By RITA DUCKWORTH
Shelley Seifert has an entire career of banking experience to draw upon in her new role as the chairman and CEO of First Bank. The native St. Louisan took the helm of the bank on May 1. In September 2018, First Bank’s board announced Tim Lathe’s retirement from the position and Seifert’s promotion.
Seifert left PNC to join First Bank in 2014 when she was approached by Lathe, a former colleague.
“I enjoyed PNC,” says Seifert, “but when I had the opportunity to move to First Bank, I jumped at it.” She first served as executive vice president and chief administrative officer and was made COO less than a year later.
“I was thrilled and so honored to work for First Bank,” she says. “It has long, proud history with deep-rooted values, and an extraordinary family behind it.”
First Bank was founded in 1910 by the Dierberg family (cousins of the founders of the local grocery chain.) Michael Dierberg represents the fourth generation of family ownership and is chairman of FB Corporation, the bank’s holding company.
“The fact that only about 3 percent of family-owned businesses make it to the fourth generation is a testament to how extraordinary First Bank is,” says Seifert.
Headquartered in Creve Coeur, Mo., the bank has nearly 100 branches and 1200 employees. Its locations serve the St. Louis and Southern Illinois market, and California.
First Bank focuses its attention on family-owned and privately held businesses.
“We’re a pretty traditional bank, offering a full product line,” says Seifert. “But we differentiate ourselves by how we handle areas like wealth management, succession planning, and some of the wealth transfers unique to family businesses.
“These businesses are an exciting part of the economy. The clients are some of the most rewarding people to work with and where we can really make a difference,” says Seifert. “That’s where our energy goes, and where our technology is headed. We’re interested in serving them holistically; meeting their business needs, supporting the owner’s personal and wealth management needs, and helping their employees succeed.”
Seifert is excited about a new initiative that First Bank is launching.
“We’re forming one of the most significant groups in the company, focused exclusively on client experience. We have asked Rick Sems, one of our most senior executives, to lead this function,” she said. “The branches, business banking, call centers, marketing, product and community affairs will be unified to create an omni-channel approach that enables our clients to do business how and when they choose. With the infusion of technology, we are creating a highly personalized experience with an immediate feedback loop. Our goal is to provide the education, tools, and solutions that help a family business, the family members, and its employees thrive through the generations.”
An emphasis on client experience has been a primary part of Seifert’s career. After studying economics and journalism at the University of Missouri at Columbia, she and her husband moved to Southern Indiana.
“I had worked in PR after college, but I was more interested in the numbers,” she said.
She decided to attend the nearby University of Louisville where she earned an MBA and was hired by First Kentucky National as a financial analyst.
Over the course of her career, Seifert always remained open to new opportunities when they presented themselves. As a result, she has done a lot of different things.
After a few years of doing business analysis and forecasting, she changed directions and transferred into Human Resources for the bank.
When the bank was acquired by National City Bank based in Cleveland, Seifert was honored to be the first employee asked to move there. She continued in her role in Human Resources until yet another chance for change arose. She moved back to Louisville to work at the bank’s affiliate processing company.
“That was really interesting — a different kind of business than banking,” she said. She remained there for about three years before moving back to headquarters in Cleveland.
She rose through the ranks and in 2008, another bank acquisition gave her another new opportunity. This time, PNC Bank bought National City.
“At that time,” says Seifert, “I was managing all of the staff functions for the company and was asked to move to PNC to co-manage the integration. It was one of the largest integrations in banking history and was a tremendous experience.”
Seifert enjoyed her work and stayed with PNC, working on several large initiatives. Six years later, she received the call from Tim Lathe that brought her to First Bank and back to St. Louis.
“It was a big change. I came out of a very large organization where I spent most of my time with analysts, the board, and regulators. At First Bank, and especially in my role now as CEO, I focus more on the strategic part of what we’re doing. I have the chance to touch every business line, which is great. And I love that I have more direct interaction with our clients. I’m also focused heavily on the development of our team.”
“I really appreciate the quality of talent here at First Bank,” says Seifert. “As we thought about the organization moving forward, we looked at outside candidates from across the country to add to the staff. But frankly, when I looked at our team, I felt we had the best people already. I’m excited about our team of people stepping into bigger and expanded roles to help drive our initiatives.”
When not at work, Seifert is passionate about community service. She is a past chair of the Urban League, and works with Webster University’s Advisory Board, United Way, and the Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband John live in Town and Country, Mo.
By RITA DUCKWORTH