Geistfeld of Citizens Bank honored

NEW ULM – Lou Geistfeld, president of Citizens Bank Minnesota, has been named 2013 “Bankers of the Year” by NorthWestern Financial Review magazine, a Minneapolis-based community banking magazine covering 14 Midwestern states. The magazine honoring Geistfeld hits subscribers mailboxes this week.

Geistfeld was honored Monday afternoon, in a presentation ceremony in the lobby of the bank, in front of the employees who had nominated him for the award.

Ted Bengston, editor and publisher of the magazine, said Geistfeld was selected for the honor, the 25th recipient since the award began in 1989, in part because of the success and growth of the bank, especially over the last five years. But the enthusiastic nomination written by the bank’s employees, and the close ties the bank has with the community made Geistfeld stand out.

Geistfeld was recognized for his leadership of a unique bank with 400 community shareholders and a fun-loving staff that finds new ways to attract customers. “In the last six years, while other banks have struggled to grow, Geistfeld and his staff have grown the bank by nearly a third,” the magazine writes.

Geistfeld said his first reaction on hearing of the award was, “Oh, boy.”

Geistfeld said he usually tries to “stay under the radar” for this kind of thing, but he was proud to receive the award from NorthWestern Financial Review. “I’ve known Tom for years, and know the respect his magazine has in the industry.”

Geistfeld said he hadn’t come from a banking family and hadn’t focused on banking in his college career at Mankato State University. But he had a chance to interview with the FDIC after graduation.

“I told them I didn’t know anything about banking, but that didn’t scare them off,”

Geistfeld said his six years in the FDIC were excellent training in the banking industry. He visited hundreds of banks, seeing what worked and what didn’t work. When he was ready to get into banking, Don Gollnast, president of Citizens at the time, offered him a position. Five years later, when Gollnast retired, the board tapped Geistfeld to take the bank presidency.

“They took a chance on a 34-year-old kid, and I’ll always be grateful to them for that,” Geistfeld said.

Geistfeld credited the bank board for its supportiveness over the years, and the bank’s employees for the bank’s success.

“They say if you hire good people, get them motivated, and then get out of the way and let them work, good things happen,” Geistfeld said.

“I’ve never had to ask for a volunteer. People talk about us marching in the Parade of Lights every year and dancing in the lobbies, that’s all them.”

Geistfeld received congratulations from Joe Witt, president of the Minnesota Bankers Association, and Marshall MacKay of the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota. Both cited Geistfeld’s service to their organizations and to his leadership in Citizens Bank.

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