Q&A With a Bank CEO: Patrick L. Ryan, Chair, President/CEO, First Bank

If you could sit down with your bank’s CEO and ask questions about their career journey, thoughts about the banking industry, or even what they do in their spare time, what would you ask? In this feature, New Jersey Banker will ask the questions for you!

We asked Patrick L. Ryan, Chair, President/CEO, First Bank, some questions. Thanks for sitting down with us pat!

How did you get started in banking?

My father, Patrick M. Ryan is a career banker, so I was exposed to the field at a young age. When in college, I worked in several different departments at Albany Savings Bank—working as a teller, an IRS specialist, and a merger transition support person. At 22, I joined the investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs—working as a Financial Institutions analyst in the Investment Banking group in New York City and in London. I became a “career” community banker in 2005 when I joined my dad at Yardville National Bank before starting First Bank three years later.

What advice do you have for young bankers starting their career?

Raise your hand. Most banks have more work that needs to be done and not enough “volunteers” to push new projects forward. If you’re ambitious—raise your hand and ask for more. You’ll get the opportunity to learn a lot and advance quickly.

Why do you feel it’s important for banks like First Bank to be associated with NJBankers?

Community banks are the “low man on the totem pole” from a size perspective so we need a voice to help protect us against legal and regulatory overreach.

What trait does the modern banker need to have to be successful?

Inquisitive and flexible. The world is changing quickly, and you want to be thinking about where the puck is going, not where it has been.

What are you most proud of regarding your leadership at First Bank?

The positive impact we’ve had on the lives of so many members of our community—from employees, to customers, to shareholders.

Over the course of your career, what is the biggest shift you’ve seen in banking?

The constant churn of added regulations. Banks need to keep getting bigger to keep up with the demands of the regulations and new rules that keep getting created.

What is the difference between being a boss and being a leader?

A boss is in charge because of a pre-ordained hierarchy. Leadership is earned. Bosses create order takers who do what is asked, and nothing more. Leaders create inspired action where people go above and beyond to achieve results.

What piece of advice do you wish you had known when you started your career?

Strike the right balance between ambition and enjoying the moment. Both are important.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Everyone needs a place to go. Meaning: get up every day and get moving with a purpose.

What is something people don’t know about you?

I almost pursued a career in politics.

What helps you stay objective?

I instinctively try to look at issues from multiple angles. I also get worried about “conventional wisdom.” I think it stems from being naturally inquisitive.

What are three things left on your bucket list? Write a book of poems, hike the 46 Adirondack high peaks, ice skate the Dutch canals.