Scott McComb: A true relationship builder

Scott McComb, chairman, president and CEO, Heartland Bank. Photo by Alan Geho

Scott McComb of Heartland Bank believes in the power of human connection.

By Ed Avis

Scott McComb

Chairman, president and CEO, Heartland Bank
Location: Whitehall, Ohio
Asset size: $1 billion
Founded: 1911 (as Croton Bank)

ICBA 2018 Community Banker of the Year – Eastern

Scott McComb says he’s the world’s worst bank teller. That may seem like an odd admission for a community bank CEO, but it reveals three key things about him. First, he has worked practically every job in his bank. Second, he deeply appreciates the importance and challenges of each job. Third, he’s humble enough to admit that he’s imperfect.

“I’ve done about every job at the bank, so I have a respect for everyone in their role, because none of them are easy,” says McComb, chairman, president and CEO of $1 billion-asset Heartland Bank in Whitehall, Ohio. “Everyone has their place in the bank, and all of them are important to the customer experience.”

Kailyn McComb, Scott’s daughter and an employee of Heartland Bank, nominated him. She cited her father’s people skills as a key factor. “He is a leader who is not afraid to be human in front of his people,” she wrote.

First an entrepreneur

In 1988, McComb’s father, Tiney, founded Heartland BancCorp and bought Croton Bank in Croton, Ohio. McComb helped his father launch the company, but he was also in the middle of starting his own home security business. In 1999, after he’d built and sold that business, McComb joined what was now Heartland Bank as director of internet banking.

“I quickly started taking on other responsibilities at the bank,” McComb recalls. At various points, he was bank security officer, director of facilities maintenance and vice president in charge of consumer relationship management. He became chief operating officer in 2005, president in 2006 and CEO in 2009.

“I recently wrapped up a CEO roadshow—I took a meal or a pizza or ice cream to each of our 15 branch offices and spent time with them just to see how things are going.”
—Scott McComb, Heartland Bank

As his career advanced and Heartland Bank grew, McComb worked hard to build relationships with his employees. “Getting to know our associates as best as we can is a great way to coach them and get to know them as people,” he says. “I recently wrapped up a CEO roadshow—I took a meal or a pizza or ice cream to each of our 15 branch offices and spent time with them just to see how things are going. I really had no preconceived agenda; I just wanted to talk to them and spend time with them.”

Beyond the bank

McComb’s skill at developing relationships extends beyond his workforce. His mother, Helena, who was a central committee person for the Ohio Republican Party, taught her son that building political relationships is key to fomenting change.

When he was running his home security business, McComb became involved with the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association. He lobbied legislators on the group’s behalf, arguing for more regulations for that industry. When he began lobbying on behalf of his community bank years later, he had to do an about face.

“I got some strange looks from congressmen who said, ‘You wanted more regulations before, and now you want less?’” McComb laughs. “Of course, the banking business is already highly regulated, and it’s imperative that we’re involved in educating members of Congress about community banking.”

It’s his community that benefits most from McComb’s efforts. Under his leadership, Heartland Bank powers the local economy with careful yet open-minded lending.

“We still are making character loans in community banks,” he says. “We can make exceptions, and the regulators are fine with that as long as you can document it.”

Naturally, Heartland Bank’s support extends beyond retail and business banking. It earned the 2018 Governor’s Award for Supporting the Arts for its sponsorship of arts-related events in Ohio, such as Arts in the Alley in Grove City, Summer Jam West in Columbus and many others.

“Community banks are members of the community,” McComb says. “We’re bred in the community, and we’re staunch supporters of what happens inside the city limits.”

Ed Avis is a writer in Illinois.