Conquering his world, one cookie at a time

Craig Madsen

With a high of 83 degrees, May 16 was a great day for Craig Madsen to get out of the office and into the field. Literally. Madsen is community president and senior lending officer at Bank Plus in Estherville, Iowa, and has been named a 2019 Rising Star in Banking by BankBeat magazine. 

He also is “somebody who is in the process of changing the way everything is done,” said Kevin Pernick, president and CEO of Bank Plus. And it’s not a matter of reworking the mold but “breaking it and creating it anew.”

Madsen has embraced the “above and beyond mindset” for customers and non-customers alike since joining the $141 million bank in 2017. “I do everything I can for them to have a special experience,” he said. And on that particular afternoon in late May, that translated into Madsen bringing sandwiches, chips and monster cookie bars (which he had made) to farmers still trying to get corn planted. 

He performed this first act of kindness for the bank in April 2017. He took the bank’s secretary, Barb Christensen, with him. “She knows everybody in the area,” and knows where everybody farms, he said.

The lunches don’t just go to bank customers. “It’s random,” Madsen said.

During planting and harvesting, he tries to hit 30 to 40 stops over three or four days. “It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy getting out and just visiting [farmers], making them feel appreciated, just letting them know we’re thinking of them,” Madsen said. “I don’t expect to get anything,” although it sometimes does bring in business. It’s the “little things that make people want to do business with you,” he said.

It’s this attitude that had Pernick recruiting Madsen pretty hard two years ago. Madsen’s “genuinely an amazing man, good person. From the minute I interviewed him, I knew we had to have him here,” Pernick said. “He gives all of himself to everything he does. 

“He genuinely cares about our customers,” Pernick said. “Craig doesn’t try to pigeonhole people into products. He’s big into identifying what people need [and he’s] not afraid to step outside the box” to figure out how to best fill that need, he added. “It drives him into a whole different world.”

From the get-go, relationship building has been important to Madsen. “When you come out of school, you’re kind of a snot-nosed banker, and you think you’re going to conquer the world,” he said. “I have always known it is important to try and treat others the way I would want to be treated. I’m not always good at it.”

Several years ago, two customers who are brothers were going to split their business concerns, and the line of credit also needed to be divided. It was “kind of a high pressure deal” that took two to three years to complete. “One brother got really emotional on me and wasn’t going to go through with it,” he said. During the process, Madsen said he got called every name in the book; yet maintained his composure. 

Madsen retained the relationship by practicing the golden rule. “I would probably tell you that the later part of my career has been better than my earlier career in banking,” he said. “Maybe maturity and raising a family taught me a little.”

Not surprisingly, what Pernick appreciates most in Madsen is also what Madsen values in others: Sincerity, a willingness to go above and beyond for somebody, and being part of the team. “Pitching in and helping with whatever needs to be done is what Kevin and I are really striving for here,” Madsen said. 

The bank’s vision statement is to take over Estherville and then take over the world. “We still have a lot of work to do,” Madsen said. But he believes that if “you take care of people, they’ll take care of you.”

That philosophy seems to be paying dividends as the bank’s loan portfolio is running at an all time high, Pernick said. “This is a year that we’re working to set ourselves up for next year when we take over the world.”

Despite the lofty goals, Madsen shuns the limelight. If you Google his name, you won’t find much on him, not even a Facebook profile. “I don’t need my name out in bright lights,” he said. “I want to be the behind-the-scenes guy who is well respected.” 

But Pernick sees it a bit differently. “I really think Craig is somebody who needs to be recognized for his contribution, not only for our bank but other banks and the community he’s in. He’s so genuine. He gives all of himself to everything he does,” Pernick said.