Jeff Wessels learned the value of hard work by spending summers working on his grandpa's farm in Iowa which is why the idea of banker's hours never quite fit his work style after he pursued his career in banking. In his twenty years at Crown Bank, which has locations in Edina and Minneapolis, Wessels has held numerous positions from lender to CFO to his current position as President/COO, and he has said, "I'll do what it takes to make the bank successful and if that means making the coffee, I'll make the coffee."
Whatever he's doing is working. In the last three years since taking over at the helm at Crown Bank, he has assembled a strong team that he relies on to make smart decisions, and together the team has grown the bank by an impressive 60 percent.
"My management style is laid back, but firm," Wessels said. "While I expect people to do their job and to do it right, I also hire people who have good ideas and the confidence to make a decision. I want to provide direction but allow my team to take ownership of their job. I want people to feel like they are a part of their personal growth and the growth of the bank."
Just one year into his new position, the pandemic hit and Jeff and his team quickly pivoted to manage the onslaught of desperate calls that came in from businesses trying to secure Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Many of those calls were clients of larger banks that were unresponsive to their calls.
“While we were trying to keep our employees safe and working from home, we were also juggling a major increase in new customers who were desperate and needed help right away,” Wessels said. “The one thing we do really well at Crown Bank is answer the phone and have a real person on the other end. I’m extremely proud of our team of bankers who at times were responding to new clients at 3 a.m. Going through the crisis of a pandemic showed that we have a team that truly cares and will go above and beyond to get the job done.”
The pandemic not only helped Crown Bank attract new clients, it also opened the door for other opportunities to grow in commercial real estate lending.
“In the past, we had provided a great deal of equity funding, but we didn’t do long-term financing,” Wessels said. “When the PPP loans were forgiven, we made the conscious choice to get more involved in commercial real estate lending. A significant part of our 60% growth has been in that area. It’s been really exciting and we’re looking to continue to grow that area of the bank.”
Wessels’ philosophy about the bank’s customers is that their success means Crown Bank’s success.
“Whether it’s helping clients weather the storm of a pandemic, creatively structure funding to buy more collateral or partner on deals to reach business goals faster, we are there to help make the possible, possible,” Wessels said. “It’s not just a marketing line, we mean it and I’m proud to say we have some of the best bankers in the business at Crown that can make that happen,”
Wessels is also active in Vistage, which is a metro-area CEO peer group that meets monthly to discuss issues and the current business climate.
“As a new President and COO, Vistage has been a really important forum for sharing best practices, as well as practical business advice,” Wessels said. “It has been an invaluable place for me to learn and share and have confidence in charting my own leadership path.”
When Wessels isn’t working long hours, he’s home in West Edina with his wife Debra. The two have been married ten years and share a blended family of three daughters: Kelsey, Kinsey and Taylor.
Five years ago, Debra bought the Christmas Corner, which is a seasonal pop-up business that has been a fixture in local shopping malls including Ridgedale Center for the past two years. Wessels makes regular appearances at the store on weekends where he applies his banking skills to running the cash register.
“It’s a fun way for us to spend time together and I’m pretty good with money and finances, so I think it’s a good fit,” Wessels jokes.
The Wessels can also be found at the Edina Country Club where they both participate in golf leagues. They also enjoy traveling and he’s a member of Normandale Lutheran Church in Edina.
Overall, Wessels has relished the challenge of leading the bank through this tumultuous time.
“This is definitely my dream job and I’m honored that the owners of the bank have put that faith in me,” Wessels said. “I’m looking forward to the continued challenge of growing the bank and making things possible for the many customers we serve.
He’s also happy to be the first one there to make the coffee and the last one to turn the lights out.
For more information on Crown Bank, visit crown-bank.com. 6600 France Ave S., Suite 125 in Edina. (952) 285-5800.