Magazine article Independent Banker

At Your Service

Magazine article Independent Banker

At Your Service

Article excerpt

Most community bankers define the difference between their institutions and larger competitors in terms of customer service-usually the service that frontline employees provide to customers. But for Peter Nelson, president of Glenwood State Bank of Glenwood, Minn., service is not simply about extra hand-holding from branch staff. He believes that the strength of his community bank and his skill as a leader lies in how he serves not just his customers but his employees. "In general, I try to focus on the people versus the bottom line," Nelson says. "Building [our bank] has been about investing in our people, growing those people and trying to get them to their highest levels."

Nelson's sharp focus on his people is likely the very reason that the $272 million-asset bank has more than tripled its assets since he assumed leadership almost 12 years ago, nine years and a few months after he joined Glenwood State Bank. This year, employee retention has exceeded an eye-popping 98 percent.

A certified public accountant by training, Nelson deduced that his combined "interest in numbers and interest in people [made] community banking a good fit." He also chose to join the bank to move his family from a large city to a smaller community. His approach to success is simple: He finds the best people he can-those who fit with the bank's values-and the bank invests in them. Nelson has often moved good employees three or four times to different jobs in the bank to help them find the right fit and keep them on board. "For better performers," the community bank has even subsidized educational opportunities, he adds.

Take, for example, employee Karla Johnson. Johnson was hired in 2006 for a part-time position, but she quickly realized the job would not suit her career aspirations. After expressing these concerns to Nelson, he spent the next year trying her in four different roles at the bank to help her find her dream career path. …

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