Charles Funk, president and CEO of Iowa City-based MidWestOne Bank has received the Iowa Bankers Association’s 2021 James A. Leach Leadership Award. The award was presented to Funk on Sep. 21 at the association’s annual convention in Des Moines.
Funk is “a natural leader” and “a champion of leadership,” stated one of several letters supporting his selection, this one penned by bank colleagues Bill Bywater, Sue Evans, Barb Finney, Soni Harney and Thais Winkleblack.
Under Funk’s leadership, the bank has worked well as a team, hired and retained high-quality employees, pursued constant improvement and shown customer care and integrity, said Evans, chief operating officer.
Funk makes employees feel connected “because he shows personal interest and care in their lives and in their career development,” said Harney, senior vice president and chief human resources officer.
“Charlie’s influence has challenged me to be the best version of myself and helped me grow as a senior leader, as a manager of people, as an HR professional, but mostly as a human being,” Harney added. “He has taught me how to maneuver challenges with people and processes, how to manage complex situations, and has provided me new perspectives, all while helping me look in the mirror and find ways to improve my performance.”
Others who know Funk shared similar sentiments.
“I think one of Charlie’s key legacies will be his personal drive to be a lifelong learner and lifelong mentor and educator to those who worked for him and to … young bankers throughout the country through his instructor roles at the Graduate School of Banking, the Iowa School of Banking, Stonier Graduate School of Banking, and the Kansas-Nebraska School of Banking,” said Jeff Plagge, Iowa’s Superintendent of Banking. Funk taught classes at the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado, Boulder, from 2001-2016.
Funk, a 1976 graduate of William Jewell College. Liberty, Mo., and acclaimed collegiate basketball player, is considered one of the greatest shooters in program history and held numerous school records at the time of his graduation, including the 2,077 total points he scored. After graduation, he tried out for the National Basketball Association’s Kansas City Kings but was cut after three days of camp. He then played professional basketball in Europe for two years before beginning his banking career in 1979 at American National Bank, St. Joseph, Mo., in its management training program.
By 1997, Funk was chief investment officer at Brenton Bank. The bank’s COO asked Funk to take over management of its struggling branch in Des Moines. Within one year, the branch was recognized as the best in the bank for loan growth, deposit growth and referrals.
In 2000, Wells Fargo was on the verge of buying Brenton. Not wanting to stay after it was sold, Funk joined Iowa Savings Bank & Trust as president, becoming the first non-family member to hold that title at the institution. Eight years later, Iowa Savings Bank & Trust merged with and adopted the name of MidWestOne Financial Group. Funk has since led the company through the later acquisitions of Central Bank and American Bank & Trust, as well as expansion of its footprint outside of Iowa to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida and Colorado. The $5.74 billion bank now employs approximately 800 people working in 57 offices.
Funk has served extensively on boards, including those of the American Bankers Association, Iowa Bankers Association, Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, Iowa City Community School District Foundation and ICR Iowa. Funk was also named Banker of the Year by Northwestern Financial Review, now BankBeat magazine, in 2014.
“Iowa City has benefitted from Charlie’s effective leadership and counsel,” said MidWestOne Board Chair Kevin Monson. “He has earned the respect and admiration of many for his steady hand and thoughtful vision of how we can work together to make this the best community it can be.”
Awarded to Iowa bankers since 2000, the James A. Leach Leadership Award honors individuals who show outstanding contributions to the banking industry in Iowa and the communities they serve.