Gene Uher Retiring After 50-Plus Years in Banking
It’s hard for Gene Uher to imagine waking up in the morning with no one calling or emailing him and nowhere he has to be. But after 51 years in banking, working past when he could have retired because of his love for his job, Gene has decided, “It’s time to stop and smell the roses.”
“I still feel like I enjoy getting up and going to work every morning,” Gene remarks. “Bell is just a great bank to work for. But my wife and I both have our health, and we want to do some traveling, visiting family and friends, and we want to spend more time with our daughter, Michelle, and grandkids, Sydney and Grant. We have a whole bucket list of places we want to see in the United States, and we plan to spend some time in Europe. We also have a home in Arizona, and we’re looking forward to spending our winters there.”
Correspondent banking manager Tom Ishaug calls Gene a true legend at Bell and in the banking business.
“Gene is like ‘Norm’ from the TV show Cheers – he knows everybody and makes everyone feel special,” Tom proclaims. “Gene can join a conversation on almost any type of loan subject and quickly provide insight with his depth of experience. His biggest contribution has been expanding Bell’s correspondent footprint by sharing Bell’s story with other bankers. He exemplified our ‘Happy Employees! Happy Customers!’ mission in everything he did. He also was able to provide other banks with insight on Bell’s Pay It Forward program, and several banks started their own Pay It Forward programs.”
Gene’s banking career has taken him many places, from Lincoln, Neb., where he started, to Sioux Falls, S.D., where he was most recently based as a senior vice president and business development officer for Bell Bank, building correspondent relationships with banks all over South Dakota as well as in Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa.
Working in a bank is where Gene met Brigitte – his wife of 50 years. His work in the early 1970s as one of the first in the savings and loan industry to offer mobile home lending, led to his involvement on a national committee that dealt with savings and loan installment credit and a U.S. Senate panel for mobile home lending. He has also led departments and headed banks, working as both president and chief operating officer.
His banking career is also what led to the governor of South Dakota proclaiming July 28, 2018, “Gene Uher Day” across the state.
“I must have done something right,” Gene jokes. “It was very gratifying and gave me goosebumps to be with South Dakota bankers when the governor’s proclamation was given to me.”
Jeff Restad, Bell’s correspondent banking business development manager, says Gene has done a great job of telling Bell’s story during the decade he has worked for the bank.
“Gene seemingly knows everyone in South Dakota and Nebraska and has a story about most of them,” Jeff notes. “He is a passionate and caring person, and we will miss his energy for his work.”
What has motivated Gene throughout his career and kept him in banking past when he could have chosen to retire are the relationships he has built with bankers. It’s those personal and business relationships that Gene will miss the most.
“It really boiled down to relationships,” he comments. “I can’t tell you how much that means in banking and to me personally.”
Michael Solberg, Bell’s president and CEO, says our correspondent department would not be where it is today without Gene.
“He is so widely known in our industry and respected by everyone who knows him,” Michael confirms. “The best part about Gene is that his personal values align so well with Bell’s. He is always thinking about how he can add value to his customers and how he can help people he works with or comes across.”
Very involved in his communities over the years, Gene has served as board president for organizations that benefit the arts, children’s causes and many other charities. While he may also take a break from some of his volunteer work, one role he plans to continue is serving as captain of the 18th hole for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, an Arizona golf tournament that has raised more than $81 million for Arizona charities since 2010 and more than $147 million since starting in 1932.
“That’s something that I really enjoy,” Gene notes. “Some of my bankers and friends come to Arizona and work for me as ‘hole marshals,’ serving as tournament ambassadors on the course, so it will be a good way to stay connected with them. And I love the people and the crowds that come in.”
Gene is currently transitioning into retirement with plans to officially hang up his hat in late June or early July. In the meantime, he’s introducing our newest correspondent banker, Todd Holzwarth, to some of our correspondent banking partners. Based in Parker, S.D., Todd covers South Dakota, North Dakota, and parts of Iowa and Minnesota, working with senior lenders, bank presidents and chief financial officers to find out how Bell can help their banks.
“Todd will do a wonderful job,” Gene affirms. “He’s just a genuine person who bankers relate well to. He is a great team member for the correspondent department.”
Gene will also spend some time helping another new correspondent banker hire, who Bell will announce in May, get to know some of our correspondent banking partners.
“Helping the correspondent team grow to more than $900 million in committed assets is something I have really, really enjoyed,” Gene remarks. “It’s a great team. I have absolutely enjoyed working for Bell these last 10 years.”