Job Spotlight: Robert D. Horn, area president with Wells Fargo

He's been a U.S. Army Infantry instructor, sold insurance and securities, and helped customers with their personal banking needs.

But when it came time for Robert Horn to make his latest career move, a key qualifier was that it be closer to home. Or, for the Philadelphia native, closer to the Columbus-Phenix City area, where his wife, Heather, was raised.

He has been with Wells Fargo and its predecessors -- First Union and Wachovia -- for 15 years. And there have been opportunities in several states and markets -- including Florida and in Atlanta -- but he couldn't stomach the distance some of the jobs required and traffic jams he would endure in others.

"So a lot of my decisions have been around family. Can I stay close? I have to look after what's best for my family, for my children," said Horn. "So this was a great opportunity. I couldn't not put my name in the hat to take this position."

That position he speaks of is area president for Wells Fargo in Columbus, with his area of responsibility stretching from Smiths Station, Ala., north to Pine Mountain, Ga., and east to various Georgia communities -- Macon, Warner Robins, Dublin and Americus -- 27 branches in all, which includes 27 branches.

Horn became area president in February and is in the process of relocating to Columbus from the Gainesville, Ga., area, where he oversaw 10 bank branches. But, again, considering the time he has spent locally through the years, this feels more like a homecoming.

Horn talked to the Ledger-Enquirer in a recent interview at his downtown Columbus office, Horn talked about his career path, his latest job, and what it takes to keep a firm and productive handle on more than two dozen banks. The interview has been edited a bit for length and clarity.

So, how did you get to this moment in your life?

I spent 13 years in the Army and my wife's from the Columbus area. I was at a crossroads, I guess, in my career in the military and decided to get into the civilian sector. I got out and actually went into sales at Metlife (in Columbus) for about four years. I got into insurance and securities sales and really enjoyed that. But they went from a mutual company to a (publicly traded) stock company, and at that time they were closing the office here. One of the things they look at is how to reduce expenses, because then you have to answer to a stockholders.

You were at Fort Benning. What was that like?

I was at Benning as an Infantry instructor for close to five years. (There was) a lot of outdoors, a lot of late nights and the weather, but I really enjoyed that. It gave me time to not only look at my career, but gave me time to go to school. That was opportunity that you traditionally don't get when you're in a (go-to-war) line unit. So I was able to complete my bachelor's and my master's degree (at Troy State).

What did you teach as an instructor?

All kinds of things -- urban terrain, first aid, individual squad tactics, a lot of things that they're doing now. We were at a range and we would just have trainees. Then I became a Bradley (Fighting Vehicle) instructor for the last couple of years ... Then it was trainees, plus officers, and master gunners. So there was a mix.

Where did you travel in the Army?

I did training here at Benning, went to Hawaii, and went to (Fort Riley) Kansas; that was a short stint. And then I went to Germany. I was in Kirchgoens, Germany, and I actually got stop-lossed (told he could not leave the military). So I ended up going to Desert Storm, and then came back after about 18 months. I ended back at Fort Benning, and that was my last duty station.

You were in 13 years and didn't want to make the military a career?

No. You can always look at two sides of the coin, right? When I was here, my neighbor kept getting stop-lossed. He was looking to retire, but he kept postponing it. It would have been great, another seven years or even longer in the Army. But I got to a point in my career and was looking at what I should do long term, even after the military. I looked at the economy. It's 1996, the economy's going well, and my wife was from this area.

As a civilian, you transitioned from insurance to banking?

The Metlife office was closing here. It didn't mean we were going to be out of a job. But we would have to open our own agency, and after four years, I didn't think I was prepared to do that. So I ended up coming to work here (First Union then) as a personal banker, and I did that almost eight years. I started at Fort Benning, moved to Peachtree Mall, and then became what they call a city president in Pine Mountain for a little over a year. Then I became a sales leader for Wachovia in Macon for about two years. Then I went to Gainesville, Ga., and that's where I've been for the last five years. Now I'm making my way back here as an area president.

What are your thoughts on the Columbus market?

I look at Columbus and it has grown a lot. I think about when I first got here in the military, a lot of stuff wasn't here, and I've just watched it grow, and that's good. (Until moving back here permanently) I come back every other weekend with my wife to visit her family. But I was listening to the radio and it was giving a traffic update for Columbus. I was like, I've never heard that before. In Atlanta, if you go to a news radio station, they do updates every five minutes and let you know if they have accidents. But it was funny to hear a traffic update here. (laughs)

What's day-to-day life like as an area president?

I have a lot of partners I reach out to based on what we try to do from risk management to customer experience, and human resources. I look at it as a management pyramid -- managing risks, resources, our sales, our performance, our people piece, and our service execution. So it basically is trying to manage all of those in one day, reaching out to different partners to see how I can support them, how our team supports them.

How do you reach out to all of your managers and employees?

A lot of it's by phone or email; a lot of conversations that we have. I like to get out in the stores. That's where I started and I like to see our team, how they're executing, what we call our customer experience, and making sure we're recognizing them for what they do. That's a lot of my day. It's kind of broken up. Portions of it are meetings in Atlanta with other leaders. But (also) getting out in the community.

How often do you get to your bank branches?

They stretch to Smiths Station, Phenix City, all of Columbus, up to Pine Mountain, Macon, Warner Robins, which isn't bad. But I go from Dublin, McRae, Sandersville, Fitzgerald, Douglas, Americus. You go right down the middle of Georgia and that's where they're lined up. My goal is to try to see everyone once a month. That's a challenge I have. But at least bi-monthly.

As a former personal banker, do you find yourself giving staffers tips?

Tips are always helpful -- best practices, strategies on how to do things. No one's an expert to me. You can always learn something new. I learn something new from tellers every day that maybe I didn't know. Sometimes I'm a mentee versus a mentor. But I sit with bankers, sit with tellers, and just observe them and give them feedback to help make their job easier.

Do you use your military experience with this job?

Teamwork is the biggest thing. In the military you're a team, you're part of a big team. The same thing here at Wells Fargo. Coming out of the Army, and going into Metlife, and my role here as a banker, is really about discipline ... discipline to a process. When you meet with clients, there's a process that you want to go through to make sure you're meeting their needs. So teamwork and discipline are two huge things that I learned in the military that will take you a long way.

What is a big challenge you face?

Work-life balance is sometimes a challenge. And a lot of it is not when I'm here (at the office). It's through meetings, having to travel, being out of town for a number of days. Even then, when I get back, I have to add in more hours to get caught up. That sometimes is a challenge. But my wife and kids know that I'm there for them. And my boss is very supportive of that, too, making sure we have that work-life balance.

Banking is now about technology. Are some customers leery of the changes taking place?

Initially, yes. But a lot of people -- customers -- are migrating to that, whether they're millennials or baby boomers or even older. ... We have an online kiosk in every one of our branches, so we can demonstrate and show them how to use a computer (for banking). My mother- and father-in-law are not that old; they're in their 60s. But they have their own laptops and they're online ... We have so many ways to access information and accounts. It's just the way the environment going. But everybody's becoming more technologically sound.

What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Just looking at the progression of our team and the team members. Seeing somebody progress from a teller to a banker to a manager, that's always great to see. It's so rewarding that you know: Hey, I hired that person, I trained them, I mentored them, I created career development plans, and they progressed in their career. I think about all the people that I've been able to do that for. And it's making sure that the district managers that work for me are doing the same thing ... We want to make sure that we have a highly trained team and that everyone can progress with Wells Fargo.

What are the skills needed at your level?

You've got to have good time management. You've got to be able to motivate and coach, and really just be a solid leader ... We have 80 different companies (under Wells Fargo the holding corporation) and we have a lot of different lines of businesses, and we want to support all of those lines of businesses. That's really hard to do. But everything is really mandated by what the customers need.

You're absorbing a lot of information?

Yeah. And things are constantly changing. So you look at laws changing, products changing, services changing. We talk about new technology. You've got to be able to stay up to speed. How do you disseminate that information quickly? How do you know everyone has the information? So it's a lot of follow-up. But, really, beyond that, it's about can you motivate a team? Can you lead the team with our (bank's) vision and values? Those are key skills you've got to have.


Name: Robert D. Horn

Age: 48

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.

Current residence: Lives in Jefferson, Ga., but is in the process of relocating to the Columbus area

Education: 1983 graduate of Norristown High School in Norristown, Pa.; earned a bachelor’s degree in resource management from Troy University in 1994; earned a master’s degree in human resources management from Troy University in 1995

Previous jobs: U.S. Army from 1983-1996; MetLife from 1996-1999; and with Wells Fargo from 1999-present

Family: Wife, Heather, and sons Robert Joseph, Darin, Trevor

Leisure time: Enjoys exercising, playing golf and doing yard work

Of note: Enjoys coaching youth sports and volunteering in the community he works and lives in