By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN Banking is in Wendy Gilmer’s blood.
Her great-grandfather, Bert Gilmer, served at State Bank of Delano from 1940-1954, followed by her grandfather, Don Gilmer, from 1954-1998, and her father, Steve Gilmer, who has been with the bank since 1973 and currently serves as chairman and CEO.
Wendy is following in their footsteps, having become president of the local banking establishment Jan. 1.
“My dad always really enjoyed his job and career and I knew early on I wanted to come back to Delano and be involved in the bank,” Wendy said.
Her involvement began with a teller position before studying at St. Olaf College, her father’s alma mater.
She went on to work at Commerzbank in New York and Frankfurt, Germany, as well as at American Express in London. While there, she received her Master of Business Administration from London Business School.
In 2005, she returned to State Bank of Delano in a lender position and became a board member.
She considers her father a role model and is thankful she has been able to learn from him.
“I do feel I’ve been very fortunate to work with my dad and continue doing so,” Wendy said. “He’s a very good banker so I feel lucky to learn from him.”
While Wendy is taking on a new title, she wants her customers to know her service, and the bank’s services as a whole, won’t be changing.
“We don’t want people to feel like things will be changing,” Wendy said. “We felt it was time to make a step in leadership to allow Steve to have more flexibility. They can come to me for more things.”
Wendy will continue to work in the lending department.
With the change in title, her direct oversight will be over banking operations, while Steve will have direct oversight over the lending department.
Steve has a long list of positives from his time with the bank.
“I’ve enjoyed having involvement with the growth of our community, community activities, personal banking relationships, and ultra fine coworkers at the bank,” Steve said.
He has personally watched the bank grow with the community, which he said had a population of about 1,100 in the ‘50s, compared to more than 5,500 now.
In addition to the growth of the community, he has also witnessed many changes in banking firsthand.
“There have been major technology changes, online banking, mobile banking, and an increase in banking regulations,” he said before expounding, “When I made my first loan, the paper was a half-page promissory note. Now, that same loan is 16 pages.”
Some aspects of banking are not as formal as they once were.
“Every banker wore a tie every day to work,” Steve said. “It’s more informal and we have closer relationships with the clients.”
The Gilmers believe the local bank offers flexibility, an understanding of the marketplace, an understanding of local economies, and a high level of customer service, while also making decisions on a local level.
They have one primary priority.
“Our goal is to grow with our customers,” Wendy said. “We’re real believers in small businesses and small-business lending. We believe our expertise through working with a variety of customers can benefit the community. We’ll continue to provide innovative products that emphasize convenience and security. We can be innovative yet still maintain continuity.”
The Gilmers are proud of that continuity, which will continue to be a theme at the bank.
“We say we’re rooted in the past and growing into the future,” Wendy said.