Bernie Gaytko (pictured on far left), president and CEO of First National Bank of Waseca, was elected chair of the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota on August 3rd at our annual convention in Bemidji.
Minnesota community bankers also elected their 2019-2020 executive committee, as pictured, from left:
Gaytko has lead the $135 million First National Bank since 2001. He was convinced by his father-in-law to join the bank in 1995 as vice president of marketing after beginning his career as a sales manager with Nestle.
While he praised recent improvements made by ICBM, Gaytko emphasized the opportunities that remain, particularly for in-person advocacy and membership growth.
“I’ve been involved with the D.C. summit for about five trips to Washington, and the one thing that I found on my visits out there is how important it is to be in front of your legislators,” he said. “It’s one thing writing a letter and filling out a form letter. It’s another thing going in person and shaking their hand, letting them know who you are.”
That impact is equally visible on the state and local level, Gaytko added, and he wants to grow the number of people who participate in ICBM’s Washington and state advocacy trips. Advocacy, however, can’t be done once annually, he warned. It’s about year-round interactions with legislators. “I think when the next crisis hits banking, it’s going to be that much more important that we’re entrenched in our advocacy efforts before that happens,” he said.
Involving younger bankers in advocacy and other industry efforts from the beginning are vital to raising the next generation of leaders, Gaytko said. “You have to spark that passion for community banking like my father-in-law did in me 24 years ago,” he said. “I want to try to engage them. I look around at the young talent that we have and I keep pushing all of my managers to get them to a networking event, have them meet people that are doing the same thing in other banks.”
Building comradery with peers will encourage young bankers to get involved and stay involved in banking, Gaytko said. “That’s where you get the stickiness.”
Much like having multiple products with a bank decreases the likelihood a customer will leave, being involved in the industry in different ways increases the likelihood young employees will stick around. “If you have them attending networking events, additional training, the Lead conference that we’re doing — those are the stickiness factors that are important for them when they come back to the bank,” he said.