By Dave DeWitte
Todd Wishman became the Cedar Rapids market president for Bankers Trust, one of the Corridor’s most active commercial lenders, last October. For a 48-year-old, he brings a sizable amount of commercial banking experience to the Corridor, having amassed 25 years as a commercial lender at Hawkeye Bank, Great Western Bank and Bankers Trust, where he most recently worked as a lender in the Des Moines market. His arrival in Cedar Rapids was overshadowed by headlines surrounding the bank’s unenviable role as lender to the failed newbo evolve festival, but with the uproar quieting, he spoke with the CBJ about the road ahead.
It’s been nearly five months since you arrived in Cedar Rapids from Des Moines. How are you settling in?
It’s gone well. Anytime you take on a new role, especially a leadership role, it’s important to first focus on listening and learning. And that’s what I’ve done in my first four months here. I’ve spent a lot of time with my team, learning about them, finding out what they do, what’s important to them. I’ve also made it a point to get out and meet with a lot of our clients and understand what’s important to them — what their needs are, what their goals are, what that looks like in terms of banking needs. I think we have a strong brand here, and employees that care about each other and their customer and the community.
We were surprised to see how big of a contrast there is between the size of the bank in Polk County versus here. There it’s about $2.5 billion in assets; here it’s about $550 million. Is the composition of the two markets very similar?
Overall, I’d say both markets are very vibrant — there’s a lot going on. I’ve been very impressed with Cedar Rapids and all it has to offer. Both communities are similar in regard to the amount of optimism and community engagement. I see Cedar Rapids residents, and even Bankers Trust employees, are really interested in advancing the city and the Corridor. From a banking standpoint, that translates to a need for banking and other lending services.
Are there any big contrasts that you would draw between the markets?
Mainly the entrepreneurial spirit and the way the community rallies to get things done. I see that as a real strength in this community versus central Iowa. We’re really operating in and offering the same lines of business in Cedar Rapids as we are in our other markets. Bankers Trust has always been a commercial bank, first and foremost, and always will be, and that’s my charge on a day-to-day basis, to lead our commercial lending team.
The bank overall has had pretty strong asset growth, but looking at the numbers six months ago, it appeared that maybe growth locally had slowed down a bit. Do you see activity in this market slowing or is that a hiccup?
We’ve fortunate to have experienced some nice growth in the Cedar Rapids area over the years — there’s always some natural ebb and flow in loan totals, for various reasons. For example, we see totals change as economic conditions change and also with certain loan types, such as with construction and development-type lending, so as those deals fund up and pay off in their natural course, that’s very normal in our business. What I’d tell you is we’re firmly committed to Cedar Rapids and the Eastern Iowa marketplace, and are committed to growing our presence in those growing and vibrant areas.
Bankers Trust has been in the market for 16 years now and has a strong base among mid-market businesses. With your arrival and the change in leadership, can we expect to see some changes?
Our business here, as in other markets, has been built on strong relationships, great service and a strong commitment to customers — those things aren’t going to change. I think, we’ll continue to focus on Cedar Rapids and the greater Corridor area, but there’s a lot of opportunity in all of Eastern Iowa, so I see us expanding geographically.
What about the lending mix?
Maybe a little heavier into the C&I [commercial and industrial] lending. I don’t want the message to be we’re not in the commercial real estate business, because we certainly are. I just think, just from a product mix standpoint, I’d like to be a little more 50-50 [real estate and C&I]. When you talk about commercial real estate, it’s a little more transaction-oriented — the deal flow may be a little faster on that side, which is positive. On the C&I side, it’s a little more relational, in my opinion, and you tend to have deeper relationships. You get the treasury relationship — the cash management relationship. You could get private banking for the executives or business owners, 401(k) opportunities, trust opportunities, and so on.
I believe you were involved in Junior Achievement when you were in Des Moines. Are you getting involved with JA here?
I did resign from the JA board in central Iowa and joined the JA board here in Eastern Iowa, so I’m excited about that. In addition, I’ll be on the [Cedar Rapids Metro] Economic Alliance’s Large Investor Council. And I’m past president of the Rotary Club of West Des Moines, and have been a Rotarian for close to 20 years, and so I’m anxious to join the Downtown Rotary club here. I just haven’t found the right time to dip my toes in the water there. Beyond that, I’m looking for other opportunities to serve — I just want to take time to find the right opportunities.
What goes on in your life after banking hours?
I don’t have a lot of hobbies. Outside of work, family is very important and the kids’ activities keep us busy. My oldest son plays college hockey out in New York, so we try to watch his games online. My oldest daughter is into ballet dancing, and she’s trying to make a go of that out in Denver, Colorado. My daughter back home is into basketball and volleyball, and my little one plays football and soccer. Beyond that, I enjoy being outside. I’m particularly passionate about golf – I recently joined Cedar Rapids Country Club, so I’m anxious to set foot on that course this spring. CBJ