Independent Banker asked community bankers to nominate emerging leaders under the age of 40 in 2019, and did you ever deliver. Here are short profiles of 40 young innovators who are making waves in the industry but still manage to keep their communities front and center. In no particular order, let’s meet our winners—the industry’s future.
Compiled by Roshan McArthur
“Three podcasts drive my inspiration: How I Built This, We Study Billionaires and The Knowledge Project. I love following the challenges and successes of others while also opening up my mind to new concepts.”
Fostering a growth-oriented environment
Andy Schornack is a rising star in the banking world. Under his guidance, Flagship Bank Minnesota has gone through a period of transformation, making a series of acquisitions that have propelled its growth.
“Andy is always striving to create an environment [that] individuals want to work in and others want to work with,” says the community bank’s marketing specialist, Stephani LaMantia, who nominated him.
An active father of three, Schornack also finds time to serve as president of bank affiliate Security Bank & Trust Co., a $514 million-asset bank based in Glencoe, Minn., and as District 3 director of the Minnesota Bankers Association.
Among his many accolades, Schornack has been chosen as one of ICBA’s Top 25 Community Bankers on Twitter not once but twice—he has more than 2,000 followers—and he was one of eight bankers across the U.S. named a 2016 Rising Star in Banking by NorthWestern Financial Review.
Senior vice president, strategy officer and credit administration
Building connections and inclusivity
Calvin Lam believes diversity is strength, both within GBC International Bank and throughout the community it serves. Lam has cultivated an inclusive leadership style, engaging all employees regardless of title, tenure or banking experience. After leading the bank through a core and delivery systems conversion, he is now leading changes to its organizational culture, ensuring employees at its eight branches—spread across California and Washington—feel connected to the organization as a whole.
A guide for a lifetime
Keri Peterson’s dedication to her job goes beyond that of a typical trust officer. She believes her role as a banker is to support clients from their first steps to their last. She is the lead administrative trustee for the charitable foundations, currently valued at more than $25 million, that First Option Bank manages. One foundation is for local veterans, who are often unaccustomed to asking for money, and Peterson guides them through the application process with grace and respect.
These emerging leaders are putting community banks on the digital map—among their other achievements
Information security officer
Mineral Point, Mo.
Adrianne Logsden has been instrumental in the launch of several new branches, as well as updating Unico Bank’s products and services to include mobile banking, deposits and bill pay, bringing its rural customers up to speed with the latest technology.
An innovative thinker, Christopher Grace isn’t afraid to break traditional barriers and create winning customer experiences that allow Community State Bank to compete with larger institutions.
Vice president and cashier
A second-generation employee of Swedish-American State Bank, Crystal Meyer “has spent the better part of a year working with our core and an outside consultant to redesign our board report,” says Tanner Johnson, the bank’s president and CEO.
Vice president of operations
Heidi Westfall took on the challenge of researching options for an overhaul of USNY Bank’s IT network. Her research led her to recommend moving to a hosted network service, which is providing a more reliable service with tangible cost savings.
Joshua Gran combines a fierce loyalty to close-knit, customer-focused banking with an innovative approach to technology. He helped spearhead the switch from in-house data management to an off-site service bureau.
Chief operating officer
Adom Greenland has only been a banker for five years, but he’s already proven he’s a force to be reckoned with. In addition to championing and forging fintech partnerships, he spearheaded a program to provide financial education and services to local farm workers, many who speak English as a second language and were previously unbanked.
Vice president and business banker
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
“My leadership idol is my father, who was the founder, chairman and CEO of the bank. He and the rest of the board coined “Doing the right thing!” as Community 1st Bank’s live-by motto. Simple and brief, I think it serves as a good bedrock mantra for businesspeople.”
—David V. Bobbitt
Making millennial voices heard
David V. Bobbitt was responsible for the overhaul of Community 1st Bank’s social media platforms and website, making mobile banking attractive to customers of all ages. He is part of the Millennial Committee, a group of younger employees that shares different perspectives with management. Bobbitt is also a part of a team that led loan growth for the bank’s newest branch, which fully absorbed its expansion expense and added to profitability within one year. Outside of work, Bobbitt is part of the Coeur Group of young businessmen, which undertakes projects like building lockers at local elementary schools and stocking them with supplies for at-risk kids.
Chief operations officer
A believer in servant leadership
Josh Myers of the Indiana Bankers Association, who nominated Deon Shoaf, describes Shoaf as a born leader. “Deon exemplifies a type of servant leadership you don’t often see: never putting himself first, but rather always looking out for the best interests of his team and customers,” Myers says. An employee of First Bank of Berne for 16 years, Shoaf recently led the organization through one of its biggest-ever challenges, teaming up with a technology partner for a core conversion process that took three years from start to finish.
Vice president and BSA officer
First Guaranty’s BSA supremo
JoEllen Juhasz works to protect First Guaranty Bank from money laundering, terrorist financing and other financial crimes, in compliance with federal laws and the Bank Secrecy Act.
The bank’s president and CEO, Alton Lewis, says of Juhasz: “Her enthusiasm and passion for her field is contagious and evident as she continuously shares her knowledge with her direct team members.”
In her own time, Juhasz volunteers at local Council on Aging events, fighting against elder abuse and exploitation.
Vice president, SBA program administrator
Keeping the small-business engine humming
Ashley Horner has a passion for helping her community thrive, with a particular interest in small-business development. She single-handedly established Summit Bank’s SBA division in 2014, and, three years later, the Coleman Report chose her as one of 10 emerging leaders in small-business lending nationwide. Chris Hemmings, vice president and controller at Summit Bank, nominated her, drawing our attention to the work Horner does as a mentor for young women entrepreneurs at the University of Oregon’s business school.
“Ashley is passionate about inspiring and showing a path to success for the next generation of women seeking to make a difference in business, finance and banking,” he says. “[She] is acutely aware of her position, which now affords her a platform to assist women in the industry.”
Harnessing the power of social media
Marketing coordinator and assistant treasurer
Wall Township, N.J.
As the driving force behind Manasquan Bank’s recent rebranding, Nick Martin believes that adopting digital technology is essential for growth. He recently worked on the relaunch and redesign of the bank’s website and is about to embark on a social listening initiative to better connect with consumers.
Online banking specialist and marketing associate
Jessica Reed has put Putnam Bank on the social media map. A creative and forward-thinking team player, she is also a founding member of the Pep Squad, which helps with community events, from reading days at the local school to running races that benefit local nonprofit organizations.
Vice president and senior retail officer
Known for her contagiously positive attitude, Kayla Konger was part of a team that recently overhauled Garrett State Bank’s outdated website. An advocate for customer needs, she is active in the community and encourages her retail staff to join her.
Vice president and chief retail operations officer
“The book that has been a big inspiration to me is The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz.”
— Carolyn Kline
Transformation from the inside out
Carolyn Kline worked her way through college as a store manager at Chick‑fil-A, overseeing 45 employees, and she paid her way through graduate school as a teller in a large bank. It is this determination that she brought to Virginia Partners Bank, where she quickly earned a role in executive management. Understanding the important role that local banks play within communities, she has been working on improving the customer experience (she created a Service Quality Team at the bank in 2017), while also delivering a return to shareholders. One of her signature achievements was an internal expense control contest that will save the community bank about $100,000 per year. Kline also implemented a successful campaign to convert customers from paper to e-statements, which saves additional expenses and lessens the bank’s impact on the environment.
Vice president, accounting and information systems
“My favorite leadership quote is by Warren Buffet: ‘You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.’”
— Chad E. Wright
Getting granular to effect change
With an ear to the ground in terms of customer needs and fintech developments, Chad E. Wright is helping to keep the Upstate National Bank relevant. In an effort to expand its digital presence, he has developed services—including remote mobile deposit, online loan payment and e-statements—that are tailored to specific client needs and help make the organization more efficient to boot. According to nominator Kathleen R. Whelehan, president and CEO of the Upstate National Bank, “While other leaders may take a waterfall approach to leadership, Chad connects with individuals at all levels of the organization. This allows him to understand the business on a deeper level and build relationships with staff at all levels.” Outside of work, Wright advises nontraditional students at St. John Fisher College’s School of Business and is a board member for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Branch administration officer
Maintainer of ethical standards
Self-motivated and never afraid to step up, Carrie Ehrgood rose rapidly from her position as teller in 2009 to her current role. She has been part of the team that set the SMILE Standards (Sincere, Memorable, Integrity, Leadership and Expertise) and the Non‑Negotiables: the set of standards and actions that define Jonestown Bank & Trust’s company culture. As a member of the SMILE Committee, Ehrgood and her team founded the Community Involvement Committee of JBT, a committee dedicated to getting bank employees involved in various community events.
President and director
Newman Grove, Neb.
A bank and community advocate
A fifth-generation employee of the bank, Patrick Gerhart is carrying on a family tradition of service to his rural and agribusiness community. In addition to coordinating a variety of technological improvements and advocating for community banks at the state and federal level, he has worked with the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska to coordinate a Newman Grove stop on the Trail of Tears walk through Nebraska. He is also leading efforts to beautify Newman Grove’s main street with building improvements and the creation of local businesses.
Vice president and head of data and analytics
“Steve Jobs said, ‘Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.’”
— Chris Rozewski
Collaborating to move forward
Chris Rozewski believes commercial banks need to collaborate to create the transformational change their clients demand. He leads customer relationship management strategy and development, business process modernization, digital campaigns, data security and data governance at Peapack-Gladstone Bank. He also co-founded the Cyber Security Working Group, a monthly technical/threat intelligence-sharing call with five banks from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida. This year, in collaboration with NJBankers, Rozewski is a leader in the STOC Committee (Security, Technology, Operations and Cybersecurity), a network of peers from New Jersey banking institutions. His collaborative spirit extends into the community, where he serves on the Rutgers University Big Data Advisory Board, contributing to big data curriculum and student impact; volunteers at the St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J., creating social media content to match animals with new families; and helps build homes for low-income families with Habitat for Humanity.
Senior operations officer
“My favorite inspirational quote right now is by Michelle Obama: ‘The one way to get me to work my hardest was to doubt me.’ As for leadership idols, I follow Craig Groeschel as well as Bob Goff, but really my true idols are my sisters, who hold me to the highest standards.”
Transforming communities through innovation
Chelsea Bradshaw’s approach to community banking is holistic, bringing in new technology to drive innovation while maintaining Citizens Bank of Edmond’s small-town connectedness. Since joining the bank in 2004, she has held a wide variety of positions. According to her nominator, culture and development officer Raksha Rao, she has “the unique ability to connect with team members and build unity, not just within her teams but throughout the entire bank.”
Bradshaw managed the ground-up birth of Midtown Bank, an unstaffed banking location that brought best-in-class technology to the state of Oklahoma. She spearheads the marketing team that launched the community bank’s Heard on Hurd family-friendly street festival, which takes place monthly from March to October. Bradshaw also volunteers at Citizens Bank of Edmond cash mobs, local-business spending sprees inspired by flash mobs.
Chief lending officer and senior vice president
A best-in-class lender
Jason Epley is “the strongest lender I have ever personally worked with,” says his nominator, Ted H. Williams, who is TriStar Bank’s president and CEO. “In the last six years, he has grown the largest loan portfolio of any previous lending officer with our bank,” Williams adds. “His day is filled with clients coming to his office to seek advice and counsel on the best way to move [their companies] forward.” Epley also serves on the city council for Dickson, which has 15,000 residents. Williams believes Epley’s ability to run for public office and win shows the respect he has earned in the community.
Giving back to the community is just one arrow in the quiver of these emerging leaders
Senior vice president and North Louisiana regional manager
Bossier City, La.
Adam Johnston’s mission is to improve quality of life in his community. Among other initiatives, he got the bank involved in an annual Piggly Wiggly cook-off, which last year raised $26,000 for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Vice president of marketing
Tim Stark believes in practicing what he preaches. He serves on six boards, chairs two of them and helps organize youth soccer and basketball programs. He spearheaded the Murray Bank Ice Cream Machine, which rolled up to 165 community events last year and handed out free ice cream to more than 1,500 people.
Customer service loan representative
New York Mills, Minn.
Latham Hetland believes that giving back to its community is how a bank succeeds. He is currently chair of NYM 2025, which aims to create a sustainable strategic framework for economic vitality and community wellness in New York Mills.
Assistant vice president, digital product officer
Kyle Goodwin believes in banking by the people, for the people. Known for his positive attitude (and high-fives), he has organized multiple trips to nearby Ronald McDonald Houses and mentors local schoolchildren.
Senior vice president
As chairman of the Independent Banks of South Carolina’s Leaders of Tomorrow program, Brent Garrett is passionate about bringing the next generation on board. He and the other program participants visit career fairs to discuss the advantages of working in a community bank.
EVP and vice chairman of the board
Jason Knoedler’s passion is for building lasting customer relationships and a collaborative service culture. An energetic leader involved in local organizations, from the Rotary Club to the YMCA, he is also active in Illinois’ banking community.
Vice president of mortgage and consumer lending
A mortgage maestro and creative thinker
With more than 16 years’ experience in the banking industry and a belief in transparent leadership, Brian Brooking aims to make everyone he interacts with feel like a priority. His out-of-the-box ideas and ability to translate strategy into action have resulted in him dominating the community’s mortgage sales. At Woodlands Bank, Brooking led the merger of two lending departments into one, creating a more efficient and productive approach to consumer and residential lending.
Vice president of human resources
Ensuring continuity for customers
Lauren Calisti has a go get ’em attitude and can-do enthusiasm that make anything possible. Staying after hours if needed and helping out in any way she can, she’s always happy to go the extra mile and recruits other team members to help out with local events. One of Calisti’s signature accomplishments was setting up Hyperion Bank’s disaster recovery site, ensuring that in the event of a catastrophic event, customer service at the single-unit bank wouldn’t be compromised.
“At a young age, my grandmom instilled in me, ‘I can and I will,’ and these are words that I live by every day!”
Assistant vice president and marketing and digital strategist
Keeping small businesses at the heart of communities
Stephanie Fitch believes community banking is a key part of the local-first movement that encourages people to shop at small businesses, visit farmers markets and give back where they live. Using a mix of traditional and digital media, her campaigns for Frederick County Bank include “Every Business has a Story,” which showcases local organizations and the role the bank plays in their stories.
One of the first videos told the story of a vegan doughnut shop that started in a borrowed commercial kitchen, but has since grown into its own storefront, with a huge local following. Fitch worked with the founders to create a limited-edition doughnut named for the bank, which made a “dough-nation” to a local nonprofit for each sale. The shop sold out within three hours. When she’s not telling stories, Fitch volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, United Way Day of Action and other local nonprofits.
“Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action,’ had a huge impact on my approach to projects. I watch it at least twice a year.”
The Consummate Leaders
Leading by example
Brad Buckhorn has been with the Gunnison Bank and Trust Co. since 2015, working his way up from a teller to a loan officer. He takes pride in helping local residents and business owners work through the lending process so they can be successful in their endeavors. He also helps his fellow coworkers with various tasks including IT issues, maintenance, training or a shoulder to lean on.
Jamie Olson recently participated in Community Bank’s transition from in-house processing to a data center, which freed up time for the team to work more closely with customers.
Alyssa Bodenschatz is known for her transparency, offering a personal touch when it comes to customer relations. She was directly involved with the selection and implementation of PennCrest BANK’s new loan origination software, which has streamlined the lending process. She also volunteers her time to assist several local organizations and has a “community-first” mindset. She enjoys planning, organizing and participating in the exciting events presented by these groups.
CEO and chairman
Deer Lodge, Mont.
Colter Cumin recently led a group of investors to purchase First Security Bank from its longtime majority shareholder. In addition to his varied community work, he lives his belief that the smart allocation of credit has an exceptional impact on a local community.
New York, N.Y.
Responsible for improving internal processes, controls and documentation, Michael Yeh has leveraged technology to refine and automate the financial process. However, the well-being of his team, in all aspects of their lives, is paramount.
Senior vice president and community impact officer
An open and authentic leader who makes an impact
Kristen Connor’s goal as a community banker is to change her community for the better. Her past experience working with nonprofits and mission-minded organizations helped Heritage Bank form a Community Investment and Giving Committee. Under her leadership, the committee has launched a Heritage Volunteers Program, a Corporate Match Program, a Children’s Hunger Food Drive, sustainability efforts and certifications, and a calendar of community giving events. Outside of her day job, Connor serves on the boards of the Oregon Law Foundation, the Jessie F. Richardson Foundation and Business for a Better Portland. She is also a cofounder of the Corporate Sustainability Collaborative and a committee member of Taste, which brings together the region’s best wines and cuisine to celebrate Oregon’s diverse community and support equity work in Greater Portland.
Vice president of commercial and industrial banking
West Des Moines, Iowa
Fighting for the community bank cause
A member of Community Bankers of Iowa’s (CBI) Leaders of Tomorrow for more than seven years, Gabe Olson received its Up and Coming Banker of the Year award in 2016. He also helps with CBI’s legislative efforts to educate lawmakers and fight for equal taxation of banks and credit unions. Olson believes in building relationships beyond his job at West Bank, serving at the Science Center of Iowa. He is also on the board of directors of Variety – the Children’s Charity of Iowa and was instrumental in getting kids to staff a bank of phones at its annual telethon.
Vice president and senior marketing director
Red Bay, Ala.
Community banking’s social superstar
Emily Mays, a constant presence on social media, communicates ICBA and Alabama Bankers Association messages via Twitter to state and national leaders and is a vibrant presence on Instagram. Outside of bank hours, Mays has created a social media presence for several local businesses and volunteer organizations, and she heads up 10 successful financial literacy initiatives in local schools. As the current president of the local chamber of commerce, she is actively involved in Relay for Life fundraisers.
“My go-to for motivation is Mel Robbins. Her simple ‘Do it anyway’ mantra helps me get past barriers. Even when it’s hard, do it anyway!”
Roshan McArthur is a writer in California.