Former Nebraska banker takes school reins

Jeff Schmid

Jeff Schmid’s career in banking has come full circle.

A prominent Nebraska financial leader over the past 30 years, the latest chapter in Schmid’s career could be his most consequential one: Developing the next generation of banking leaders as president and CEO of the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business — the same school he graduated from in 1990. Schmid is one of only seven people to be named among the school’s Distinguished Alumni. 

Schmid is the sixth person to lead SWGSB for the Dallas-based SMU since the banking school was established in 1957. The opportunity came as former president and CEO S. Scott MacDonald retired at the end of 2021 after nearly a quarter century of service.

 “I have a special relationship with this foundation and with this mission,” Schmid said. 

Schmid’s initial exposure to banking came as an FDIC regulator in 1981. He grew to love banking — especially after he enrolled at SWGSB in 1986. Three years later, Schmid left his regulatory role to become a banker. 

“The nature of what we do here on behalf of bankers, the banking industry, leadership, education, really, you take it and you absorb it when you’re younger in your career,” Schmid noted. “For me, SWGSB changed the whole trajectory of what I was going to do in my career. I may have been inspired to stay a regulator for the FDIC, but frankly, the more I got a taste of the business that I was regulating, the more interested I was in really practicing it.” 

Schmid served as the president of American National Bank in Papillion, Neb., from 1989-2007. He left to help establish Mutual of Omaha Bank, a wholly-owned investment of Mutual of Omaha, the national insurance company. From 2007-19, Schmid was the firm’s chair and CEO, helping to grow Mutual of Omaha Bank into a national franchise with nearly $10 billion in assets. Schmid, eyeing the next chapter of his career, wanted to assume a “servant leadership” role and realized that being a full-time educator would allow him to accomplish that goal. Schmid, a longtime member of the Cox School of Business executive board and past chair of the SWGSB Foundation board of trustees, says this new role allows him to give back to an industry and the school that has given him so much.  

Reflecting on what attracted him to the SWGSB position, Schmid asked: “What is it you can do to inspire the next generation of bankers, of leaders, of professionals? 

“I think there were a lot of stars that aligned in this thing that brought me here. You gotta take a moment to understand that you can plan and plan and plan, and then things happen.”  

Victor Pierson, chair of the SWGSB board of trustees, said Schmid possesses many leadership traits. Schmid, the school’s first president/CEO with a non-academic background, possessed many of the traits SWGSB leaders were looking for. “He’s very personable,” Pierson said. “He comes across great, he presents well, and he’s just a great person.” 

Schmid’s experience and enthusiasm for community banking and education were bonuses. “He just seemed to be the right person at the right time,” Pierson noted. 

 Schmid brings to his position a key awareness of the changes that have taken place in banking during the past four decades. When his career began, banking was mainly driven by the creation of stakeholder value, efficiency and returns. Today, banking is much more dependent on utilizing inside talent and adopting technology. More stakeholders are now involved with community banks than ever before. “If you do this business well it matters to people, it matters to communities, and it matters, in my opinion, to the country,” he said. “You have to be aware of the power of the charter and the power of deposit insurance and how you need to broaden your stakeholder list.” 

The onset of remote banking, though commonly seen as more advantageous for larger financial institutions than smaller banks, is not necessarily detrimental to smaller banks, Schmid noted. Remote banking allows smaller banks to serve their customers from anywhere, a realization he believes SWGSB students especially need to grasp during the next decade. 

“We do need to bring that new energy back into the business, because it needs people who are super-bright and super-comfortable with delivering services online,” Schmid said.