‘Numbers man’ continues to serve South Dakota bank

Kent Edso

Editor’s note: Kent Edson is being honored as a 2020 Amazing Outside Director. The program is sponsored by Eide Bailly, and a full list of previous honorees can be found here.


Kent Edson has always been a numbers person. Although he grew up on a farm, Edson didn’t want to be a farmer, so he never took any ag classes. In high school, he worked with the state as an engineer’s aid for an interstate highway system in Sioux Falls, so he thought he’d be an engineer. His high school bookkeeping teacher, however, told him he really should be a CPA.

“Of course, coming off a farm, I didn’t even know what a CPA was,” Edson said.

Edson was reared near Alcester, S.D., south of Sioux Falls, in the most southeastern corner of the state, and 260 miles south of Aberdeen. When he told his dad he was thinking about studying accounting at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, his dad asked: “Well, what can you do with accounting?” Edson recalled.

In 1964, the farm boy graduated with an accounting degree from USD, married his high school sweetheart, and promptly migrated to Minneapolis as a CPA working for KPMG.

At the accounting firm’s going-away party for Edson in 1971, he revisited the aptitude test that the firm used to recruit him. His

No. 1 aptitude was accounting. The No. 2 was banking. “It seemed like a good fit for me,” Edson said, of his move into banking.

Half a century later, Edson celebrated his 57th wedding anniversary, and 49 years at Dacotah Bank, Aberdeen, S.D., 37 as the bank’s CFO.

Edson joined the board in 1996 and was an inside director until he retired in June 2008, when he transitioned to an outside director. He’s been a director on both the bank and holding company boards. He’s been a member of the audit committee, the compensation committee and the governance committee. He served as chair of the audit committee until last year. In February, Edson was appointed chair of the compensation committee at the holding company.

“His value to the other outside directors is priceless,” said Chad Bergan, the bank’s current CFO.

The $2.6 billion bank has benefitted in recent years from changes in federal tax laws, and the bank has been working to channel those savings through its employees and into the community.

Dacotah Banks, Inc., operates 32 banking locations with around 500 employees. It started the program “Give Where You Live,” in 2018, in which every employee can direct an annual gift to their charity of choice. 

At the end of that year, the net annual income was a little more than $30 million, and the bank’s charitable giving was $1.7 million.

Edson has two daughters and two grandchildren in Minnesota, and a son and two grandsons in Seattle. Being retired, Edson has enjoyed making time for family and being involved in the Aberdeen community. 

Edson and his wife have a condo two blocks away from their daughter and grandchildren in Roseville, Minn., and they fly out to the West coast when they can. Edson is active in the city’s Sertoma club, which focuses locally on the town’s amusement parks: Storybook Land and Wylie Park, and he is on the visitation committee at his church.

Looking back on his career, Edson remembers when the bank’s holding company rebranded from Dacotah Bank Holding Company to Dacotah Banks, Inc., and part of the marketing effort was the introduction of the Dacotah Rider, along with the slogan: “It is good to be in Dacotah Territory.”

There were several sculptures made of the mascot (a cowboy on a horse) made by Benjamin Victor, a professor at Boise State University. Though a numbers guy, the memory of  Dick Westra, bank president at the time, presenting Edson with one of the sculptures transcends the spreadsheets. The Dacotah Rider remains on proud display in Edson’s living room.

“It was a very nice, warm, fuzzy feeling for me to get that award,” Edson said.