MidWestOne is the coolest

No. 1 Overall
No. 1 Large Company

By Pat Shaver

IOWA CITY—A long-time Iowa City bank is the coolest company in the Corridor.

MidWestOne Bank was named the Coolest Place to Work in the Corridor at the Corridor Business Journal’s Coolest Places to Work breakfast at the Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids June 11.

“To be a cool company, you have to have a cool culture. It’s not easy and it’s not quick,” MidWestOne President and CEO Charlie Funk said at the event.

MidWestOne has about 405 employees at 25 locations in Eastern Iowa. The bank was founded in 1934 and its headquarters is located at 102 S. Clinton St. in downtown Iowa City.

“It takes a lot of discipline when you hire people. We put a lot of effort and discipline in our hiring practices,” Mr. Funk said. “The CEO gets far too much credit. It takes everybody.”

A total of 24 self-nominated companies in Kirkwood’s seven-county region were selected based on a Worker Satisfaction Survey performed by Skywalk Group and honored at the event.

MidWestOne ranked as the No. 1 in the large company category and was also selected as the overall Coolest Place to Work among all of the 24 companies.

The company offers employees-training opportunities, encourages career growth, rewards employees throughout the year and during the annual rally day, embraces feedback from staff and customers and focuses on giving back to the communities it serves, said Sue Evans, chief operating officer.

“We work really hard at keeping our morale up. We work on our morale, but we also work on not being typical bankers,” Ms. Evans said.
Perks include 401(k) benefits even for temps, wellness incentives and training programs, among others.

“I feel very comfortable here. I cannot say enough good things about the leadership,” said Kim Ross, vice president of deposit operations. “I’ve worked for national banks and never felt cared for as an employee like I do at MidWestOne.”

Ms. Ross was working at the Ottumwa MidWestOne branch for about five years until last year, when she was promoted and relocated to Iowa City.

“There’s a good funnel of keeping employees. They promote within here and I’m a good example of that,” Ms. Ross said. “I actually feel like they care about my well-being. I feel they care so I work a bit harder. They practice what they preach. We all walk the walk, and we walk it together.”

The bank treats employees well by offering flexibility in their schedules, employees said.

“It’s not a micromanaging company. They let people exercise their talents; it’s a non-threatening atmosphere,” said Michael Finlayson, second vice president/retail managing officer.

Mr. Finlayson has worked for MidWestOne for three years. On his fourth day with the company, his brother died. His coworkers and managers were supportive and flexible.

“They made me feel like ‘you’re a person, you’re important to us,’” he said.

Mr. Funk emphasized the importance of the bank’s careful hiring.

“I think we’ve done a good job hiring for character attributes. There are a lot of people that wouldn’t fit into our culture,” Mr. Funk said.
Every year, MidWestOne has a rally day, where employees and the company are celebrated. This is the ninth year the company has been doing it, Ms. Evans said.

“That doesn’t come cheap,” Mr. Funk said, adding that even in tough economic times it is an important expense. “When we do good things, we tell employees. During the financial crisis, we didn’t cut on giving or training.”

For example, MidWestOne helped pay to make the North English pool handicap accessible, allowing the pool to remain open. The company also donated to Parkersburg after it was hit by a tornado in 2008.

“Everybody says employees are the most important asset, but you’ve got to walk the walk,” Mr. Funk said.

When MidWestOne merged with Iowa State Bank & Trust Company in 2008, creating a culture became more important, Mr. Funk said.

When Ms. Evans took her position at about the same time as the merge, Mr. Funk told her she needed to be the “culture warrior” of the company.

“We went to work right away, we didn’t waste any time,” she said. “We made it clear that everybody was a valued part of the organization.”

Ms. Evans took the COO job in 2009. She joined MidWestOne’s predecessor Iowa State Bank & Trust Company in 2001.

“The fact that a bank won, that is really a testament to Charlie and his team,” said Lydia Brown, partner with Skywalk Group.
Skywalk Group compiled survey results and ranked each company based on several factors, such as percentage of employees who completed a survey and the survey responses, said Ms. Brown.

“It was scientific, we didn’t just pick our friends,” Ms. Brown said.