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Getting to Know You: Michael Wood, Senior Vice-President and Assistant General Counsel for Regions Bank

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As Senior Vice-President and Assistant General Counsel of Regions Bank based in Des Moines, Iowa, Michael Wood provides a wealth of legal knowledge and experience to his company in the form of advice and support.

Michael also contributes his expertise by collaborating with teams of paralegals, attorneys, and business colleagues to help protect Regions Bank from lawsuits, regulatory enforcement actions, and other legal issues.

Born in Columbia, Missouri, Michael Wood trained as a legal professional earning his Doctor of Law (J.D.) from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Soon after graduation, he was hired by a private law firm to practice bankruptcy, commercial, and criminal law. The experience he gained through this position led him to reflect on the future of his career. He realized that he wasn’t interested in the adversarial nature of private practice litigation, so he reassessed his career path, and explored other opportunities.

After some research and deep consideration, Michael discovered options within the consumer credit card industry, eventually accepting a role as Senior Counsel at Wells Fargo in West Des Moines, Iowa in 2001. During his time with Wells Fargo, he was promoted multiple times, ultimately attaining the role of Senior Vice-President and Assistant General Counsel and managing a team of twenty-five paralegals and attorneys. After nearly two decades of service, Michael Wood decided it was time for another change. He took a position at Discover Financial Services as Senior Legal Counsel for a brief period of time, before settling into his present job at Regions Bank, where he provides support for unsecured consumer and business credit, including credit cards, lines of credit, and closed-end loans.

In his time away from work, Michael Wood primarily likes to spend time with his family. Having always been athletically inclined, he also enjoys hiking, biking, and golf. Additionally, he loves to travel, and likes donating his time to volunteering with local charitable organizations.

What do you currently do at your company?

I support unsecured consumer and business credit, including credit cards (and related rewards programs), lines of credit, and loans. I also advise the business on new laws and regulatory requirements, as well as write and review legal disclosures and marketing materials aimed at consumers. In short, I’m involved with all legal issues that affect the businesses I support.

What was the inspiration behind going into this field?

I always enjoyed the consumer credit and consumer payments industry. I find the new technology involved to be quite exciting. Developments with digital payments, such as Apple pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, are really revolutionizing the industry. Now, people can go to a store and pay with a smartphone or a smart watch, which can be faster and more secure than other traditional forms of payment. It’s fascinating to see the technology improve to the point of enabling people to make purchases without having to carry around cash or credit cards. I also enjoy the consumer credit industry because it helps individuals live and pursue their dreams. Virtually everyone will need to utilize credit at one time or another in their lives. It is rewarding to help people realize their dreams in that respect.

What defines your way of doing business?

The foundation for my way of doing business and providing legal advice is to conduct myself as though I am dealing with a family member. I like to think that if a family member was watching me while I worked, they’d be proud of me. It’s as simple as that. Much of what I do is address complex legal matters, and the solutions to those matters are almost always found through asking myself two questions: “Is this the right thing to do? Am I setting a positive example?”

Tell us one long-term goal in your career?

My long-term goal is to leave any company that I work for a little better off than it was before I started to work there and to improve the experience for the customers. I still have quite a few years to go before retiring, but my motivation does not lie in chasing a title or a specific position. I’d like for people to say that I gave sound, helpful legal advice that helped not only the company, but the customers, as well.

How do you measure success?

For me, success is not about a title you have or the amount of money that you make. I believe success is about making a positive impact on the company you work for, improving the experience for the customers that they serve, and developing constructive working relationships with colleagues. In one position I held, I had the privilege of mentoring younger professionals and helped develop the careers of colleagues on my team. It was very humbling and rewarding to be able to measure my success through their achievements. To me, success is about using your own talents to help guide others and aiding in their career progression so that they can pursue their life goals.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned throughout the course of my career is not to take things personally. You will inevitably meet people throughout your career who may not see your worth, disagree with you, or not necessarily share your values. You simply need to try and adapt, move on, and roll with it.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

This may sound old-fashioned, but the advice I would give is to work hard, conduct yourself honestly and ethically, and always do your best. Bring your authentic self to work. Be patient—success rarely occurs instantly and usually takes time and consistent effort. Although, if you are with a company that does not recognize your worth, then certainly consider moving on. That company may not be the right fit for you. Find an employer that will value your work and efforts.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

I set healthy boundaries between those two aspects of my life. I work as hard as I can during office hours, realizing that there are times when I’ll have to work overtime in order to best serve my employer. However, I think it’s important not to sacrifice personal or family time. I prioritize family events and do my best to attend all of them. I also think it’s important to recharge, which helps improve my performance at work and reduce the chances of burning out.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

I work remotely, so the speed and consistency of my internet connection is crucial. A fast, reliable connection allows me to seamlessly engage with my colleagues through video meetings and emails.  It’s the most important technology for me to do my job.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

One of the hardest obstacles I’ve experienced was a layoff at a company later in my career. It was difficult because it was unexpected. It created uncertainty in my life at the time, but it led me to find a better work opportunity. In addition, that layoff connected me to many other people who had a similar experience. It was a challenge and a life lesson that ended up creating a much better future for me.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

I have learned many lessons from a diverse cross-section of people throughout my life. My inspiration has come from family and co-workers alike. I’ve found that if you pay attention, you can learn a lot from the people that surround you every day. I think it’s valuable to be observant of that.

What is one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with?

Invest early, often, and consistently. Always be your authentic self. You are molded into your best self through good work experiences, but also not-so-good experiences. Be patient during the course of your career and don’t be afraid to make a move if your employer doesn’t value your worth.