Enrico Della Corna, a 24-year veteran of PNC Bank, was appointed Southeast regional executive for commercial banking earlier this summer. In his new role, Della Corna will focus on companies with annual revenue of $10 million to $50 million. He will also help the Pittsburgh-based bank extend its reach along the East Coast, overseeing 10 new markets, including Charlotte, Atlanta and Orlando.
Della Corna, who helped oversee PNC’s entry to the Washington area eight years ago, remains the bank’s Virginia market executive. He recently spoke to Capital Business about his new role, the challenges of expanding into uncharted territory and the bank’s recent move to Tysons Corner.
You helped set up PNC’s offices in Washington in 2005, and are now overseeing 10 new markets for the bank. What are some of the challenges of expanding into a new region?
Well, people asking you what PNC stands for and not really knowing who you are. We don’t have the benefit of the doubt [in new markets] like we do in Pittsburgh. We’re a household name in Pittsburgh and in Philadelphia and Ohio, where we’ve been for over 150 years.
Around here, you have to educate people on why they should consider doing business with you and get to know you and trust you. It’s a different challenge when you have to explain who you are as opposed to what you do.
One other point to [emphasize] is that PNC has a regional relationship model. We make credit decisions and loan decisions locally, not out of some corporate headquarters.
Why is that important — to make those decisions at a local level?
Every market is unique. They’re made up of different employees, different levels of business.
As a company, we clearly have a decision process that is corporate-wide, but it’s really important to allow the people who are local experts, who really get to know the clients and understand the nuances between doing business in the District and in Northern Virginia [make lending decisions].
It’s very regional — it can be somewhat provincial at times, but it’s important to be physically present and to know the people you’re making decisions about. It’s harder to do that from a distance.
Specifically, within the D.C.-area market, how are needs in Northern Virginia different from those in the District or Maryland?
The make-up of the kinds of companies that exist in the District are clearly different — there are many government agencies, public finance-related companies, many associations that are headquartered there. There is a cadre of very interesting businesses in the District, and it’s just a different environment when you get out to Northern Virginia, which has a higher concentration of companies that serve the federal government.
Plus, people do business differently in the state of Virginia than they do in Montgomery County, which has a lot of pharma companies and service companies. It’s just different.
How has the banking industry changed since you first arrived in the D.C. area in 2005?
A lot has changed in the eight years we’ve been in the Washington area, particularly with the financial crisis of 2008, 2009.
Despite that, we have almost tripled in size since we moved here. That was because we were fortunate to stay out of some of the riskier businesses at the time.
There have been a lot of things outside the control of the industry, too, through Dodd-Frank regulations and Basel III guidelines, so there are a lot of head winds in the industry.
What are you seeing in terms of demand for commercial loans?
The first quarter was slow in some of our regions, including the greater Washington area. I’ve seen a substantial pick-up since then, at least in our activity, which is encouraging. Overall, things are going pretty well in the corporate banking side.
We have probably been more broad-based and busy in the larger-end of our markets [typically companies with more than $50 million in annual revenue], but I’m starting to see a resurgence on the commercial side right now. That is a really great indicator that ground-level businesses and smaller businesses [are gaining] some real good momentum.
PNC recently consolidated its Washington area offices into a new location in Tysons Corner. Why did you decide to make that move?
We were looking for the right location to house all our lines of business in one place. It’s helpful because it creates a lot of mutual discussion.
I’m very happy to have everybody together — and coincidentally, the office is three miles away from my house.