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Q&A: Paul Stowell promoted to Nevada regional executive for City National

Paul Stowell smiles and talks with pride when you mention the partnership between City National Bank and the Vegas Golden Knights that has elevated the financial institution’s brand in the community.

The 61-year-old Stowell, a one-time reporter for Channel 13 before going into banking public relations 35 years ago, was behind the effort for City National becoming a sponsor of the NHL franchise and getting the name rights for their practice arena near the bank’s regional office in Summerlin,

Stowell was promoted late last year to Nevada regional executive for City National. He’s a senior vice president and public relations manager and responsible for business-related responsibilities in Nevada as well as marketing and public relations in Nevada, Orange County and San Diego.

The son of a former corporate pilot who lived around the country and in England, Stowell and his wife, Leslie, have five children and one granddaughter.

Stowell’s a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in broadcast journalism whose career led him to Las Vegas where he worked for Channel 13 for about 18 months.

Q: How did you go from a TV reporter to banking?

A: I was doing a banking story and interviewing Peter Thomas of the Thomas & Mack Co., (He was the president of Valley Bank of Nevada.) and he asked the question have you ever thought about getting into banking. I said, ‘No, I’m a broadcast journalist.’ I kept saying no, and about four months later, after discussions with others, I pulled the trigger and jumped ship out of broadcast journalism and got into banking with Valley Bank of Nevada.

Q: What did you do?

A: I was working in the marketing and public relations department. I was handling media relations and dealing with people I had been working alongside of as a broadcast journalist.

Q: What happened with your career there?

A: Valley Bank ended up selling to Bank of America in 1992. I stayed with Bank of America and it merged with Nations Bank in 1998 and created the new BofA you see, today. After two years, I had the opportunity to get into management with a smaller community bank called Business Bank of Nevada in 2000. From there, seven years later, they sold to City National Bank. I joined City National as senior vice president, the same as I was with Business Bank. I started taking on a lot more responsibilities and taking on other regions, in addition to Nevada, by working in Orange County and San Diego. In December, I took over as the Nevada regional executive.

Q: What are your responsibilities?

A: I was handling all of the marketing and public relations and community relations, so in addition to all of that, I got to take on the Nevada regional executive responsibilities, which puts me over the entire Nevada region. I work with all the lines of business in terms of business development and colleague management. I am the face of the bank. I do a lot more client interaction. This morning, I was with our new CEO Kelly Coffey, and we did a VIP breakfast with clients and prospects interested in becoming clients.

Q: How did the City National sponsorship of the Golden Knights come about?

A: In May 2017 I was trying to get someone from the Vegas Golden Knights. I had a board meeting coming up with our CEO coming to town from Los Angeles. I wanted to get someone from the Knights to come speak to our board members about this new endeavor coming to Las Vegas. I wasn’t getting a response so I said to my colleagues that I am going to drive over to their office. I knocked on the door and got a hold of someone, and President Kerry Bubolz came. After he spoke, I walked him out and asked: ‘If we can get together and talk about a major sponsorship of naming rights to your new practice arena being built across the way over here.’ He said, ‘Are you serious, and ‘I said I’m dead serious. We would like to see what opportunities may be available.’ The following week we got together and spoke, and we agreed we wanted to move forward on naming rights and major sponsorship to make us the official bank of the Vegas Golden Knights. We flew up to Napa Valley and met with (Knights owner Bill Foley), and from the end of the May to end of July negotiated and signed a contract the first part of August. The rest is history. Our name is on the building. We’re the official bank and we have quite a large brand presence in T-Mobile Arena and we have a great relationship.

Q: What is the deal and the amount?

A: It is a 10-year deal for naming rights on the practice facility and T-Mobile. We didn’t disclose (the amount).

Q: Why did you do the agreement?

A: We saw a great opportunity to align ourselves with a great brand that we felt we would take hold in this town. We had a lot of confidence in talking with Mr. Foley. We knew what he was going to do. In our early discussions, he said ‘we hope to be competitive in three to five years and maybe go the playoffs.’ He was surprised as anyone in the first year they accomplish something no professional sports team had every accomplished.

Q: What was the reasoning behind a sports sponsorship and naming rights?

A: What was so great about it is that it fits into City National’s business model. We bank entrepreneurs, and Mr. Foley is truly one of the best entrepreneurs you can find out there in everything he has done, and continues to do. What he was doing with the Vegas Golden Knights was phenomenal. Listening to him, it was easy to say that is something we wanted to get behind because this town was already in love with hockey because a lot of transplants have come to Las Vegas who come from towns with hockey teams.

Q: Do you think other businesses regret not becoming a sponsor like City National has done?

A: I can tell you I have heard out there that there’s some that wished they would have done what we did and, thankfully, we are the ones that did it. There is a lot of other non-financial institutions that have told me when your contract is up, beware because we’re going to try and snag that. Fortunately, we have the first right of refusal after 10 years.

Q: What does your sponsorship include?

A: We have season tickets in different areas of the arena as part of our sponsorship. We do client entertainment. Our clients love going to the games. We get lots of phone calls. This relationship had catapulted our brand, and we couldn’t be happier being a part of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Q: What impact has it had on your business?

A: We were doing singles and once in a while doubles, and when we aligned ourselves with the Knights, we were hitting home runs. People have walked into our branches and said they ‘want to open a relationship with you because you’re the official bank of the Golden Knights.’ That has happened over and over and over again. It is interesting the power of brand identity associated with the Knights has been amazing. We have generated a lot of business from this partnership. I know there are a lot of our competitors that are kicking themselves for not doing this. I can tell you right now it’s definitely paying for itself, and we couldn’t be happier.”

Q: What is City National’s history in Las Vegas?

A: City National has been doing business here prior to the Business Bank acquisition and was very active in the real estate market, doing a lot of construction lending to business owners building commercial office buildings and residential. But in 2007 they wanted to get more active in this market and they pursued Business Bank of Nevada.

Q: Who is your customer in Nevada?

A: Our business model is tailored after what our tag line says. We’re a premier private and business bank. We’re not, as the number of our branches represents, a retail bank per say where we are on every street corner. We are very relationship-centric, and we go after those relationships with the professional services industry. Our sweet spot is doctors, attorneys and certified public accountants and professional services industry. We also bank small, medium and large businesses. We will bank a manufacturing company, and we bank some casinos on the smaller scale. What is interesting is we merged with the Royal Bank of Canada in 2015, and we’re a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Canada. What that has done for us has raised our lending verticals and capabilities to where we still have that small bank feel and that regional bank footprint but we have access to a trillion-dollar balance sheet that is among the 10 largest banks in the world.

Q: What operations do you have in Nevada and how many employees?

A: We now have four in Southern Nevada and three in Northern Nevada, and we have a regional center (in Summerlin). Our corporate headquarters is in Los Angeles. We have 65 employees in Nevada and 45 in Las Vegas. We have 5,000 employees nationwide, and the last three years we have been part of Royal Bank of Canada, we have hired almost 1,500 new colleagues for City National. RBC has more than 84,000 colleagues worldwide. We’re in a growth mode right now because the Royal Bank of Canada wants to help City National grow its presence in the United States. In the last three years since we have a part of the RBC family, we have opened up a regional office in Minneapolis, another office in New York City. We opened offices in Boston and Connecticut, and we just opened in Miami and we opened some offices in Washington, D.C. We continue to grow and opened another office in LA. We’re looking at growth opportunities in all of our regions and that includes Nevada. We continue to grow and hire more people. We just hired more people in our private banking group in Northern Nevada. We’re very bullish on Nevada.

Q: How do you see the Las Vegas economy?

A: Las Vegas and Nevada is doing very well. It’s very robust north and south and we’re taking advantage of a lot of that through our clients and new clients. We see 2019 as good and we don’t see any recession and we don’t see any turndown. Right now, 2019 will be very good, and 2020, as we get through this year we are starting to see some softening to GDP. There is a lot of geopolitical uncertainty out there. We’re just telling our clients be mindful of what you’re doing out there and make sure you’re stable and position yourselves for the future.

Q: What are some of the concerns you see out there?

A: The biggest thing that I hope Nevada will continue to work together to make this state better and we don’t get caught up in the political fray of Washington, and that our state is still entrepreneurial, and the Old West, where we have access to the governor and politicians. And even though we are competitors in a lot of areas we can come together. When there is a need in this community, I can get on the phone and call any one of my peers at any bank and we come together and help this community. That’s what it’s all about.

Q: What are you and City National involved with in the community?

A: I continue to align myself with philanthropic endeavors that I am passionate about. I’m passionate about education. I’m involved with the advisory board at West Tech. I sit on the board at Touro University. City National has an award-winning program called Reading is the Way Up, a literacy program. We go into schools and we do book drives with Barnes & Noble. We do author visits with renowned authors. We do financial literacy and teach a program called Dollars and Cents. We go in and read to students.

Q: How difficult was it to make the transition from journalism to banking?

A: I tell people I’m a communications practitioner that happens to work for a bank. I learned the banking side of it. You can take your skill set and go work for any company. It’s just learning the widgets and things you are promoting. I have found a love for banking because it’s so intertwined with the community. That’s what I love. I can sit here and make a difference with a philanthropic organization or with a startup business or someone trying to expand their business. I am in a position I can be of help, and that’s fun.

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