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Tea With Teammates

Phil DeGroot

Tea With Teammates

Want to know our teammates’ deepest, darkest secrets? Well, we can’t share those; they’d probably report us to HR for telling you.

So instead, we sat down with Ag Banking Team Lead Phil DeGroot over a can of Citrus Twist-flavored Sparkling Ice + Caffeine. (Yes, we realize this is Tea With Teammates, but you know how these farmboys are).

If you hadn’t already heard, he was named 2024 Agribusiness Citizen of the Year by the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. We snagged this interview with Phil so he could spill all the tea about this much-deserved award and the journey that brought him there.

Crack open a can of Sparkling Ice and let’s get sipping.

Phil DeGroot standing in front of a picture of a farm, holding a First National Bank mug.


Phil DeGroot

Position: Ag Banking Team Lead

Department: Ag Banking

Years at Bank: 8+

Hometown: Doon, Iowa

Education: South Dakota State University


Phil has truly been a stand-up agribusiness citizen his whole life.

Growing up on a dairy and hog farm in northwest Iowa, he learned early on what it meant to work in the agriculture industry.

“We were always out on the farm,” Phil said. “We had the typical farm-family picture where we’re all in the grain elevator, and we lined up in our winter coats after we got done filling the corn crib.”

“That’s one of the big memories that sticks out in my head, is that picture of being on the farm and what we did on a day-to-day basis.”

For school, Phil spent a few semesters at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA — where he played safety for the Red Raiders football team — and Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City.

“After that, I was like, ‘Well, I want to farm,’” he said. “I had some buddies who were up at SDSU, so I went there.”

When he graduated, Phil had every intention of joining the family farm full time.

A combine in a corn field at sunset. His dad and uncle were farming together, and that first summer was busy for the three of them. Then fall and winter hit, and the family had to take a closer look at their operation.

“Our dairy barn was 30 years old,” Phil said, “and we knew we’d have to make some major capital changes to the operation for all of us to be a part of it. To go into that much debt to milk cows — I didn’t want to do it that badly.”

His fiancée (and now-wife), Jen, was working in Sioux Falls. So, Phil packed his bags and loaded them into his pickup and moved to town.

“I said, ‘Well, maybe I’ll change tracks in my life. Get a job up here and see where that takes me,’” Phil said. “It was a tough decision. But it was, in the long run, the right decision for the farm and for Jen and me.”

“It was the perfect opportunity to give this a whirl”

Phil’s banking career of nearly two decades didn’t start in ag lending; he first worked in student loan collections at a larger bank for seven years.

“I got a little complacent, I guess, when I was doing student loans,” Phil said. “I was still helping on the farm, so the idea of being an ag banker kind of went away.”

At that same bank, an ag lending position came open and “there were changes coming to the student loan industry. So I decided, ‘You have this ag degree. It’s time to make that switch.’ It was the perfect opportunity to give this a whirl.”

He spent about a year and a half in that position, and another four years with a different bank in the surrounding Sioux Falls area.

“Then Brian came calling,” Phil said. “And I’m here.”

Ag Banking Manager Brian Gilbert had gotten to know Phil through the local ag community, with both of the bankers participating in the Chamber’s Agribusiness Division, Ag Appreciation Day, and Sioux Empire Livestock Show.

“I got to know Brian and some other guys who always showed up and helped,” Phil said. “We’d sit up in the red shed at the livestock show, have food and drinks, and get to know each other. It was just that networking part of everybody being involved in the ag community.”

2024 Agribusiness Citizen of the Year

“My kids always give me grief,” Phil said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, do you ever actually work?’ I think they just assume that you come into an office and you sit at a computer all day.”

“Ag lending is way different,” he continued. “We get to go out and be on farms and do inspections and understand these operations — because no operation is the same, and that’s what makes it so fun. It’s that idea that you’re in the office, yet you can be outside and meeting a lot of different people.”

And that’s pretty much the mindset that earned him this prestigious award. (For the full details on why the Chamber chose to honor Phil this year, check out this article.)

“I may downplay it, but it was pretty cool to receive that award,” Phil said. “There are a lot of people who are deserving of it. And when you look at it, Brian won the award in 2020, Dana Dykhouse fairly recently, and Jim Woster too. To have your name put in the same context as those heavy hitters — I was humbled.”

But the most important thing you need to know about Phil is that he didn’t go out seeking an award for his work, or even expect to receive this one.

“I know I help with a lot and do lots of things in the industry, but that’s just my nature. To receive this award, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is really what my peers in the ag community think of me.’ I appreciate it immensely.”

No one goes it alone

While Phil certainly earned the award on his own merits, he’s the first to admit that he wouldn’t be where he is without the help of others — namely his fellow Ag Banking teammates.Ag Banking Team Leads Josh Kayser, Brian Gilbert, Phil DeGroot, and Grant Olson standing in a pasture.

“We all look at things differently,” Phil said, “and you pull from that and learn from it, and you put it into how you work with everyone. While we might have our own teams within the Ag department, we all come together to get things done and take care of our customers.”

He also wanted to give a special shoutout to the group of Ag Administrative Assistants on their team.

“You can go to any of them and ask for help,” Phil said. “They know what we need for support in doing our jobs well and serving our customers. My wife always tells me she can’t read my mind, but with that team, it seems like they can. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”

To wrap up our conversation, we served the Sparkling Ice + Caffeine-drinker himself a steaming hot round of random questions:

What’s your favorite FIRST Value?

“Probably Teamwork, just because of our team here.”

What’s your favorite local business?

“My gym, CrossFit Viable. It’s the business I go to the most, and the owner, Ben, has built a great community of people there.”

If you could switch positions with anyone at the Bank, who would it be?

“Someone in Finance — either [Controller] Kurt Van Kalsbeek or [Chief Financial Officer] Jason Miller. Just to understand what they go through and the things they do on a day-to-day basis, because it’s so different from what we do.”

What’s your favorite app on your phone?

“My kids would say it’s Instagram. I don’t know, I get sucked into Reels; you can turn your brain off and not think about anything for a while. And I do send my wife and kids plenty of Reels in our family group chat.”

If you could have dinner with any living person, who would you choose?

“Joe Rogan. He talks to so many different people, and I think it would be interesting to get inside his head and pick his brain. Sitting down with him and being like, ‘Who’s the most interesting person you’ve ever met?’ and gleaning all those things.”

Tea With Teammates

Want to know our teammates’ deepest, darkest secrets? Well, we can’t share those; they’d probably report us to HR for telling you.

Tea With Teammates

Want to know our teammates’ deepest, darkest secrets? Well, we can’t share those; they’d probably report us to HR for telling you.

Tea With Teammates

Want to know our teammates’ deepest, darkest secrets? Well, we can’t share those; they’d probably report us to HR for telling you.

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