As an Ohio native, James Malz takes pride in bringing his Midwestern values to bear on his duties as president of the Ohio market of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Growing Chase's Middle Market

As an Ohio native, James Malz takes pride in bringing his Midwestern values to bear on his duties as president of the Ohio market of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Among his mentors is his 103-year old grandmother. Malz credits her with keeping him grounded and instilling a sense of humility that has served him well throughout his banking career.

"You can never get too high. If you do, you're going to be hugely disappointed," says Malz. "I try to carry that through and show that [to] some of the folks that I manage, certainly with my clients."

Malz, who was named Ohio market president in 2011, came to JPMorgan Chase through Bank One. At the time of the banks' 2004 merger, he was northeast regional president of Bank One-a job he retained.

Today, after 26 years in the industry, Malz oversees 23,089 Ohio employees (the majority based in Central Ohio), 3.2 million consumer customers and 161,175 small business clients. Nationwide, JPMorgan Chase employs 260,000 people and serves 50 million customers.

Malz maintains a strong physical presence throughout the company's Central Ohio locations. Each morning, he walks through the Chase branch in the lobby of the East Broad Street headquarters on the way up to his office. He is a regular presence at the Polaris offices, where the bank's global technology operations are based. He encourages employees to come to him with, as he puts it, "the good, and bad and the ugly."

Q: Describe your work as president of the Ohio market.

A: I do many things, but my day job is managing and executing on our middle-market footprint throughout the state of Ohio, so it's our middle-market companies that we bank. In addition to all of Ohio, I have responsibility for Western Pennsylvania, building out the middle-market footprint there. We're kind of in a growth mode in Pittsburgh, predominantly. We're in the process of hiring a few new bankers and talent there to really have a much larger commercial bank presence.

I also chair the Ohio leadership team as it relates to important matters that are before us in each of our major markets throughout the state.

I also do a lot with our elected officials as the state head here-federal, state, local. And when I do have time after serving in the community on several boards, I'm also a husband and a father, which is the most important task.

Q: Is the shale market playing a part in your expansion to Pennsylvania?

A: It will. I think right now it's easy for the large players in there, the big names which are much larger companies, some of them we bank already. But as it relates to the middle market space, it's really more about the supply chain that's servicing that new industry.

That's going to take off, and so that's where we're going to be well-positioned. Not only in Eastern Ohio, from here all the way up to Mahoning Valley and up north, but also in Western Pennsylvania as we grow and expand. That's going to be a big part of the growth strategy there, absolutely. It's going to be a matter of time.

Q: Will the shale boom increase Chase's middle-market business or small business loans in the region?

A: First [it will benefit] the bigger players. Then it'll come down to the supply chain in the middle market. Then what you're going to see is a lot of entrepreneurs setting up, new businesses created, both that are supplying directly the industry but also the indirect things such as restaurants, hotels, other businesses that go along with increasing the value of the communities that are already there that are going to experience a boom. I think that's where you're going to see a lot of small business loans being made.

Q: What makes Ohio a good place for Chase to do business with those firms?

A: Every bank has its own definition of how they cover the market, but by and large, most banks cover the market he way we do in the middle-market space. And that's where we have companies doing $25 million a year in revenue up to $500 million … mostly family-held or privately held businesses. We do have a few … small publicly traded companies, but also we just don't adhere to the paper definition at the high end.

If there's a company doing $1 billion in revenue, for example, public or private, and they act more like a middle-market client-meaning their buying patterns are more middle market versus maybe large corporate and that they prefer to have a local relationship team in any of the markets in Ohio--we'll cover them as well. Our firm is very, very sensitive to what our clients want and how they want to be covered, how they want to be dealt with.

We're very sensitive to that … we have a great vetting process about what's the best way, the best value to bring to our clients. Is it middle market, or is it what we call corporate client banking, which is the next market up?

Q: Is it challenging for a large firm like Chase to stay adaptable?

A: No. I think, believe it or not, I mean we are large, we're very complex, but actually being [located] here, we're pretty nimble. We're pretty streamlined. We're pretty efficient. We have local decision making in all of our markets. We deliver our products and services locally. At the end of the day, middle-market banking is about relationships, local relationships. We want to preserve that as best we can.

Q: Do you work with the National Center for the Middle Market at Ohio State?

A: We have several relationships with the university in a variety of different capacities. I'm very familiar with that program. There are other collaborations and partnerships that we already have today with Ohio State and that we're looking to do in the future that are even going to be more impactful, more valuable. For not only students there, we think, but also as it relates to getting folks ready for the employment world.

That's part of the governor's plan … workforce readiness, workforce development. How do we get ahead of it so we're not lagging behind when students come out of … college or university and spend two or three years trying to bring them up to where they need to be. Let's figure out ahead of time where we can do that, which I think is a great, great thing.

Q: Have you talked to Gov. Kasich about workforce development?

A: Absolutely. Myself and a team of folks from JPMorgan Chase on not only that issue, but certainly as it relates to other issues in the state. Because we're invested heavily here. We're not going away.

Chances are we're going to be growing here in addition to our 23,000-plus strong employee base [already] in Ohio. I can tell you we have a great relationship with the governor's office because of our employment base here and some of the things that we're doing.

Q: What skill sets do you need at Chase that you'd like to see students leaving college with?

A: The most basic, frankly. Technology is good, don't get me wrong, but I think it does limit folks today because they're so wrapped up in how they communicate behind a machine or phone or text or Twitter, but [lack] interpersonal skills. Bar none, the most important thing a person can have is being able to communicate physically and verbally like you and I are today, versus maybe expressing themselves behind an email, a text, a Tweet, or what have you. Really, it's the in-person dialogue that makes things go, especially in business.

You may not be directly client-facing, for example. You may be working in a very important area of any company, support, IT operations, administration. You still need to know how to communicate with your associates, your fellow employees and your manager. Because if you can't, it's going to create a lot of challenges. So I think that's No. 1.

No. 2is just being prepared about what it means to be in a business, whether it's for-profit or not-for-profit. What I mean by that is understand the culture of the company that you want to go to. Understand the management styles, the leadership team. Know who's on the board, what the CEO's all about. Where does the firm like to direct its philanthropic dollars?

If that matches up with you as an individual and the opportunity's right to take a position within that firm, that might be a good start to really blossom for a long-term career in one place.

Q: The bulk of your Ohio employees are here in Columbus. What makes this a good city for basing operations?

A: I love everything about Ohio. It's such a diverse, neat state in so many ways, whether it's the industries we have, the people we have, the regions we have, whether it's the major metro areas or the rural areas, you've got to love it.

I travel this state extensively every week. It's just amazing how you meet people, [the] companies that they have. I get surprised every week-positively-about this state. Getting back to why Columbus, I think we really leveraged what we consider the pioneer of banking. That was John G. McCoy and his legacy, and what he built here in Columbus as the headquarters town for Bank One at the time.

After JPMorgan Chase and Bank One came together in 2004 … our executive leadership at the time made a commitment that Columbus would not be hurt by this merger, meaning we were not going to pull away our employment base at that time and move them to New York or Chicago or wherever. And if you look at the numbers, I can tell you we've added about 6,000 or more employees since that merger here in Central Ohio. To me, that's a huge testament of, one, what we're willing to do, and two, our investment here.

We have here in Central Ohio a gem of folks working for JPMorgan Chase that support our employees and clients globally. There are some global operations here, so we're always moving in people from other areas to come into Columbus to run some pretty large organizations within JPMorgan Chase.

Columbus as a town, as a city, as a region, has its act together in terms of the vision. The public-private partnership between business and the mayor's office, state leadership … I've got to tell you it's a recipe that's going to be a great thing for this area down the line because there's vision here. And it's a great community, it's a diverse community. There's lots to do, it's family-oriented. In my opinion, it's a great Midwestern town, only to get better.

Q: What are some important matters in Ohio that you'd like to help address?

A: We're always aware of what's happening in the legislature, whether it's Washington or here in Columbus. We want to make sure that we opine on the right topics and issues, one way or the other. Secondly, I think it's a matter of prioritization: Where do we want to go supporting national initiatives across our footprint in the country and how do we take those initiatives that support … Ohio organizations.

There's so many great organizations in this state, for us the challenge is finding out which ones best fit-because they're all good-but which ones best fit where we're going with our vision and mission and signature around philanthropic dollars and investment in employees.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

A: I can tell you that I'm not a dictator. Meaning that if I just commanded my team to do what I say, I'd be gone. … I wouldn't get the results that I need.

I think it depends on the situation, but by and large, you have to adapt and be nimble to the situation. So your style may change a little bit but the baseline for me is really collaborative. … I encourage dialogue. I want feedback. I want the team to raise their hand, [express] the good, and bad and the ugly.

You foster an environment that's open. Not to say you don't discipline and manage it, because you have to, but you really have to set the clarity around expectations then let them grow, develop, learn. People are going to make mistakes. I'm going to make mistakes. It's how you learn from those and move on. So that's kind of the environment that I foster. Very, very team-oriented, and the chemistry on the team has to be right.

Q: What do you look for in your team, from executives down to the ground level?

A: What I look for are folks that can adapt to change. If you can't adapt to change in an … increasingly changing environment, it's going to be hard. Secondly, as far as leadership traits go, I think you have to not be afraid to make tough decisions. There are a lot of unpleasant decisions and activities that we have to lead and execute upon. If you're afraid to do that, if you can't have the tough conversation, that's not really somebody we need.

You have to be fair and balanced, too. You have to understand every employee adds their own specific value to the firm. You have to understand each [employee's] background, diversity, workload, motivation, aspiration. I think one of the things we do great here, frankly, is we talent evaluate rigorously. … We're so open to job and career growth, career advancement, mobility throughout the firm, whether it's in my line of business in middle market or in retail or small business banking or private banking. We really collaborate with our partners across these other major lines of business about our own employees. … What do they want to do and how do we get them in the right spot so they can be future leaders?

Q: How have you seen the commercial banking industry change over the course of your career?

A: I missed banking by a generation. I joke about that because it's true. Gone are the days when you show up for work, work half the day, go to your two-martini lunch and maybe go play golf. And gone are the days when anybody that was a vice president-level or above had a golf membership for business development paid for by the bank. So I missed all that.

Frankly, that's a great thing because in today's world you have to adapt to the competitive environment. If you continued to have bankers' hours the way they were 30 years ago, 40 years ago, you wouldn't be around today-in fact, the organization wouldn't be around today.

Financial firms, banks and organizations are more nimble today than ever before. They have to be because the external marketplace demands it. Instant messaging, instant information, instantaneous updates, so you have to be available and responsive a lot quicker today than you were maybe 10 or 15, 30 years ago.

What's driving it is technology advances. Gone are the days when you walk in, you have maybe nine pink slips because you were out on business calls the day before and you've got to return those calls. Now, it's 24/7. I find myself and my team talking to clients after-hours, on the weekends. It's seven days a week. And you know what? That's OK. It's great because you're being responsive and you're getting ahead of issues that potentially could be not so pleasant. So you're managing expectations, I think, in the right way.

Q: Chase has to keep up with trends to keep up with younger generation of commercial clients, correct?

A: Organizations like ours, frankly all the other banks not only in Ohio but across the county, are really addressing that issue.

Financial literacy is one of the key ingredients for us through our philanthropic arm, [the] JPMorgan Chase Foundation. … We have to do a great job, in fact we owe it-all of us, all the banks-owe it to their customers and consumers, to teach them, educate them. Young, old, indifferent, whether they're advanced or not in terms of literacy around financial services. We owe it to them to know that. Because then and only then our societies and communities are better off, because people aren't overleveraged or find themselves in a hole they can't dig out of. That's our job and we owe it to them.

I wish we had more mandatory financial literacy courses in our schools. Starting in junior high, even grade school, have them understand what banking is … and really be more formal about that. Kids need it today.

On the flipside of that, we don't lose the fact that the elderly, the retirees for example, they grew up in a completely different environment … we still owe it to them to make sure we conduct business the way they're comfortable and used to as well, and we do.

You have to cater to a very diverse demographic.

Q: What prompted Chase to take the measure to change automatic collections by payday lenders from your consumer banking customers' accounts?

A: [I] think it's responsibility. You have a self-perpetuating situation, possibly. I want to be right down the middle of this because I'm not wearing the shoes of a payday lender either, and I can understand they'll have a different view on this. I think you just have to ensure that you're doing the right thing, whether it's for the consumer or the corporation. If you're not doing the right thing and if you think, 'Wow, we can do a certain amount of revenue' if we do something that's very detrimental to a person's own individual financial picture where they're struggling, we're not going to exploit that. No way we're going to exploit that. For us, it was the decision, that's not where we want to be.

We obviously want to help the unbanked. There's a large proportion of unbanked folks out there. To the extent we can help them and educate them about checking accounts and debit cards and credit cards, we will. But for us, doing payday lending with exorbitant rates … it's like the credit card scenario. If you just pay your minimum balance, every month, you're never going to get out of it.

We want to be ahead of that, because at the end of the day, it's long term. Meaning somebody who's in good stead in the community from a financial health perspective is going to make that community much better, right? It's going to make the community better, the companies better, the people better, the economy better. We want to be away from that drag.

Q: Chase is one of the top three SBA lenders in Ohio, correct?

A: Very proud of that. … We respect the competition here, frankly. Healthy competition is a great thing in the state, and this state has no shortage of competition, which is a good thing. … Ohio is blessed with great financial institutions both large and small, and it's great to see the regional players here, by the way, get healthy. Because that's just better for our communities and all the markets and people in the state. So we're very proud of SBA lending, of making loans to the small businesses, the entrepreneurs. But I just want to say kudos to another bank here in town that does a great job, and that's Huntington. That's good for the community here, that's good for the state, and that's what we value.

Q: Do you sit at the table on the Columbus Partnership with your colleagues in the banking community?

A: Absolutely. … We are blessed in the community to have Alex [Fischer] leading the Partnership with his ability to collaboratively engage the public and private side of all the issues. Columbus is very, very blessed to have Alex, and we should not let that go for granted.

Q: What goals do you have for hiring veterans in Ohio?

A: We came out one of the leading, founding firms [hiring] 100,000 veterans in five years. … With any organization, it starts at the top-and Jamie [Dimon]'s leadership around this. I can tell you we're well on our way of adding veterans, our heroes frankly, the true American heroes, into the workforce at JPMorgan Chase.

Personally, it's the right thing to do-honor and respect what these folks have done, protecting freedoms. I always tell my kids 'Freedom isn't free,' and [they say] 'Dad, what do you mean by that?' Well, here's what I mean: For people to go out and make all those sacrifices, we owe it to them as a society-certainly the business community owes it to them-to find them places of employment to get them situated back in the workforce and everyday life. We're one of the leaders in that regard. I'm very proud of that.

I talked about the 20,000 employees we have here in Central Ohio. We have some huge volunteer leadership teams here in our employee base, and we have huge veterans groups here that do a lot of different things providing awareness for all the employees across multiple lines of business here for veterans. It's a very, very, very cool thing, in my opinion.

It's the right thing to do, and really you have to respect their sacrifices and that's where we're going as a firm. We're very thankful that all these other companies joined up with us, and it's grown.

Q: How did the Ohio market of JPMorgan Chase do in 2012, and what do you project for 2013?

A: Actually it started out great, then really softened up in the middle and got busy again at the end of the year. There are reasons for that obviously: the fiscal cliff, uncertainty around the tax issues going into this year. But we did very well.

I have all the respect in the world for our clients, our middle-market clientele. They made some tough, painful decisions right after the crisis, late 2008, early 2009. Today we have a client base that's in pretty darn good, solid financial health. That's great. It's great for Ohio, it's great for our client base. Our loan quality is very, very good.

Now in 2013, we wish it'd be more active. It's highly competitive, which is good … healthy competition is great. It's great for everybody involved. But what we're doing now also gives us an opportunity to take a look back and see what our needs are for the future. Meaning, how do we want to invest for two, four, five years out?

I'm looking at this today, currently: What markets are we overinvested [in] and what do we do about that? And other markets where we're underinvested-Pittsburgh being one, Cincinnati's another, I would argue northeast Ohio, certain parts of Cleveland. We're adding talent there. So where do we need to add the right resources and get the best mix of coverage for serving clients and the communities?

[In] 2013, I will tell you that [we] have some pretty high-level budget targets. But I'll tell you this: We're not going to do anything rash just to meet a budget target. We won't do it, absolutely not. We're going to be very selective and measured in our growth when it comes to revenues and acquiring new relationships. It's about the client, client selection, obviously, but we're not going to do things just to meet a target.

Q: Chase reported record earnings for the first quarter 2013. What share does the Columbus market represent of that success?

A: If you break it down from a market-share perspective in middle market here, I can tell you we had a pretty good year here locally. Huntington, being headquartered here, still drives and commands a healthy market share, but I think when you layer in our business banking team, our middle-market team, our corporate client banking team and the things we do in the government, not-for-profit and health-care sector here-which is a big market here, it's one of the biggest in the state. And then anything we do with the large companies, the investment bank, we're No. 1, no question about it.

Q: What are your challenges moving into the last half of 2013?

A: I think it's getting the right talent, making sure you have the right talent to go out and execute upon your goals and objectives and your expectations that you set forth. Not only getting the right talent, but retaining the ones you have because, let's face it, it's a very competitive world out there and everybody needs good bankers. I believe we have some very good bankers here.

The other thing is maintaining the market share that you have. We all know it's very difficult to grow market share in an environment like this, especially when you're very disciplined in your approach and you're not going to do every deal that you see, or anything irrational. You want to maintain with what you have. You just hope that the loyalty of your client base rules the day, and that we're doing our job-we're earning the right to retain the relationship. We're doing our job bringing the right financial products and solutions and value to our client base. Because if we're not, then they deserve to leave. They have every right to look elsewhere. To me, we have to be doing our job because we can't take them for granted. That's the challenge.

Q: Do your colleagues in other regions have similarly competitive markets?

A: All of Ohio's highly competitive. …We all have competition, don't get me wrong, but I would say, for example, there's certain states that have two or three major, major players and very [few] regional banks. Here in Ohio, we're a major player obviously, but you have some great regional banks here too that make it very tough.

Now, for example, Pittsburgh's different. PNC [has] 65 percent of the market, so the whole dynamics are completely different. The No. 2 is 15 percent maybe, if that. And so that's where we think we can invest some resources and grow that market because there are opportunities for us to provide an alternative to those companies in that area other than what they have now.

Q: How much prep time goes into your move into a new market?

A: The old adage is we fire fast but hire slow-that's very true in our world. We want to make sure that we do it the right way. So we're very thoughtful and strategic where we go, whether it's Pittsburgh or whether it's Charlotte or whether it's Baltimore. … So we're going to be measured in how we do it. We do a lot of analytics around the demographics, the opportunities in terms of the companies, but also in terms of population base, industries and all that.

Then we really take our time, we're really qualifying the talent. … Because again, getting back to my earlier comments, it's about chemistry. It's about finding the right people that you know will do a great job for JPMorgan Chase. What we don't want to do is throw bodies at a couple openings … because ultimately they're going to fail. We want to make sure that those folks we work with have the resources, the proper training and understand our culture and where we want to grow and how we grow. So we take our time. Sometimes it's painful, but at the end of the day, it's the right strategy.

Q: Chase has its own companywide process to make sure the firm is in compliance with the Dodd-Frank Act. How important is that sort of internal check?

A: Extremely important. … Obviously it's the ever-increasing compliance and regulatory environment and influence that we have to manage. … It's not going to go away, it's the new norm, and we welcome that. But what we have to do as a firm is make sure our employee base is equipped, properly trained and understand what the new rules and regs and compliance issues are.

We're spending a lot of time putting a lot of folks through training and understanding how all this plays out. Certainly Dodd-Frank and some of the restrictions around that impacts what I can do and others can do. We're very wary of that and we're going to be doing the right thing.

Q: JPMorgan Chase stayed largely above the fray, for the most part, during the financial crisis, with large credit paid to chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. What does strong leadership mean to you in your position?

A: It goes without saying it all starts at the top. One of the things we're blessed with here is we have a strong leader, we have a strong board. The operating committee-whether it's for the commercial bank or the private bank, the investment bank-there's some strong, diverse folks that sit there. At the end of the day, their job is to execute the business. Not only today-today's easy. … How do you do it tomorrow with all of the changes? Some of which we know, by the way, and some of which we don't know yet. So you want to be in a position to be ahead of that, and that's what we're doing.

To have leadership like that and the integrity around it, the credibility around it, is amazing. I don't take that lightly, and I don't take it for granted. We are blessed to have that here. I think if you talk to any employee in this firm, certainly here in Ohio, they'll tell you the same thing.

Q: You're a native Ohioan. If you were to take a position in a different region, what do you think you'd miss the most?

A: I would miss the quality of life. If you want to be speedy here, you can, but if you want to slow down here, meaning go somewhere out of the city and spend a night in a bed and breakfast or one of the great state parks or hike on a trail somewhere, you can. Not to say there aren't those things in a major … city like a New York or a Chicago or Houston, but I would miss the people, the friendliness the openness and just the overall general climate here. The quality and balance of life.

Q: How do you strike a work-life balance?

A: I learned long ago, but I've used this more recently, it's OK to say no. You can't be everywhere all the time because you don't want to spread yourself too thin. You're going to wear yourself out. Fortunately, we have great leadership here and great talent. … If I can't be somewhere, we have great people to fill in and do things on behalf of the firm.

You manage your day just like anything else. You've got to be organized, you've got to prioritize. That's another basic trait that students coming out of college really have to learn. Figure out what's most important, attack those first, be efficient in how you do it and learn how to delegate.

I always tell my people, the best thing you can be doing-you can't be in the office all day-get out, be seen, do things. There are times when the job requires you … to be there for six hours in a row, and sometimes it's hard, but you've got to mix it up and make sure you're getting out and about.

Q: What other advice would you give to young men and women staring their career, particularly in the commercial banking industry?

A: Do their homework. Check the firm out. If you know people that work there, talk to them about it, understand who the CEO is, the board, the operating committee, where the firm's going, what their vision is, what they support in the community, their culture, and do their homework.

I think also, don't be afraid to reach out. Even if you don't know people there, and somebody says 'well, call Jim,' I encourage them to call me. One of the best things people can do is just reach out and say 'Hey, can I get 10 minutes of your time? Tell me what your day's like.' So they learn what it's like to be in the business world and what's happening in a specific role.

When they get here, frankly, seek out a mentor. I was a product of that early in my career, and I tell you it did wonders for me. We really encourage our employees to do the same here whether it's a mentor or good works, whether you're volunteering or making monetary donations. Get connected internally with people.

Get to be known, it's your brand. You have one brand, it's your own personal brand, so you better protect it and build it. The best way to do that is get connected and internally network.

Q: Who was your mentor, and what is some formative advice you still carry with you?

A: Well, I have a grandmother who's 103, she's still living today. I remember many years ago that she was just tickled pink that I was so grounded in how I approached everything. Never got too high, never got too low, always accentuated the positive and showed humility in how you go about your business. That sticks with me yet today, a lot. I try to carry that through and show that [to] some of the folks that I manage, certainly with my clients, business relationships, community relationships, because you can never get too high. If you do, you're going to be hugely disappointed. Things get bad, OK, accept it, figure them out and move on. You've kind of just got to be an even keel. That's one of the main qualities and characteristics that's forever instilled in me and forever will be.

But as it relates to corporate in my career, there was a gentleman when I was at KeyCorp that really took me under his wing and really showed me the ropes of middle-market banking, commercial banking, how to conduct yourself, what to get involved with community-wise, how to be successful and things like that.

Q: Where do you get your financial news?

A: As it relates to the national news, television and all that, certainly Fox Business channel, CNBC is good, of course Bloomberg. We're very technology savvy at this firm, so every morning on the internet, I get blurbs of news relevant to JPMorgan Chase-international, global perspective and also what's happening nationally and then in the states as well.

There's a wealth of information that we just pull down from our own proprietary site that has this information about what's going on in the industry, what's going on with JPMorgan Chase, what's going on with our competitors.

Q: How important are financial news updates are to your day-to-day work?

A: Very important. I wish I had more time to read the paper from front to back, or read the stories and articles online, but you've got to just read the certain parts, grab the headlines and extract what you need to extract because you're so busy. … You've got to be in the know.

Q: You sit on the Pelotonia board. Are you riding in 2013?

A: I'm a virtual rider … the benefit for us, given all these employees that we have here, is leveraging our employees to get involved. That's a great event that they're really stepping up for.

Q: You also sit on the board of the Cleveland Institute of Music. Are you a musician?

A: My kids will say no (laughs). My daughter plays the piano very well, she's 11 going on 12. I think she plays it very well. My son really likes the guitar and the drums, he's just starting into that. There are a lot of reasons why I got involved with that organization when I was in Cleveland. … One, it's a huge asset to that community and the talent they produce out of there and to be able to see them perform at Severance Hall is just amazing with the Cleveland Orchestra. … So to me, it was the right thing to get behind.

Q: Do you go to Opera Columbus productions or the Columbus Symphony?

A: From time to time. You know, it's hard with young kids because you're generally running back and forth to practices or from games, but you know what? I'm a big zoo guy, big zoo guy. In fact I served on the Cleveland Zoological Society for many years up there. I know the Columbus Zoo is tremendous. Columbus is blessed with some great organizations in the arts and in cultural aspects, but the zoo is great.

Q: Which animal do you go for first when you go to the Columbus Zoo?

A: I like all animals, but it is still amazing to see the polar bears swimming … But they're all good, they do a good job. You never go home disappointed.

Kitty McConnell is a reporter for Columbus CEO.