During one of the most turbulent decades in recent economic history, Flagship Bank Minnesota’s Andy Schornack rose through the ranks from community bank intern to president and CEO with a steadfast belief in happy employees and extraordinary customer service.
By Andrea Lahouze
When Andy Schornack began his career in banking as a part-time intern at First Commercial Bank in Bloomington, Minn., in 2005, he never expected such a wild ride. Just three years later, Schornack was thrown headfirst into the economic nosedive that would become the Great Recession. Fortunately, he was a quick and willing study.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without going through that environment,” Schornack attests. “You learn a lot when things aren’t so good.” Among them, managing and monitoring asset quality and credit quality, problem solving on the fly, and anticipating customer reactions when money was tight and loan approval was even tighter.
Increase in assets held by Flagship Bank Minnesota between 2013 and 2017
“It’s one relationship [with customers] when the market is really strong, like today,” he explains. “Credit quality is generally very good across the industry, compared to what it was in 2008 and ’09 and ’10, all the way through that crisis. You get to understand customers and psychology to a certain extent.”
By Schornack’s 25th birthday, he was handling loans in excess of $200 million. And in 2013, less than a decade after his internship, he took the helm as president and CEO of Flagship Bank Minnesota headquartered in Wayzata, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. He and his team have since more than doubled the bank’s assets, from roughly $90 million in 2013 to $205 million in December 2017. Along with seven other bankers across the U.S., he was also named a 2016 Rising Star in Banking by the NorthWestern Financial Review.
Putting his people first
When Schornack first arrived at Flagship Bank, the bank needed to improve its asset quality and was also subject to stipulations of a consent order due to a previous dispute. However, the first improvements Schornack made were for his team’s benefit. The bank now covers both health insurance premiums and deductibles for employees, and provides support for health savings accounts. It also offers both a 401(k) match and a profit-sharing program, and hosts offsite get-togethers at different venues around the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.
Every two to three years, the company also invites employees to an out-of-state weekend retreat, which helps the team get to know one another in a more relaxed environment.
Among the key benefits of creating a top-quality work environment and culture: employees who want to stay even in times of transition and who in turn deliver a top-notch experience to their customers.
“Our customer-facing employees have been very consistent and, from our perspective, that’s a big differentiating factor in a metropolitan area comparative to a Wells Fargo or U.S. Bank, which have 70-plus percent of our market share,” Schornack says. “There, you don’t really get to build those personal relationships; there is more of a turnover on that front line, and the customers notice that. Here, every customer kind of gets that private banking feel. They know who’s going to be in their local branch, they’ve been there for a while, they can contact them with any questions they have and we can provide that good service.
“Because of the consistency of being able to call Terry in Wayzata, or me here in Eden Prairie, you get these people who you can depend on for [answering] certain questions about things that are happening within your business account or your checking account.”
What, exactly, is Schornack’s definition of good service?
“I think it starts with doing the right thing,” he says. “If the customer’s got a question about what they should be doing or shouldn’t be doing, it’s doing what’s right for the customer.”
And as those customers spend more time than ever on their mobile phones, Schornack has helped Flagship Bank to develop an active presence on several social media platforms, among them Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Schornack also has more than 1,800 followers on his personal Twitter handle.
“Not everybody is able to drop into a branch or reach us the way they normally have [in the past],” he says. “Probably the biggest thing is just brand awareness. In an organization as small as ours and within a pretty major metropolitan area, it’s hard to create that brand awareness. This is just another avenue where we can differentiate ourselves amongst our peers.”
Increased accessibility via social media channels has also allowed customers and bank employees to connect more easily and more often, whether it’s to resolve a customer complaint, keep customers up to date on bank improvements or just share a laugh. In December, Flagship Bank posted photos of employees dressed for National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day on its Facebook page and asked customers to vote on their favorites.
Between 2015 and 2017, Flagship Bank grew from two to six branches and is now up to 47 employees, thanks to a branch acquisition with Landmark Community Bank, N.A. in Isanti, Minn., and Americana Community Bank in Minnetonka, Minn.
Schornack and a group of fellow investors purchased Landmark Community Bank, N.A. in an “unorthodox” Article 9 foreclosure auction just 90 days after becoming aware of the potential opportunity. In lieu of using a third-party service provider, Landmark employees themselves completed a manual core conversion into the Flagship system in October 2016.
“It requires staff hours to process, but ultimately it results in a much more bank-controlled environment,” Schornack explains. Four months later, in early 2017, employees completed a second manual core conversion following Flagship Bank’s acquisition of Americana Community Bank. Now, about one year in, Schornack says he is happy with the results and excited to have Flagship Bank branches in four new cities.
But no matter how large, or how quickly, Flagship Bank grows, Schornack says retaining employees will continue to be a top priority.
“We’re rolling out a new tagline, which is, ‘Investing in you,’” he says. “That’s not only from a perspective of how we’re treating our customers but also how we’re treating our employees. If they know we’re taking care of them, it’s more likely they’re going to take good care of our clients and do the right thing.”
Flagship Bank Minnesota
Assets: $205 million
Retail locations: 6
Andrea Lahouze is deputy editor of Independent Banker.