Richard Davis

U.S. Bancorp CEO
Richard Davis

Richard Davis, 55, chairman, CEO and president of U.S. Bancorp, says he would never have wished the recession on anyone; but when it did occur, it validated U.S. Bank’s pre-crisis mantra: Always protect your customer. “We believed for all those years that we were doing the right thing by being conservative,” says Davis, who adds that the heavy criticism that he and the bank received before the downturn was offset by the steady stream of customers who have since thanked him for not acquiescing to their lending demands.

Earlier this year, Davis received media attention for stating that U.S. Bank would not accept business from pornographers, gambling websites, illegal gun makers and sellers, and other shady operators. “For us to not do business with people who I think are hurting the fabric of a community or the morals of a nation is . . . not to be holier than thou, but it’s the right approach,” he says.

Davis, who had never been politically inclined, made 18 trips to Washington, D.C., in the first six months of this year to meet with legislators, regulators, and industry leaders. “I’m happy to do it, but in hindsight, I wish I would have been better trained for the governmental, legislative, political environment that I work in today,” he says.

Today, Davis is confident in his leadership and trust-building skills, although he concedes that he tends to over-manage situations and could be a better listener and delegator. “As a guy who is a perfectionist at heart, I struggle greatly with making sure I practice what I preach by letting people have authority, make decisions, and take risks,” he says. “The maturity that comes with age also comes with the wisdom of knowing how to lead better. It’s very fulfilling to arrive one day and know your style, know what you stand for, and know what matters to you.”