Change in leadership: Seymour bank CEO plans to retire after 37 years at helm

The man who has spent more than half of his life serving as president and CEO of a community bank in Seymour plans to step down at the end of this month.

Dave Geis, however, doesn’t plan to just walk away from the bank that has grown from a main office and two branches in the city to nine locations in five southern Indiana counties during his 37 years at the helm.

Total assets at JCB also have grown from about $60 million to nearly $500 million during that same period.

After retirement, Geis said he is stepping away from the day-to-day operations but will remain on the boards of both Bancorp of Southern Indiana and JCB. BSI, owned by 400 stockholders — mostly Jackson County residents — is the parent company of JCB, which was established 117 years ago.

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Geis said he already has some plans in place for retirement.

Those plans include continuing with selected community and church involvement; spending time with his wife, Connie, at their home in Florida; and being more attentive to their many grandchildren as they progress through school activities and sports.

Geis said he doesn’t intend to leave golf out of his activities, either.

His career in banking began while he was attending Indiana University in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in business administration in the mid-1970s. He worked for Sears Roebuck and Co. during that time and was considering a career in retail.

“I interviewed with a couple of utility companies, as well, but I also interviewed and ultimately accepted a position with the former Indiana National Bank in downtown Indianapolis as a commercial credit analyst,” he said.

When he was younger, Geis had considered a couple of other career options, too.

“One set of grandparents owned a hardware store in my hometown of Brookville,” Geis said. “Another grandparent owned a grocery store in Connersville. Both were successful small businesses. I think when you are young, you naturally aspire to do what those to whom you look up to do.

“Even as a teenager, I had thoughts of coming back after college to ‘take over’ one of these small businesses. I admired and learned so much from my grandparents and wanted to be like them in so many ways.”

Geis, however, stuck with banking, leaving Indiana National Bank after a couple of years to become a bank examiner for the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions.

“That’s how I found and ultimately landed a job as a business loan officer at Jackson County Bank in 1976,” Geis said.

Four years later, at the age of 28, he became president and CEO of JCB. He was one of the youngest bankers to be appointed president and CEO of a bank at the time.

Geis said there was a mentoring board of directors and a seasoned team of other executive officers in place at JCB that allowed him to grow, learn and develop as a future leader.

“It was about having a role of helping customers with their financial needs, helping them reach their goals and realize their dreams that really attracted me to be a community banker,” he said.

The only negative in community banking is that sometimes — far more rare than not — the customer’s best laid plans or the best structured loan ends up not being a success, he said.

“There can be many reasons for that, and sometimes, the reason is in the customer’s control, and sometimes, it is out of their control,” he said.

Geis said the essentials for being a banker include a wide array of skills and disciplines, including being first and foremost outgoing and a people person.

Geis said his personal experience in learning how to be a leader was a developmental process that took time and admittedly involved some trial and error.

He said one of the biggest changes he has seen in banking over the years is the enormous extent of regulatory burden that has ultimately cost customers more to do business.

“It slows down processes of getting the customer what they want and need and reduces discretion in how we can serve our customers in certain ways,” Geis said.

Problems and abuses in the financial service industry that led to the Great Recession in 2008-2009 brought on the very typical regulatory overkill response, he said.

“The abusers of the predatory lending and investment practices were by and large not by the community banks like JCB,” Geis said. “They were the largest of banks in our country that got very greedy and were not doing what was in the best interests of their customers but rather doing what they could get by with to pad their bottom-line performance.

“The congressional response, however, that was brought about through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was most certainly overkill, as is typical and not measured and proportionate to the nature of how community banks do business. And it does not reflect the far lesser risk that community banks naturally engage in.”

He said he is hopeful with the new administration and Congress, there may be a reasonable opportunity to roll back some of the more onerous and customer impactful regulations.

Geis said for a long time, JCB enjoyed a dominant market share of business in its home market of Jackson County.

“While the county has had steady growth over the years, it has not been robust, and there is a lot of competition for banking services,” he said. “Back in the ‘80s, we decided that if we were going to grow as we desired, we needed to expand beyond our home market to serve customers.

“We decided to focus the next several years on extending JCB’s style of banking and extraordinary service to the ring of counties immediately adjacent to Jackson County.”

Today, through its calling officers, JCB is extending lending and investment services to counties and areas where there is no physical presence, Geis said.

“We are able to do this because of the ability to move money electronically with such services as desktop electronic banking,” he said. “Loan prospects are happy to have our calling officers come to them, meet them on their turf and arrange for their loan and financial needs at their places of business.”

Geis said he believes JCB’s future is bright and opportunistic.

“The recovering economy, coupled with prevailing low interest rates and cost-effective electronic services, bodes well for us to be able to continue to grow our service area in a profitable manner,” he said. “I feel I am leaving a management team, led by Marvin Veatch as the successor president/CEO, in good stead to be able to carry this plan forward.”

Geis said nothing happens without well-served and satisfied customers.

“So having many long-term and loyal customers is a proud achievement,” he said. “Of course, to realize such a success, one must have a dedicated team that consistently serves our customers’ needs by seeking to fulfill their dreams and goals over the long term.”

Geis said he does not have any regrets.

“My attitude is that, ‘It was what it was,’” he said. “If there were some bumps along the way, I looked for the silver linings and how I could improve and be a better person, leader and banker. I tried in all things to see the glass as more than half full. I think I can honestly say I wouldn’t have done anything differently because even in my mistakes, I benefited in retrospect.”

Geis has some advice for anyone considering a career in banking.

“Get a college degree and look into and keep an open mind to the wide array of possibilities within the banking field,” he said. “Banking has so many business disciplines within it. For instance, it has accounting, finance, financial planning and asset management, customer service in a wide variety of areas, human resources and executive leadership. One can choose to be a generalist or a specialist to suit their personal career interests.”

He said he sees a bright future for community banking.

“We will always be close to the customer, their wants, their needs, their dreams and goals,” Geis said. “We have the team, the services and the ability to stay with advancing technology to deliver service and convenience to our customers. That will reward us and our stockholders well into the future. Some regulatory relief would make our future and that of our customers even brighter.”

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Name: Dave Geis

Age: 66

Hometown: Brookville

Occupation: President and CEO of JCB

Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Indiana University

Organizations: Member of the board of the Indiana Bankers Association for nine years; federal delegate board member of the Independent Community Bankers of America representing Indiana member banks; longtime member of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, serving on the finance, audit and executive committees

Family: Wife, Connie; children, Jason, Jonathan, Erin and Tamera; 12 grandchildren; sister, Melanie