The opportunity to start a new job as a business banker during a pandemic while small businesses faced dire circumstances probably would have been a deal breaker for some. But for Tom Ries, the newest Business Banker at The First National Bank in Sioux Falls, it offered the perfect mix of building relationships and helping clients add value to their business.
Q: Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, go to school, industry experience, etc.?
I grew up in the Twin Cities and went to Augustana, that’s how I got to Sioux Falls. I played football and majored in business with a finance emphasis. I spent the last six to seven years at another bank, which has essentially been my whole career. I started as a credit analyst and I quickly realized that it was a great opportunity, and that I wanted to become a business banker at some point. After two years as a credit analyst, I was a business banker there for four years before joining FNB.
Q: Why did you decide to join FNB?
I knew a few bankers and always had thought highly of the Bank. There was an opening and I decided that it was a great opportunity and a great Bank to work for. I would say one of the deciding factors, obviously, is that First National and the Baker family have about as good of a reputation around town as you can have. First National is also an SBA lender and big into trying to develop smaller relationships that will eventually grow into larger ones. That’s been great to see.
I’ve also really enjoyed the team atmosphere within the Business Banking team, which I think is echoed throughout the entire Bank. That department structure is really awesome and it provides a lot of value to me, which can in turn provide a lot of value to the customers; whether that’s bouncing ideas off other folks on our team or being able to utilize our business banking associates to free up my time and better help customers.
Q: What does your day-to-day work look like?
There are a couple different aspects of it, one of which is taking care of existing clients, working with them to make sure that we have the best structure in place, gathering financials, and getting it spread by our credit department. We’ll also run over it with customers to see where they’re at, and if we have seen any areas where they can improve and add value that way. The other piece of it is going out and trying to develop new relationships. Both parts kind of lead to my favorite part about being a business banker, which is just building and growing relationships. I really like diving into the finances and trying to find ways to help people save money or add value, but I think ultimately it just comes down to building relationships. Having the opportunity to do that as a career is pretty cool.
Q: Although you’ve only been with FNB since May, can you give an example of a time that you felt really rewarded by your job?
It’s been great to see the impact of the PPP loans that we’ve made. I’ve certainly seen that within my portfolio of customers. Otherwise, I’ve really just been in get-to-know-you mode. It’s been awesome to go into a relationship that has been with the Bank for generations and step in as the new guy and see their level of respect and trust with the Bank as a whole. I think that at a lot of places, it’s with the banker and not the bank. It’s just really neat to see that appreciation and trust from clients who have said ‘we’ve been with you guys since my grandpa was running the company.’
Q: One of the Bank’s core values is Stewardship and our teammates are very active within the community. Do you volunteer anywhere?
I probably spend the majority of my volunteer time volunteering through the Chamber. I’m on the steering committee of the Young Professionals Network (YPN). I am co-chairing the bi-annual Crossroads Summit, a big event that we have. I am also Junior Achievement volunteer. This year I played in the 100 Hole Challenge and I’ve also done JA in a Day, which is going into a classroom and basically being a teacher for a day or a half a day. I also try to volunteer for Mission Haiti whenever I can.
Q: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
My wife and I are licensed foster care parents. We started the process last year but officially became licensed right after the first of the year this year. We’ve got three kiddos with us right now, so it’s been a full house at the Ries household.
Q: Since we’re in financial services, if you had $1 million land in your account, what would you do with it?
I would have to have a little bit of fun money. You can’t be given that much money without spending a little bit of it. I’d probably do some home projects and buy my wife, Jess, a vehicle. I’d also probably take a European vacation, like a backpacking trip through Europe; that would be really fun. I’d try to get in as many different cultures as I could. I’d probably throw the rest of it in retirement and retire early.