Rising Stars 2022: Kevin Forristall

Kevin Forristall

When considering a community banking career, most people would do their research, maybe take a class or two, or talk to a lender or analyst. But cold-calling the head of your local institution?

That’s the strategy Kevin Forristall opted for when he was considering a move from Wells Fargo to a smaller bank. He’d found the bigger company a less than ideal fit, but stuck it out for two years learning as much as he could. 

When Forristall picked up the phone, he reached then-CEO Mick Guttau. He wasn’t necessarily looking for a job, but he wanted to explore how community banking might be a better fit for him. Forristall hit it off with Josh Guttau, then CFO of the organization, who recommended him for a credit analyst position.

At the time, Forristall didn’t have a concrete idea of what his path at the bank would look like, but he did know what he wanted to leave in his wake. “I had a pretty high degree of confidence that I could make a really significant impact,” he said.

Now, as president of TS Banking Group, he’s poised to lead the Treynor, Iowa-based institution alongside CEO Josh Guttau. The gumption Forristall initially flashed paved the way for his upward trajectory — and for his selection as a BankBeat 2022 “Rising Star in Banking.”

Shortly after joining the company in 2008, Forristall was tasked with laying the foundation for different departments as the bank expanded into new business lines, including the capital markets and balance sheet management team and analytics program. His resume bears testament to the number of roles he’s been asked to fill over the course of his dozen-plus years with the company, which shares ownership with Bank of Tioga, N.D.

Forristall likes that kind of work: being given a rough outline and raw materials and then diving in and figuring out how to get from the starting point to the goal. “I like to build things,” the lifelong Iowan sums up simply. Once he realized that fact about himself, everything else fell into place. It also helped Forristall formulate a passion for pairing people with the roles in which they’ll function best.

At one point, Forristall, who is the first TS Banking employee to earn a CFA designation, was pretty sure he’d spend the rest of his career in the capital markets arena. Instead, he was asked to turn his attention to business strategy, when he moved from chief investment officer to chief strategy officer in March 2018.

“Throughout his time here, he’s been a humble individual who in mindset is far older than his actual age,” Josh Guttau said. “He gained the respect of older and longer-tenured employees through his day-to-day leadership.”

His grounded optimism in envisioning goals and results has helped form his approach — and TS Banking’s more generally — into one which focuses on finding the best fit for employees. “When people do what they enjoy the most, they tend to add the most value,” Forristall said. “And it’s always best for the company and best for the employee, if we can find that alignment.”

Kevin Forristall, left, shares a passion for space exploration with his son Luke and coworker Gary Davis through construction of a Saturn V rocket LEGO® kit.

A passionate mentor, Forristall helped identify his successor as CIO and even turned his attention outside the company. He worked with a local mentorship organization, and he also launched a data science internship for local high schoolers. Students identify their own strengths and interests while shadowing employees in all areas of the bank. The program puts an emphasis on the kind of analysis work Forristall started with at the beginning of his career.

It’s an example of Forristall’s growth over the years as he matured into his current role, shifting from an analytic perspective to people-focused leadership, said Guttau: “He’s gone from being the mentee to being seen as a ‘guru’ whom people go to for insight and people management.”

Forristall’s advice to young and potential bankers is simple: Identify your sweet spot, but also work continuously to hone your skills and embrace the opportunities, whatever form they take. “I’ve had challenges along the way, and each time I learned significantly good things from those challenges,” he said. “I didn’t want them to happen, but a lot of good came from it.”