SHARED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE SOUTH DAKOTA BANKER’S ASSOCIATION.
The FNBSF’s FIRST Values— Family, Independence and Innovation, Relationships, Stewardship and Teamwork— guide the bank and its decisions as it moves forward and builds successful relationships. “We talk about our values a lot because they are so important to us and are ingrained in our DNA. It is part of what we do every day,” Ekstrum said. “It didn’t take me long to see how you can take values and use them to a higher purpose into truly being a community bank.”
“One of the real differences for me in my career has been the fact that we just don’t see our customers as much as we used to,” Baker said. “But our mission is to build personal relationships, so we have really made it a priority to try and continue that personal relationship banking legacy through all the delivery channels including social media and mobile banking. I think we are doing it successfully, which is very exciting.”
Stephanie Gongopoulos, Baker’s cousin who is now retired but continues to serve as a director on the bank’s board, was instrumental in building the bank’s innovative marketing and social media team. FNBSF is active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn. “I think it has really helped us to attract a younger generation of customers to the bank,” Baker said. “We are opening new accounts at a record rate and have a lot of younger customers now coming into the bank, which is a great complement to the legacy customers that we have had for generations.”
One of the bank’s social media building initiatives is FNBGiveFirst, an annual holiday social media promotion. For the past six years, the bank has given $2,500 each to the four local organizations that receive the most social media votes during the holidays. FNBSF’s KindnessFirst is an innovative program that encourages employees to think of creative ways to pay it forward. The bank provides each employee $50 annually to contribute toward a community cause of their choice. Baker said employees team up and combine their funds to make a significant difference through community organizations. Employees can also participate in the bank’s matching gift program. With a minimum gift of $100, the bank will match financial contributions of an employee to a qualifying nonprofit 501(c)3 organization up to $500 per employee per year. In addition, the bank provides each employee with volunteer time off to help with community causes.
“I am proud in the community when we go to charity events or events with community and charitable leaders, and we are acknowledged for the work we have done or the help that we have provided whether it be lending our people to the cause, providing financial support or helping fund raise,” Ekstrum said. “I think that we are unique in that we are community builders, and we are really altruistic in our mission.”
Baker said his most rewarding volunteer experience has been with the Sioux Empire United Way and chairing its 2002-2003 campaign. He has also volunteered with Sanford Health, Boys and Girls Club of the Sioux Empire, The Banquet, Bishop Dudley Hospitality House and Sioux Falls Thrive.
Leaving in Good Hands
Baker said the people are what he has most enjoyed about his banking career—family members, employees, customers, fellow bankers, community leaders and the opportunity to work with his dad for 11 years. Baker and his wife, Peg, who have been married for 36 years, have three children. Daughter Maggie and her husband, Kyle, who is an in-house counsel for Avera eCare, have two children: Garrett and Charlie. Daughter Lauren teaches art in Casa Blanca, Morocco, and her husband, Dany, is an applications, website and 3D designer.
Son Billy is a Berklee College of Music in Boston educated rock ‘n’ roll drummer who enrolled last summer at Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles. Baker and his wife bought property 15 years ago near Nisswa, Minn., and Grand View Lodge, the place where they first met. The couple rebuilt the house five years ago, which now allows them to spend time there year round. As Baker looks toward retirement at the end of the year, he said FNBSF is in fantastic hands.
“I have devoted quite a bit of time during my career to building a good risk management organization within the bank. We have always had a good risk management organization, but it starts with an independent board at the bank level,” Baker said. “Our bank board is very independent with a lot of seasoned community business leaders that bring years of wisdom and knowledge and have really helped guide and govern the organization. That will continue to be true long after I am gone. They are the key to creating a strong, vibrant and enduring institution.”
“My number one goal,” Ekstrum said, “is to make sure that The First National Bank in Sioux Falls remains an independent, family-owned enterprise.”