For Ross Draber ’10, people come first The United Bank senior executive engages with the W&L community through student recruitment and event participation.
At just 35 years old, Ross Draber ’10 has risen quickly in the world of finance. He currently serves as both the chief operating officer and executive vice president of United Bank, and he was named one of Washington Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” in 2017.
Draber has been a dedicated employee of United Bank since graduating W&L, but his involvement with the company began with a summer internship after his sophomore year. From the beginning, United Bank made a strong impression on Draber.
“My experience did stick out for me — how I was treated, and how United Bank really was a family with genuinely nice people who cared about one another,” he said. “And that seemed to be a bit different than what some of my colleagues experienced over the course of their internships that summer.”
Draber started off his career with United Bank in Parkersburg, West Virginia, taking a job in the commercial credit area in the underwriting department. He then transitioned to working with the company’s chief financial officer Mark Tatterson, who directed the bank’s treasury and corporate finance group.
United Bank saw leadership potential in Draber, who was encouraged to move to Washington D.C., and work alongside the executive leadership team. In 2012, Draber became the senior vice president of corporate finance, followed by a promotion to chief operating officer in 2015.
Draber noted that when he entered the industry in 2008, it was “a unique time in the banking sector.” Throughout his tenure, Draber has played an integral role in United Bank’s expansion through various mergers and acquisitions.
“I’ve had a tremendous opportunity to see how banks work inside and out, and to be an active participant in those acquisitions,” he said. “The bank was about $6 billion in assets when I started at the company, and we’ve now grown into about $30 billion in assets, just in that short period of time.”
For Draber, people are integral to his success, both personally and professionally: “I was taught at a very young age by my grandfather, that if you pay attention, you can learn something from just about anyone. And I try to employ that practice in all aspects of my life.”
During his college years, it was the people who were his favorite part of W&L. From the Speaking Tradition on campus to the extensive alumni network, Draber deeply values the W&L community. (He added that he actively promotes the Speaking Tradition in Washington, D.C., yielding mixed responses.)
After graduating W&L, he toyed around with the idea of law school, but it was actually a fellow W&L alumnus who talked him out of it. Richard Adams ’93L, United Bank’s CEO and executive chairman of the board, encouraged the graduate to join his company instead.
Draber and Adams aren’t the only former Generals at United Bank. At present, the company currently has more than 20 employees who are W&L alumni — and that number continues to grow. Draber now recruits promising W&L students to join the team, including two individuals just last month.
In addition to recruiting, Draber recently represented United Bank at W&L’s Real Estate Forum, which was held Oct. 12-13 in Washington, D.C. The two-day event featured networking opportunities, a keynote address and panel discussions. Draber was a speaker for a panel on capital markets, alongside speakers Bo McKown ’15 and Dave Baker, and moderator John Rehberger ’13.
In the panel, Draber shared a story about one of the first deals United Bank executed after the Great Recession. In 2013, United Bank announced the acquisition of Virginia Commerce, and the deal closed in 2014. He and Adams were heavily involved in that process — as well as a long list of other W&L alums. From the CEO of Virginia Commerce to United Bank’s hired counsel, half a dozen former Generals were associated with the major acquisition.
“We really had all the possible areas covered,” Draber said. “It’s a unique story that shows the W&L network on a pretty significant transaction in the nation’s capital.”
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