Global connections

International banking leader credits BGSU for opening doors

Global connections

By Terri Carroll

With a career in international banking that spans more than 20 years and many countries, Sheila Spradlin Reich ’87 has developed, managed and executed banking strategies for large corporate, international, treasury management, public funds, higher education, nonprofit, private business and government entities and financial institutions.

“I looked across the room and whom did I see but Akiko Jones — the very woman who helped me launch my career in international banking. It was a BGSU reunion halfway around the world, surrounded by a group of Japanese dignitaries who had nothing but the highest respect for Akiko.”She has led economic trade missions encouraging global trade and foreign investment in the Midwest. As managing director of international banking at Huntington National Bank, her expertise is sought by business and financial leaders across the globe. However, it is her tie to Bowling Green State University that Spradlin Reich counts as the highlight of her career.

While serving as managing director of international banking for Fifth Third Bank, Spradlin Reich traveled with Ohio’s then governor Robert Taft to Japan on a trade mission.

“We were at the United States ambassador’s residence in Tokyo,” she said. “It was all very formal and very serious as there was much at stake in securing international investment for the state of Ohio. I looked across the room and whom did I see but Akiko Jones — the very woman who helped me launch my career in international banking. It was a BGSU reunion halfway around the world, surrounded by a group of Japanese dignitaries who had nothing but the highest respect for Akiko.”

Born and raised in Tiffin, Ohio, Spradlin Reich came to Bowling Green determined to pursue a career in international business.

“I had never even been on a plane before, but I knew I wanted to see the world. I loved other languages and cultures and was fascinated by other lands, so international business was the perfect fit,” she said.

Spradlin Reich was in the first class of students taught by Akiko Jones at BGSU.

“Hands-down, Akiko was the best teacher I ever had,” said Spradlin Reich. “Frankly, I was just taking the class because I wanted a job. Japanese investment was growing in the Midwest at the time, so I simply wanted to learn to speak Japanese for my future career.”

Instead, Jones brought Japanese culture to life for Spradlin Reich and her classmates. She hosted tea ceremonies, brought in kimonos for the students to wear, and patiently taught the elaborate stroke order of writing kanji characters.

Spradlin Reich only planned on taking an introductory Japanese course, but instead studied with Jones for three years. During her senior year, Spradlin Reich finally took her first plane trip when she traveled to Japan to complete an internship Jones arranged for her.

“This internship set the course for my career,” said Spradlin Reich. “I never would have risen through the ranks of international banking without the foundation provided by Akiko and BGSU.”

“I never would have risen through the ranks of international banking without the foundation provided by Akiko and BGSU.”Spradlin Reich began her career as a currency trader at Fifth Third Bank and was promoted to managing director of international banking.  Her career grew in responsibilities to include large corporate banking, as well as government and institutional banking.

"Sheila has a proven track record of success with more than 20 years of experience in the international space," said Rick Remiker, senior executive vice president and director of Huntington's commercial banking division. "She brings an extraordinary history of building successful businesses right here in the Midwest."

The Midwest connection is vitally important to Spradlin Reich. She is expanding Huntington’s international reach and also participates in frequent economic trade missions to drive global trade and foreign investment in the region.

“The Midwest has a vital role to play in the global marketplace,” she said. “Our work ethic mirrors that of Japan and other cultures and has helped us be successful in attracting foreign investment. I am grateful that I have been able to pursue my dream of international banking right here in Ohio while also advancing the future of the region.”

Spradlin Reich encourages current BGSU students to take every opportunity to gain international experience.

“In the future, I believe, truly successful companies and professionals will require an international background,” she said. “You won’t be an international banker, but simply a banker who is expected to work in a global marketplace. It will be the same for teachers, accountants, artists, scientists and everyone. Cultural intelligence will become an increasingly vital component of any thriving career or business.”

“It is always a delight when the student becomes the teacher,” said Akiko Jones. “I have enjoyed watching Sheila through every step of her growth. She was an eager student, always hungry to learn more and willing to work hard to meet her goals. She has had an exemplary career in international banking and has won the respect of many people. Now, she is working as I do to bring Ohio to the world and helping our community members learn to be global citizens. I am proud to now call her not just my student, but also my colleague.”