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UMB's Kemper Proves Boring Is Better: Best In Class

Nonetheless, morale remains high at UMB, simply because of bragging rights. Kemper places as high a priority on the satisfaction of his employees as he does that of his customers. One of his key expansion strategies is hiring top talent away from struggling competitors. His deputies scrutinize pools of potential employees to make sure they fit UMB's culture, while Kemper spends a good deal of time budgeting out the resources to "pay up" for that top talent.

"Having the best people in the business, bar none, is what will drive our success," says Kemper. "It's not technology; it's not strategy; it's people. If you've got the right people, you're going to build the right strategy; if you've got the right people, you're going to make the right technology decisions. And you're going to have the right go-to-market strategy."

Kemper also holds a quarterly meeting with 10 to 15 employees who are hand-picked from all levels of the organization to "ask them what's on their mind." He and President Peter deSilva - a former top gun at Fidelity who has helped expand UMB's asset-management division - also embark on a two-week "Road Show" to engage employees throughout UMB's footprint, talk to them about what's going on at the company, and ask questions.

Beyond campaigning against what he calls "regulatory creep" and rallying the troops behind his strategies, Kemper is also looking for expansion opportunities within the bank's Midwestern footprint. He scans the FDIC's list of acquirable bank assets often, but says there are few deals he could embark upon with a clear conscience. Most of them would increase UMB's risk profile.

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