Vantage Bank: Valuing employee input

Vantage Bank, Alexandria, Minnesota

Vantage Bank’s team includes (from left) Chase Bukowski, credit analyst; Cindy Maanum, vice president; Karen Johnson, loan process manager; Stephanie Stueve, assistant vice president; and Jeff Montgomery, president and CEO.

Name: Vantage Bank
Assets: $41 million
Location: Alexandria, Minnesota

Each workday morning, Jeff Montgomery walks through the Alexandria, Minn., office of Vantage Bank and chats with every employee. Montgomery, president and CEO of the $41 million-asset community bank, likes to learn what the day ahead looks like for his staff.

That small act is indicative of the warm atmosphere of Vantage Bank, which is headquartered in Alexandria, Minn. In fact, in Independent Banker’s Best Community Banks to Work For employee survey, every participating employee said the management team is accessible and that their workplace encourages informal discussions and opportunities for conversations.

“[Jeff Montgomery is] just very visible and very approachable. People here feel valued and respected, and that’s what makes working here so great.”
—Stephanie Stueve, Vantage Bank

“Jeff is very good about asking us our opinions. There’s very open dialogue,” says Stephanie Stueve, assistant vice president. “He’s just very visible and very approachable. People here feel valued and respected, and that’s what makes working here so great.”

Who else won?

See the other Best Community Banks to Work For winners. Or see what trends came out of our survey.

Start with the right hires

Vantage Bank, founded as Kent State Bank in 1902, opened its Alexandria location, which is the larger of the bank’s two locations, eight years ago. Vantage Bank competes against 12 other financial institutions in Alexandria, a community of 13,000 residents. That means it’s all the more important that the community bank creates a workplace that supports—and retains—staff.

Vantage Bank, Alexandra, Minneosta

Vantage Bank opened its second branch in Alexandria, Minn., eight years ago.

Montgomery says one key to Vantage Bank’s welcoming workplace is hiring people who will enhance its culture. Occasionally, the bank even changes a job description to get a quality employee. For example, Montgomery says a teller at the community bank’s Kent, Minn., branch revealed after she was hired that she trained in graphic design. The teller now also mocks up marketing pieces for the bank.

“We benefit from our size sometimes,” Montgomery says, “because if we interview someone and the exact role we envision is not the best fit for them, we can modify that. We don’t let the talent go to waste.”

Vantage Bank, Alexandria, Minnesota

Cindy Maanum (center) safely connects with Vantage Bank customers.

Comfortable environment

Vantage Bank’s leadership believes that a successful workplace is one in which staff are comfortable with one other and know that their lives outside of work are respected. “The human side of it is important,” Montgomery says. “We have staff who have younger children, so we adapt their schedules if they have challenges with day care or if they want to go to an event. That’s just one more of the blocks you need in place to make sure it’s a good place to work.”

Stueve says the bank’s flexibility has allowed her to have special moments with family. “I have smaller children, and there have been numerous occasions when there’s been a school event I wanted to attend, or I wanted to take them out for a birthday lunch, or they came down with something during the day and I wanted to go home to be with them,” she says. “Jeff is always extremely flexible and open to us doing that.”

Ultimately, Montgomery says, a successful workplace is one in which employees feel valued. “I don’t think there’s any magic to it,” he says. “We all just enjoy each other.”

Top Tip: Vantage Bank

When employees ask Jeff Montgomery, president and CEO of Vantage Bank in Alexandria, Minn., his opinion about a problem, he doesn’t immediately offer an answer. “I’ll listen to them and say, ‘How are you leaning? What do you think?’” he says. “My employees have a lot of experience, and I have confidence in all of them.”

Letting employees make decisions in their areas of focus is a key factor to creating a successful workplace, Montgomery says. This is especially true in a small bank, where employees often wear many hats. Allowing them to take control helps them feel valued and helps the bank succeed.

“We don’t have turnover, and part of that is because employees have the ability to make decisions, increase responsibilities and create a career,” says Stephanie Stueve, assistant vice president. “It’s easy to make those decisions when you’re given the right guidance and the right opportunities.”

Ed Avis is a writer in Illinois.