Banker Learns First-Hand Bell Culture Is More Than Nice Idea

Shortly after Jeff Restad started working for Bell Bank in 2003, his son was born 3 months early. A month later, severe health complications almost took his baby’s life.

Richard Solberg, then Bell’s president and CEO, stopped by Jeff’s desk to tell him to go home and be with his family, not to worry about his job, and to come back when he could. That was how Jeff learned Bell’s people-first culture was more than a nice idea.

“That doesn’t happen everywhere,” Jeff explains. “That was a telltale sign for me, culture-wise, when not just my boss, but the head of the company told me to go take care of my family. And from my co-workers, we were showered with meals, gift cards and well-wishes.”

As Bell’s correspondent banking business development manager, Jeff shares Bell’s culture and company story with our correspondent banking partners.

“That’s the easiest part of my job,” Jeff notes. “Bell has a great story and a fun culture to talk about. Whether I’m discussing the Pay It Forward program or employee stock ownership plan, I could go on and on about the great things Bell Bank has done.”

Jeff also supports Bell’s correspondent lenders and helps lead the team’s sales and marketing efforts as Bell continues to grow its correspondent relationships.
“Just doing business deals isn’t our sole purpose,” Jeff remarks. “It’s about building relationships and friendships. Our job in correspondent is to help community banks when they need help, but it’s also about building friendships out of those business relationships.”

 

Growth & Opportunity

Having worked in banking his entire adult life, 12 years as president of Bell’s Alexandria, Minn., location, Jeff understands what banks might need in a correspondent relationship.

“I’ve been in a lot of their shoes, so I understand what it takes to do things like manage asset liability and go out and get direct business for your bank,” he comments.

When Bell opened the Alexandria branch, the community – a county seat of about 11,000 people nestled in the lakes country of west central Minnesota – was a new market for the bank and, at the time, the farthest the company had ventured from its Fargo headquarters.

“It was a test market for us, really, to see how well our brand would resonate in other markets,” Jeff notes. “We definitely aced the test.”

The branch has grown into one of the largest banks in town and has influenced the community in many ways – from financing various local commercial projects to supporting people and organizations in need through Bell’s Pay It Forward program, which gives employees money to donate where they see fit.

While Jeff is proud to have been part of Alexandria’s growth, working in correspondent lending is something that intrigued him, so he joined the team in 2017.
“It’s a place of great growth potential,” he remarks. “The opportunity to be a part of even more growth at Bell is what intrigued me the most.”

 

‘An Honest, Responsible Career’

Ever since Jeff was 15 or 16 years old, growing up in the small town of Langdon, N.D., he knew he wanted to be a banker.
“It seemed like an honest, responsible career that always interested me,” he explains.

Two days before graduating from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in finance, he accepted his first job in banking, working as a collector. One of his responsibilities was to retrieve cars after a loan went past-due.

“The first car I had to repossess was parked in front of a bar with big picture windows. I was 21 or 22 years old, and I was so nervous,” Jeff remembers. “After 90 days, the dealer wouldn’t take the car back, and this was the 89th day. I jumped in the car, the keys were still in it, and I think I ran the stop sign driving away, because I was so nervous.”

Jeff has also worked in residential real estate lending and commercial lending – something he really enjoyed. He says the hardest and best career decision he made was taking a job at Bell. Out of loyalty to his former company and co-workers, he refused a few attempts Richard Solberg made to recruit him. He eventually relented and hasn’t looked back.

“The way Bell treats people is what sets the bank apart,” Jeff notes.

 

To connect with Jeff on how Bell might be able to help you and your bank, call him at 320-759-8401 or email jrestad@bell.bank.

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