First Republic Bank
In 2007, First Republic Bank (FRB) joined Merrill Lynch, which was subsequently acquired by Bank of America. Amidst the changes in ownership, FRB aimed to maintain control over its unique culture specializing in personalized banking and wealth management. The bank’s commitment to its culture was reinforced in 2010, when a group of investors—including the company’s founding CEO—purchased the bank.
First Republic was once again an independent, privately owned company. With this milestone, FRB had to reassert its culture. But how would the company continue to move forward while still preserving its character? A publication provided a key opportunity to definitively document the bank’s heritage.
Before The History Factory’s team began writing, we needed to understand what defined First Republic. Our team conducted a series of interviews with members of the company’s leadership in order to codify the bank’s culture. By interviewing the bank’s leadership, we effectively encapsulated the founders’ stories and identified the cultural qualities that distinguished the company from its competitors. Interview sessions targeted FRB’s major markets and specific business objectives, surveying both broader accounts and more focused perspectives. The History Factory facilitated individual as well as group interviews in order to accurately capture the bank’s collective memory.
Once we were immersed in First Republic’s individual culture, The History Factory produced a 200-plus page publication, Exceptional People, Extraordinary Service: The Story of Our Client-focused Heritage & Culture, which showcased the company’s enduring values and ability to form authentic client relationships. The book served as an official record of the experiences of the company’s founding members, while positioning the next generation of FRB employees to better serve the bank’s growing consumer audience.
Over 15,000 books were printed. First Republic has used the publication internally to welcome and commend employees, and externally to develop client relations. FRB also created an e-book version of the publication. Together, the publication project and oral history interviews imparted significant cultural knowledge and inspired a series of workshop sessions at the bank’s Culture Carrier roundtable events. Our sessions—facilitated by The History Factory’s founder and CEO Bruce Weindruch—engaged FRB employees and challenged participants to think critically about who they were as a company: their heritage, their identity, their strengths and their unique market position.
The initial oral history interviews were so successful that the number of interviews scheduled tripled alongside the publication’s development. An endeavor that began with interviews of select members of the bank’s leadership grew to include more than 40 archived sessions with FRB employees and clients. The bank has since leveraged these interviews as heritage and culture videos, showcasing the company’s values and customers’ experiences. By recognizing its heritage, FRB did more than preserve its character against the backdrop of change. It discovered the power of a culture founded on best-in-class customer service.