Personalities of Pittsburgh: Alexander Overstrom, PNC – Pittsburgh Business Times – The Business Journals

Alexander Overstrom in July became head of retail banking at PNC Financial Services Group, leading a team of 35,000 people across the country and overseeing more than 2,600 branches or, in PNC speak, solution centers. PNC (NYSE: PNC) CEO Bill Demchak told financial analysts at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in June that Overstrom “got the seat” for handling the transformative BBVA USA Bancshares conversion last year; the $11.6 billion deal took PNC coast-to-coast and involved the conversion of 2.6 million customers, 9,000 employees and close to 600 branches. “He got into the weeds and ran that,” Demchak said. “I’ve got high hopes with what he can do.” Overstrom joined PNC as head of strategy for Corporate & Institutional Banking and later became its COO. He also served as head of PNC Aviation Finance and of PNC Merchant Services and, most recently, was head of small business. PNC hired Overstrom from Wall Street in 2014; he had started his career at Goldman Sachs in 2006, working in investment banking and firmwide strategy. But if anyone was born to be a banker, it’s Overstrom. His late father, Gunnar Overstrom Jr., had been vice chairman of FleetBoston Financial and president and COO of Shawmut National Corp.
We did this in the midst of Covid; we did the entire thing virtually, which is almost unheard of in the world of bank integrations and mergers. I look back at it and I’m still amazed. 
It was totally my dad. He worked in banking, and I would wake up every morning starting at [age] five or six and I’d get dressed in his office while he was reading the newspaper and pepper him with questions. I’d ask him to give me his work papers even though I couldn’t exactly read. I knew from an early age I wanted to do what he did. 
It’s an amazing place — great people and I love the model. When I was working in New York, I always wanted to get into commercial banking. My dad had been a commercial banker when I was growing up in Connecticut; I worshipped him, and that’s what I wanted to do. I was working as an investment banker covering financial institutions like PNC, and I’d always admired the company’s business model, the Main Street approach to banking. What was remarkable was how well PNC performed during the [Great Recession]. When I was ready to leave Goldman Sachs, what I thought then and think now is PNC is the best bank in the country. It’s been eight-and-a-half years and it was the best decision of my life, outside of marrying my wife and having our kids.
In my office, there’s a sign on the wall that says, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It’s about the team and shared purpose. It’s all about people and the culture.
It’s the ability to touch so many people, whether they’re our customers — 11 million including small businesses — as well as the 35,000 people in retail, to help them in their careers, living their lives and financial lives. There’s an intellectual challenge running such a large and complex business, but, ultimately, it’s how can we help people.
Not enough time in the day to do it all. You want to do more, but there’s just so much time. 
The ability to touch so many of our customers It’s an opportunity to learn new things, how we bring digital products to life for instance, and how they manage their investments and payments. It’s an incredibly interesting base to have such a big impact.
It’s sort of simple: We want to execute our model, bringing the Main Street approach to more customers. We have the opportunity to do that across the U.S. There are millions of people who haven’t been told how to successfully build a financial future. We want to give them the control and choices to live the financial life they want and deserve. That’s what we’re trying to do.
I remember walking into her office and she basically completely changed my understanding of what the customer experience means and gave me this obsession with our customers that stuck with me through everything I’ve done at the bank, including leading other businesses. If we don’t deliver an amazing customer experience and think about how everything we do affects that, we can’t possibly be successful. She really instilled this in everyone. That was an important thing for me to understand and Karen really did teach me that. I’m eternally grateful. 
Being trusted by Bill and the board to take on this role. It’s a massive responsibility, taking care of more than 11 million customers. It’s the pinnacle of everything I’ve been asked to do at PNC.
Bruce Hornsby is my favorite artist. I have no musical talent, but I’d love to be like Bruce and play incredible music on the piano. I’ve even got my kids obsessed with his music.
My dad. I lost my dad when I was 18 and he was such a formative part of my upbringing and life. I have so many questions, so many things I want to talk to him about what I’m doing now.
Title and company: Head of Retail Banking, PNC Financial Services Group Inc.
Age: 38
First job: Started early in finance by working as a hedge fund summer analyst out of high school
Education: B.A., public policy, Duke University
Residence: Shadyside
Family: Wife Sloan; 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son
Hobbies: Reading, traveling, and spending time with wife and kids
Cause closest to you: Pittsburgh CLO and Carnegie Museum of Art 
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