Women in Business: Mary Johnson, CPA, Banking
Mary Johnson, CPA
Born: Coronado, CA, 1957, grew up in Kindred, ND
Education: B.S. Physical Education and minor in Accounting, Concordia 1979
Business: President & CEO, Union State Bank since 1998
Community Volunteering: Vocational Training Center Board of Directors, Bethany Homes, Inc. Board of Directors, non-profit and civic boards, professional organizations, first female member of Lake Agassiz Kiwanis
Once out of college, this Concordia phy ed major fully intended on teaching and falling back on the accounting profession if needed. Mary did not teach and her career path led directly to the accounting profession which she found to be a better match for her. Out of college, she joined Charles Bailly & Co. where she practiced accounting for four and a half years.
Mary went on to gain a variety of professional experience. After practicing accounting, Mary moved on to positions in commercial lending at First Bank and US Bank. Eventually, she worked for Lutheran Health Systems advising business entities with their financial planning, challenges and business growth. From Charles Bailly & Co and beyond, Mary has utilized her keen accounting and analytical skills to serve clients in the business world.
When asked what her favorite employment was before her current position at Union State Bank, Mary said it was as a commercial lender at First Bank. Another favorite was working with the healthcare companies through Lutheran Health Systems.
Now years later, Mary said maturity and experience have greatly added to her business perspective in banking and have developed her keen sense of problem solving and resilience to steadily accomplish business goals for Union State Bank.
Mary is proud of Union State Bank’s niche in the locally competitive business of banking. Mary and her staff pride themselves on their unique style of friendliness and personal service. Walking in to Union State Bank, you immediately feel a comfort combined with the business atmosphere—a neighborhood feel with staff knowing customers’ names, and the business of relationship building—easy accessed advice and services to meet people’s banking needs.
Behind the front counters, Union State Bank is very aware of trends in banking. Mary pointed out that electronic capabilities are opening up numerous client service possibilities and that competition is coming from non banking entities such as mortgage companies. And, because of customer internet usage, they also strive to build non- traditional ways of maintaining distant banking relationships.
Mary feels that her biggest career obstacle was not having a pre-ordained career path—that she did not set out to be a bank president. She happened to find out that she loved banking because it meant coming up with solutions for people every day. She added that sometimes it is better to be a woman in banking because she can feel a two-way trust building with clients and it is comfortable to say,” Let’s find a solution.”
Her business inspiration comes from several people. Her husband says ‘you can do anything – you’re capable.’ Mary also lists several others that are encouraging to her in business. Mary said that Dr. Hamilton, chair of the Union State Bank board of directors is very empowering, intelligent and forward thinking about their business and Mary is quick to mention Nick Hammerstein and Pam Anderson, both of Fargo, who she serves with on local nonprofit boards.
A normal work day for Mary includes many phone calls and finding solutions one-on-one or in small group situations. Sharp and focused, Mary takes on issues and quickly finds solutions for both customers and employees.
All in all, Mary is a commercial lender, works to match staff objectives to the needs and growth of the bank, meets compliance issues and consults to bank customers. Mary is continually learning by reading trade journals and internet information, working with vendors and taking part in educational offerings through Eide Bailly.
Mary’s plans for the bank are to position the bank to continue to grow and to be careful not to try to be all things to all people and lose their effective business niche. When Mary joined Union Sate Bank as president & CEO nine years ago the bank’s assets were $18,500 and today they are at $50 million. Clearly, she is doing it right.