Creating community with a good fit in finance

When Kevin Hanson walked into Gate City Bank one morning in 1983, he didn’t know if they were hiring. He had graduated with a bachelor’s in finance from MSUM two days prior and opened a phone book just hours before to look for job openings.

He had an interview that day and again on Thursday. He was offered a job on Friday and started in a management training position the following Monday, a week after entering the doors of the bank’s downtown Fargo location.

Hanson spent the next year in an introductory management position, working as a bank teller, savings counselor, personal and mortgage lender, and in the areas of administration, human resources and marketing. He thought he’d end up being a manager in a rural North Dakota town but became a mortgage loan officer right where he was.

Feeling like he was a “good fit with [Gate City’s] philosophy”, Hanson built a rewarding career progressing from loan officer to assistant office manager of the downtown Fargo branch and then to the lending side of administration, with stints in quality control and underwriting and production management before serving as residential lending manager.

“I think I fell in love with banking while closing a customer’s first home loan, seeing their emotion in achieving a dream. I had an ability to make a difference and serve a purpose,” he says.

After his management roles, Hanson became director of lending (for mortgage, personal, commercial and loan servicing) and eventually chief operating officer. And a couple of years ago, Kevin Hanson became president and CEO of Gate City Bank.

As he progressed from one banking realm to another, Hanson continually relied on a spirit of inquiry and adaptability. Those traits developed with his experiences at MSUM, where meeting faculty and fellow students was a practicum in networking, a crucial element in the work world.

“[At MSUM I learned] terminology but also the ability to adjust as things change, to read and research to find out for yourself. You learn the technical skills of managing money, how finances and interest rates work, and what the financial environment is like; but also curiosity – how can I always build on this and do things differently, challenge the status quo, try new things; take what you learn and apply it to a situation that needs a unique solution.”

That outside-the-box thinking was especially critical for Hanson as he led the company through rapid advances in technology. Over time, people aim to own a home, need help during financial difficulty or want to start their own business, but the way that they interact with the bank changes:

“Technology continues to be a disruptive thing. People were coming to get a house loan 30 years ago and are still coming to get a house loan today, or they’re buying a car…the needs are the same, but how they’re doing it is significantly different and much more mobile.

At the end of the day, there’s still the core elements of helping people achieve their goals …that's fundamentally the same, but how we can service that has dramatically changed.”

With the past decades in mind and Gate City Bank’s 100th anniversary coming up in the next year, Hanson thinks daily about how the company plays a part in the surrounding community.

“As a mutual community bank, customers own the bank. We don’t have stockholders. So we focus on giving back to the community, creating an experience and making sure all feel welcome,” says Hanson.

In recent years, Gate City has supported local food pantries, helped fund hands-on learning spaces such as North Dakota Safety Council, backed the YWCA’s development of permanent housing for women, and provided new helmets for the Fargo Police department.

“You try to be a resource,” Hanson says. “All of our team members are encouraged to be out and about in our community, to volunteer."

Many of those team members are Dragons. And many of Gate City’s customers are Dragons. These MSUM graduates come from surrounding small towns, find their niche, and stay in the area after they graduate.

Hanson remembers making his way to MSUM from his hometown of Fergus Falls, Minn. At MSUM he felt at home.

He loved the atmosphere of challenge and growth, “the feeling of doing something exciting and sensing our future.” He noticed his professors’ passion and loved listening and learning from them.

As he narrowed his focus to finance, he found that their courses gave him the broad background he needed in accounting and management while providing a space to practice the skills of banking and running a business.

Hanson saw the impact of that education on his family, too. He can swap MSUM memories with his son, brother, sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who are all Dragons. With Dragons at home, Dragons at work and Dragons coming into the bank, he views MSUM as not just a funnel but an important resource to Fargo-Moorhead and West Fargo.

“It’s essential that we are investing and giving back to the communities where we live and work. Gate City Bank is committed to making a difference and supporting MSUM, and the good work they are doing is one of those examples.”

Gate City has given to MSUM every year since 1994. The bank has a matching program for its employees who give to the university and is a consistent supporter of Dragon Athletics, academic programs and events on campus. In addition, they established the Gate City Bank Endowed Scholarship in 2003 to support business administration students who will wake up one morning ready to walk through new doors.

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