Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Third Generation Marks 100th Year at BankCherokee

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Third Generation Marks 100th Year at BankCherokee

Article excerpt

Some community bank CEOs have moved their offices off the main banking floor, but not Heidi Gesell. She continues to work right off the main lobby, as did her father, James, and his father, Russell.

"If I'm tucked away in some corner," says Geseli, president and CEO of St. Paul, Minn.'s BankCherokee, "then I can't be much help to our customers." Gesell uses the same office her father did, in the same headquarters building at Smith Ave. and George Ave. that all three generations of this banking family have called "office" since grandfather Russell began working for the bank in 1924. He became president in 1935; James, now chairman, became president in 1967; and, Heidi, who worked her way up, became president in 1996, and CEO in 1999.

Family-owned BankCherokee, now $278 million-assets, opened its doors in 1908 as Merriam Park Bank, and it was acquired in 1920, moved to St. Paul's west side, and renamed Cherokee State Bank. If you are looking for a connection to the Native American tribe, don't bother. "Cherokee" comes from the name of a nearby public park, not for the tribe, which never lived in Minnesota.

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Being the third generation in a 100-year-old bank is a real plus, says Gesell. "I still run into customers who will tell me, 'I knew your grandfather,' or some other longtime employee. I love hearing their stories." Being part of a 100-year-old bank is also a comfort in today's period of uncertainty.

"We reflect on the fact that the bank has been through challenging economic times before," says Gesell. "This one looks a bit different. Clearly today's markets are more impacted and impacting globally than we would have seen years ago. …

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