Brad Sturm is proud of the growth he’s seen at La Crosse-based Coulee Bank, which he joined in 1993 as senior loan officer and which he has headed as CEO since 2006.
Sturm, who had succeeded Dirk L. Gasterland as CEO, plans to retire on March 31, 2018. He will be succeeded the next day by the senior Gasterland’s son, Dirk R. Gasterland, who plans to continue the bank’s growth.
Dirk R. Gasterland rejoined Coulee Bank on May 1 as executive vice president, to begin working on the 2018 CEO transition. The bank has had only three CEOs during its 56-year history — Matt Heimerman, Dirk L. Gasterland and Sturm.
During Sturm’s tenure as CEO, Coulee Bank has seen substantial growth in assets, deposits and loans including the opening of two full-service branches in St. Paul and Rochester, Minn.
Its two other full-service branches are in La Crosse and Onalaska, and the bank plans to open a fourth location in late 2017 or early 2018 in Holmen. It’s applied to state and federal regulators for permission to open a branch at 129 Hale Drive, near the new Holmen Festival Foods supermarket that’s expected to open in October.
Coulee Bank had about $70 million in assets when Sturm joined the bank in 1993. That had risen to about $140 million when he became the bank’s CEO, and the bank has about $350 million in assets today.
The bank has about 65 employees.
Sturm, who will retire after 39 years in the financial services industry, said the biggest changes he has seen in banking involve technology. “The customer is and always will be king,” he said. “That market is demanding more and more access, more and more technology.”
The need to take care of customers hasn’t changed, Sturm said. Taking care of customers, and the bank’s niche as a lender to small businesses, have had a great deal to do with the bank’s growth, he said.
“We do home loans, we do retail lending and we have a full spectrum of products,” he said. “But if you look at what is our primary niche, it’s small business lending. We have used that expertise to expand our loan portfolio.”
As a community bank, Sturm said, “We feel an obligation to give back to the community. I could point out to you any number of employees who have been involved in the community as a volunteer or in some other fashion. We feel it’s part of our obligation to make the community a better place.”
Sturm, who will continue on the bank’s board of directors after he retires, serves on many local boards, including Gundersen Health System, UW-L Foundation, Catholic Charities, La Crosse Area Development Corp., La Crosse Promise, Oktoberfest and Bridges of Belonging.
He and his wife, Lynn, in 2012 were named festmaster and frau for Oktoberfest. They also have served as campaign co-chairs for Great Rivers United Way.
Dirk R. Gasterland, who lives in Chaska, Minn., with his wife Wendi and their children, Brianna, Rachel and Jake, also has been active in community organizations.
He is active in the Men’s Ministries at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., and helped start a men’s basketball league. He also is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and CRU Ministries in Chaska.
Gasterland will continue to serve on Coulee Bank’s board, as he has for the past six years; and on the board of the Bank of Baldwin in Baldwin, Wis.
Gasterland held various positions with Coulee Bank from 1994 to 1998 including investment center representative and Onalaska branch manager. He later served as chief financial officer and owner of Snader Transporting Inc.; and as owner and operator of Gasterland Executive Search, an executive search firm specializing in senior-level positions in the financial services sector.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity,” Gasterland said of becoming Coulee Bank’s CEO. But he expects the pace of change in the banking industry to increase.
“I’d like to continue the growth that we’ve had as an organization,” Gasterland said. “And in relation to that growth, potential expansion beyond the locations that we have.”
For example, Coulee Bank officials hope to open a full-service branch in Holmen in late 2017 or early 2018. The bank has been eyeing Holmen because it’s a strong, vibrant and growing community, Gasterland said.
Gasterland said he doesn’t plan major changes in how the bank is run. “I think what we’ve done for over 50 years has been very successful,” he said, adding that the bank will continue successful practices and adapt to changes in the industry.
“We do home loans, we do retail lending and we have a full spectrum of products. But if you look at what is our primary niche, it’s small business lending. We have used that expertise to expand our loan portfolio.” Brad Sturm, Coulee Bank CEO
Coulee Bank had about $70 million in assets when Brad Sturm joined the bank in 1993. That had risen to about $140 million when he became the bank’s CEO, and the bank has about $350 million in assets today.