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Parting Thoughts: PNC Bank’s Bruce Colbourn

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“Time is going to be my friend”

It’s rare these days when an executive stays at the same company for more than 40 years, much of that in the same building. But that’s exactly what Bruce Colbourn did, ending his morning commute at 222 Delaware Ave. at the home first of Bank of Delaware and then PNC for the past 33 years.

Bruce Colbourn at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington | Photo by Ron Dubick

But all good things must come to an end, and Colbourn, who had served as PNC’s market president for the past three years, decided back in April that it was time to enter the next chapter of his life. His 99-year-old father’s health was failing and his youngest son was experiencing academic challenges that required more of his dad’s attention.

“He and his mother live in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I wanted the flexibility to jump on a plane to support him,” Colbourn, 64, said. “So, I decided it was time to unplug from the bank, which was tough to do since I’ve been on the same street corner for so many years.”

“Bruce is a gentleman of the first order who has offered to continue to provide counsel to me, even after retiring in October,” said Jim Hutchinson, who has taken over as the market president. “He is an experienced, native Delawarean and I’m going to have to work hard to build the sort of relationships that he has.”

Asked how his leadership style will compare to Colbourn’s, Hutchinson said, “I think we’re both easy to get along with, both even-tempered and we spend a lot of time talking to people about their challenges and how we can help.”

In short, Hutchinson knows he has big shoes to fill.

Colbourn sat down with DBT Editor Peter Osborne to reflect on his career.

At what point in your life did you realize you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful?
Frankly, it was when my first child was born. I realized that, to a degree, I was going to be a rudder in his life always focused on steering him in the right direction. From a work perspective, it was when I had my first graduate of the robust PNC management training program reporting to me. There were quite a few similarities as I felt I had
the power to do something meaningful for these individuals as I was steering them along their career path.

How do you want to be remembered?
Honest, fair, one of the team, always left what little ego I have at the door.

What were your strengths as a leader/entrepreneur?
Your weaknesses? Relationship builder, influencer, ability to get things done. Weakness ““ I should have delegated more.

What’s more important in leadership:
Make their strengths stronger or eliminate their weaknesses? I think it is a combination of both. Reinforce and applaud their strengths and constructively discuss weaknesses
with suggestions to improve.

What’s the greatest compliment you ever received?
From a direct report,
“In my lengthy career, you have been the best manager I ever had.”

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
As a leader/manager, it is always important to impart compassion, stability, hope, and understanding. I think I learned that trait from my dad, who passed away in July.

When you hear the word “successful,” who (or what) do you think of?
I think of the many entrepreneurs I had the pleasure of working with over the years. These individuals took an idea and through tireless hard work turned
those ideas into thriving businesses.

What’s your favorite quote?
From a mentor of mine: “Get the facts before
the facts get you.”

What’s the question you wish more people would ask themselves?
What career will provide me with satisfaction and happiness?

What was the key to your success?
Hard work, humility, and as mentioned earlier, the desire to build relationships and consensus.

When you feel overwhelmed, get distracted, or lose your focus, what do you do?
Stop what I am doing. Dissect the problem into components so you are looking at multiple smaller issues as opposed to a much larger issue to address. By addressing each component and then reassembling the tasks, I typically achieved my desired results, which eliminates the feeling of being overwhelmed.

What’s next for you?
For the short term, some travel, some de-cluttering around my house that has been on hold for years, frequent visits to the YMCA and doing what I can to help my sons. Longer term “¦ I’m open to what the future may bring! I do expect to remain active on the boards at the Grand Opera House and the YMCA and spend more time volunteering. It’s been two months today that I’ve been retired. Each day, I give some thought to what my next chapter will be. Time is going to be my friend. 

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