As Senior Vice President and Assistant General Counsel of Regions Bank, Michael Wood has steered his career with balance, grace, and inner strength.
Michael was born in Columbia, Missouri, but grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa. He began training for his career by attending Law School at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After earning his Doctor of Law (J.D.) in 1996, Michael worked for a small law firm beginning in 1997 practicing bankruptcy, commercial, and criminal law. However, as time passed, he became aware of a need to redirect his career, and eventually accepted a position as Senior Counsel at Wells Fargo in West Des Moines, Iowa in 2001. He was promoted to Managing Counsel in 2007, and then promoted to Assistant General Counsel in 2018. In 2021, Michael shifted gears, going to work for Discover Financial Services as Senior Legal Counsel and continuing to provide legal advice for credit cards. Not long after that, he accepted his current position at Regions Bank.
Michael Wood currently enjoys working from home, where he strives to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family. Some of his hobbies include hiking, traveling, biking, and playing golf.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I began my career working in private practice as an attorney, and although it was great experience, I knew it was not the type of work I wanted to do long term. I grew weary of the adversarial nature of private practice and desired a different path for my legal career. I found my calling as in-house counsel within the legal department of a financial institution. In contrast to private practice, working as in-house counsel allowed me to use my legal skills to proactively help the company minimize legal risks and comply with applicable laws. It also provides a healthier work-life balance for me and more opportunities for career development.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I like to begin my day early. I start the morning by checking my to-do list and calendar, prioritizing my work and then begin with answering emails. On most days, I have several meetings with colleagues, many by video conference calls. I also schedule time for research on projects or business concerns.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I help resolve legal issues and compliance concerns for the business. The ideas I bring to life are through legal research, analysis, and creative problem solving. I collaborate with legal and compliance colleagues and others working in the line of business. If the idea makes sense and helps the company achieve its goals while mitigating legal risk, I present the research for the idea to be brought to fruition.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One of the trends that excites me is the digital payments industry. The innovation occurring with mobile device payment methods such as Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay is really exciting. I like not having to use cash or even a credit card to shop or make a payment. Any kind of digital payment made with ease, speed, and security is great for both consumers and merchants.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I believe I have a very healthy lifestyle. I wake up early each day. I believe in good self-care, eating well, sleeping well, and getting enough exercise. Working too many hours and pushing yourself without taking proper care of yourself will lead to burnout and diminished brain function. Self-care keeps you balanced and productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to invest early, often, and consistently. I’d also tell my younger self to keep your options open. If your mind is rigidly set on certain goals, you might miss a great opportunity if it isn’t part of your grand plans. Be patient in your career and accept career challenges, as it might lead to something much better in the future.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A lot of companies see legal violations and paying fines as just the cost of doing business. I believe companies should comply with the laws and treat people fairly. When they do so, they will create a positive reputation of trust with their customers.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
One thing that I do fairly often is evaluate my career path. I contemplate where I am, and if it is a place I should stay or make a move. I don’t want to stay at a place too long if it’s not healthy for me. I don’t want to be impatient either, though, as my present position may lead to good opportunities. I direct my career rather than letting whatever company I work for decide its direction.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy I use in business is to build solid relationships with colleagues. I try to be authentic, and I treat people as I would like to be treated. At the end of the day, people will remember how they were treated. The best strategy is to be the kind of person people trust and respect, so that others know that working with you will be a good experience.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had instances during the course of my career where I was at fault, but I take accountability for my own actions, learn from it and move on. I discuss the problem with colleagues or my manager and quickly come up with a solution to rectify the issue. When you accept responsibility for your mistakes right away, you gain the respect of your colleagues. It is better to own failure, learn from it, and fix it. It will maintain your integrity and your trust, and it’s usually a great learning experience. Everyone will have failures at one point or another in their career; it’s how you react to those failures that will define you.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Regarding electric cars, I think forming a business where you can pull up to a ‘filling station’ and have your battery replaced similar to the way a propane cylinder is replaced would be a fantastic idea for a business.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a solar-powered phone charger. I can take it anywhere and it charges multiple devices. I like going anywhere and not having to hunt down an electrical outlet. It’s a game-changer!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Microsoft Teams. We use it for everything, such as video or audio chat meetings and instant messaging. It integrates seamlessly into my workflow, and it’s wonderful for communicating with colleagues who are based in other states. I’ve never had a problem with it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
How about two books? The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Albert Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and the General Theory.
What is your favorite quote?
“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” — Walt Disney
- Kindness and cooperation go very far in a work environment.
- Self-care is important to reduce burnout and diminished brain function.
- It’s important to constantly re-evaluate your career path, and not let your employer decide your trajectory for you.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.