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By RITA DUCKWORTH
    Tracy Session wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduating from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in marketing. She had a friend and mentor in banking who thought she’d be a good fit for the industry. Sixteen years later, Session oversees 50 employees as vice president and market manager of the Southern Illinois Community Market for Associated Bank. A lifelong resident of Aviston, Ill., she juggles her role at the bank with being the mother of a 15-month-old son.
p15 SessionSession    Her responsibilities include managing the retail operations of all eight Associated Bank branches in the region. She has held the position since joining the bank in 2014.
    Session takes her role as a mentor to her associates seriously.
    “I hope that they can learn from my experiences, especially as a woman in banking. I absolutely love seeing my associates grow in their roles,” she said.
    Session credits Associated Bank’s management, and president of the Southern Illinois Market, Phil Hickmann, with being responsive to their teams’ ideas.
    “They listen and support any initiatives we have,” she explains. “What we have to say matters. Phil is a firm believer in people speaking up and being part of the solution.”
    Associated Bank is based in Green Bay, Wisc., which poses some challenges for its Metro East branches. The bank has deep roots in Wisconsin, sponsoring the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers – connections that don’t resonate with St. Louis customers. Without many marketing resources here, the bank branches rely heavily on local community outreach to be recognized as a small community bank.
    “We are sponsoring Belleville’s Art on the Square,” says Session. “and are involved with the Jackie Joyner Kersee Foundation Golf Tournament. I’m also excited to be chairing the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.” The management team at Associated Bank is supportive and encouraging when it comes to employees’ volunteering efforts. Giving back to the communities they serve is essential.
    Whether working with her associates or volunteering, ultimately, all Session’s duties come down to one thing – exceptional customer service.
    “These days there is a bank on nearly every block,” she says. “At Associated, we distinguish ourselves from the others with our positive attitudes and willingness to go above and beyond.” As a result, Session is proud to say that for the past two years, the Southern Illinois market has been number one in customer service for the entire company.
    “I love people and I take pride in making sure they have a great experience,” she said.