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Creativity and confidence anchor Minnesotan’s role

Katie Incantalupo

It’s not often you find part of a banker’s credentials on IMDb, the internet movie database. And while it may not be an obvious start to a financial services career, Katie Incantalupo’s foray into acting during high school helped prepare her for the position she now holds at Star Bank.

Incantalupo is one of five women being honored as “Outstanding Women in Banking” by BankBeat.The Outstanding Women in Banking program is sponsored by Shazam.

Incantalupo’s high school drama teacher, Tom Hegg, author of “A Cup of Christmas Tea,” was involved in the Twin Cities acting community and had a number of casting directors and agents visit his classes. Through this, Incantalupo garnered roles in the Mighty Ducks and Grumpy Old Men films and sang in backup choirs for Ray Charles and Barry Manilow. She also has other television and modeling credits.

In auditioning and acting, “you have to stand on your own two feet,” Incantalupo said. Her experiences in front of the camera and in front of audiences built her confidence. “I think that’s what has really led me to my passion in leadership,” she said.
And creativity and leadership definitely play into her effectiveness as vice president of marketing and human resources for Star Bank. She joined the bank, chartered in Maple Lake, Minn., when it opened a metro office in Eden Prairie in 2010. She oversees training, employee relations and bank event planning.

Before Incantalupo came on board, Star Bank didn’t have a dedicated marketing person. “Our growth was really organic word of mouth,” she said. “In some communities, we were the only bank in town at the time, so there wasn’t a need for an aggressive marketing plan.” But because Eden Prairie was brand new and a metro office, an advertising strategy needed to be put in place. So she crafted a job description complete with presentation and spreadsheets and pitched the idea to her dad, Harold Wahlquist, Star Bank owner.

Incantalupo had prior experience as a marketing manager for both a credit union and a financial services company. This, along with her innovative way of thinking gave her an edge on creating a marketing niche for Star Bank.

While Incantalupo offices in Eden Prairie, she spends much of her time on the road as she visits the bank’s nine other locations. “I’m one of the few positions in the bank where I can really do my job anywhere,” she said. “In order to market and advertise successfully, you really have to know the market you’re serving. You can’t work in a silo, you need to get to know those communities.”

For marketing, she focuses on customer testimonials. “In Eden Prairie, there’s a bank on every corner,” she said. “It’s a challenge to get your name heard and seen.” The bank’s radio ads are credited with increasing its client base and helped create an awareness that the bank even existed. Ron Schara, a hall of fame broadcaster and avid outdoorsman, moved his accounts along with those of his production company to Star Bank as a result of the campaign and he endorses the bank in commercials that run during his show, “Minnesota Bound.”

“Katie helped put Star Bank on the map,” Wahlquist said. “Her work output has been a key driver in our financial growth over the last five years.”

Star Bank had $146 million in assets at the end of the second quarter in 2012. Just six years later, the bank was at $270 million. Wahlquist attributed that growth to the bank’s marketing strategies and its acquisition of a branch in neighboring Wright County.
This past summer, the bank also began using Google’s advertising program for its CDs and money market accounts. Already, the advertising has brought in at least $12 million in CDs.

While Incantalupo loves the variety of each day, “what I love most about my job is leadership.” Her role as head of HR gives her opportunities to impact all bank personnel, not just her direct reports, and she continues to hone her own skills. She has a master’s degree in leadership, completed the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado, Boulder, in 2017, and plans to begin a four-year strategic leadership doctorate next year.

She also uses these skills in her work with the community, notably with the American Red Cross. Incantalupo has been on the Red Cross’ Tiffany Circle National Council for three terms and was national chairperson for the Holiday Mail for Heroes program for three years. In addition, Incantalupo joined the Minnesota region board of the American Red Cross in October. “I’m particularly drawn to them for their mission which is preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies,” she said.

She also hosts life-saving quarterly blood drives at the bank. This hit particularly close to home in 2017 when her mom was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. “During that time, she needed a tremendous amount of blood,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my work with the Red Cross.”