everyone on the way up.

JO: What would surprise people most about your industry in 20 years?

RG: There are three things that would surprise people the most. One is that technology will continue to evolve dramatically -- this will affect how people conduct their financial affairs. For example, remote deposit capture is the latest piece of technology that is changing the way people do their banking. Two is that there will continue to be, as we have seen over the last 20 years, tremendous consolidation and rebirth. Companies will continue to get bigger, more national and international in scope; but, at the same time, there will be local players as well. And, third, even though things change dramatically, underneath it all, certain fundamentals will remain the same. There will still be a need for banks and advisors you can trust -- individuals you can talk to and get support from in managing assets, in getting loans, and in meeting financial needs. I don't think that part of the business is ever going to go away.

JO: What is your greatest challenge going forward?

RG: We continually try to strike a balance of meeting the needs of all four of the constituencies that we serve. As a public company, you need to build shareholder value and deliver consistent quality earnings growth. At the same time, you need to invest in people -- your colleagues -- in order to optimize the capabilities, the services, and the results you can deliver to your clients. And, in the process, you need to provide support and assistance to the communities you are in. I think striking a positive balance that is constructive to every one of those four constituencies has been, and will remain, our principle challenge.

JO: What legacy would you like to leave your company?

RG: I would like to leave City National with integrity, a sense of responsibility, and with great quality so that our organization, as a team, will continue to serve the needs of all of our four key constituencies.

JO: Any final thoughts you would like to share with the readers?

RG: You must have a very clear focus for businesses to work: what you do and what you don't do -- a value proposition that has real value. And, you must have a strong commitment to excellence and a genuine enthusiasm for what you are doing. It is challenging each and every day, but if you don't have those basic things, whatever you do is going to be very, very difficult.


James J. Owens, Assistant Professor of Clinical Management Communication at the Marshall School of Business Center for Management Communication, holds an MBA from Columbia University and a Master of Professional Writing from USC. He has extensive international business experience in England, France, Germany, Africa, and Saudi Arabia and he has authored more than 100 articles published in local, national and international magazines and newspapers.


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