15 Minutes With…Gene Neighbor

CEO and president of $766 million-asset Farmers State Bank in Marion, Iowa

IB: Your family has owned Farmers State Bank since 1968. What lessons have you carried forward?
Neighbor: We should always give back to our communities. We have 142 full-time-equivalent employees that give 4,000 or 5,000 hours of volunteer time to various organizations and nonprofits every year. A philosophy that is part of our Golden Rule—part of our bank’s strategic plan—is that we need to treat every customer as though they were in our home or living room.

IB: What is the biggest challenge that Farmers State Bank faces?
Neighbor: Ongoing competition from the large credit union industry that attracts the consumer deposit because of the big tax advantage it has. They can price their deposit products high and their loan products low.

IB: How do you successfully compete against the credit unions?
Neighbor: Service. That’s one of the biggest things. Our involvement in the community that we serve also enlists a certain amount of loyalty from our customers.

IB: Every April, Farmers State Bank employees volunteer to teach financial literacy on Teach Children to Save Day. What’s that experience like?
Neighbor: We go into school districts in Alburnett, Marion and Cedar Rapids. We’re involved with the K–6 program. Many of our bankers have … developed a lot of their own curriculum. [One exercise might be to help students] know what needs are versus what wants are. [They might teach] how to divide any money they’d receive into four cans, where 30 percent would go to things they really want, 30 percent toward their needs, 30 percent toward savings, and 10 percent toward tithing or giving back.

—Jolene Johnson

Quick facts

  • Gene’s father and mother, Morris and Betty Neighbor, purchased Farmers State Bank in 1968. Morris, who will turn 100 on March 18, is still on the board.
  • Both of Gene’s brothers, Kent and Douglas, currently work at the bank.
  • The bank’s focus used to be agriculture lending, but commercial banking now forms the largest portion of its loan portfolio.