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Banker grows thick skin launching pig skin

Kristin Marcuccilli

Editor’s Note: Each summer, BankBeat recognizes banking industry up-and-comers, nominated by readers, who are making a significant impact to their institutions and communities. This annual tradition is sponsored by United Bankers’ Bank, Bloomington, Minn.

Kristin Marcuccilli has been thriving in a man’s world since she was the placekicker for her high school football team. She then went to work in operations for University of Notre Dame football, and now she’s on the executive board for the third-generation, family-owned STAR Financial Bank in Fort Wayne, Ind.

So, whether she’s been around sweaty athletes or stoic bankers, she said she’s always been in an environment that developed her disciplined and tenacious spirit and, frankly, taught her “to toughen up.”

Marcuccilli — pronounced Mar-kuh-selly — is one of seven bankers being recognized as a BankBeat Rising Star in Banking.

“Working in the environment of a football office taught me at a young age to have thick skin,” she said, “and that I need to have thick skin in the business world.”

Kristin Marcuccilli’s grandpa, Tom Marcuccilli, was the “T” in “STAR”— the acronym representing the four bankers who founded the now $1.8 billion bank in 1943. Seventy-five years later, the 35-year-old Marcuccilli has had her own skin in the game for the past 10 years. Starting in 2008, she worked on STAR’s retail delivery, electronic banking and marketing efforts. She has been the bank’s chief operating officer since 2013.

High school, where Marcuccilli kick-started her career, was also when she made her first business proposition to STAR Financial. At 16 years old, she was tasked with researching a new phone line for the company. She did her research and presented it to the IT committee. Her phone line was chosen — and was replaced only last year.

Even now, her game plan at the bank remains focused on tech-based delivery channels. One of her proudest accomplishments at STAR, she said, has been establishing more than 50 interactive teller machines, a project that resulted from her capstone academic research, which she presented to the bank’s board. “What I’m most passionate about is identifying what customer problems are, and where we find solutions through technology and innovation,” she said.

“There’s a direct correlation between what a community bank delivers and what our communities need,” Marcuccilli said. The bank invests in fintech, ITMs and online banking experiences that allow a business owner to apply for a loan from her couch at 9 p.m.

Marcuccilli said she loves being an innovator, but also someone who can identify people or partners that can serve customers effectively. This perspective manifests in her understanding of fintech companies, which she sees as an ally rather than a threat. “[Fintechs] can be a really smart partnership to deliver financial services and advice that people in businesses need to grow, and to help communities grow,” she said.

It’s vital to identify the right partnerships, Marcuccilli said, since fintech services are an extension of the company’s character. “How you manage the service, support and security of those deliverables is paramount.”

The banking scene, Marcuccilli learned, is much like the football field. The young COO said she can identify about 100 coaches in the company. “In business today, I think we each kind of know who our team is,” she said. “Who’s your lineman, who’s going to defend, who’s going to power through a project or tackle an issue or an incident — there are a lot of similarities in football and business.”

Marcuccilli had to teach herself not to respond emotionally or take criticism personally in the times when she’s “felt the fire,” she said. In difficult situations, whether on the field or in the office, “there are valuable lessons to be learned,” she said.

When Marcuccilli was the kicker in high school, she said it was like having 80 brothers. Now, although STAR is her family’s company, she said the bank is a family in a way that transcends bloodlines. Whether employees are celebrating a company success, playing a round of golf, or grieving a company loss, Marcuccilli said, “the family dynamic [at the bank] stretches well beyond our actual family members.”

In addition to her affinity toward banking and football, Marcuccilli expands her already-wide range of interests, talents and involvement to the arts, animals, economic development and the Food Channel. “If I wasn’t already in banking,” Marcuccilli said, “I would go to culinary school.”

Marcuccilli was president of the Indiana Bankers Association Future Leadership Division and watched the membership increase by two-thirds over her two-year term in 2016-2017. She serves as a board member for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Arts United, the local children’s zoo, the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Technology and Innovation center.

Marcuccilli initially graduated pre-med from Notre Dame, but “had always been curious about what a role in the family business and in community banking would be like,” she said.

When she was a little girl, Marcuccilli remembers tagging along with her dad, Jim Marcuccilli, STAR’s president and CEO, when he’d go into the bank on weekends or after hours. She spun around on office chairs, scribbled on dry erase boards and alphabetized miscellaneous files to pass the time. Her father, she said, is also one of her most influential mentors. “He’s really a coach and a leader of our company,” she said.