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IBA Member Spotlight: Gail Prestemon

Banking Veteran Prestemon Thrives, Leads

Gail Prestemon pictureGail Prestemon has worked in the banking industry for more than 40 years, beginning immediately after graduating from Winona State University with a degree in business administration. She has always had a love for numbers, which drove her to pursue banking. What kept her in the field, however, is the combination of working numbers to help out bank customers. “It is such a privilege to work with customers and be a part of the major milestones in their lives — a new business, home, car, farming operation and much more,” she said.

Today, Prestemon is president, CEO and chairman of the board at Waukon State Bank. “Banking is a new challenge every day; I still learn something new every single day,” she said.

What drove you to choose a career in banking?

I have always loved numbers, statistics, and economics. I always wanted to be in banking, and I have never had a job outside of banking. I started in banking fresh out of college in 1981 and still love it as much as I did over 40 years ago. I love banking because it is a combination of working with customers and working with numbers. It is such a privilege to work with customers and be a part of the major milestones in their lives — a new business, home, car, farming operation and much more. We are a small bank of $400 million in rural northeast Iowa, so we truly care about our customers and know them well. Banking is a new challenge every day. I still learn something new every single day. We certainly all know that managing the balance sheet and interest margin in the current economic times with rapidly changing interest rates is certainly a challenge.

What is one lesson working in the banking industry has taught you, and how do you apply it to your everyday life?

Always strive for excellence and set the bar high for yourself and your organization. Keep in mind when making every decision what is best for your organization, staff and customers.

What is your best elevator pitch for why banking is a great career?

A wise college dean once told me, “Choose a career that you love, that you are good at.” This is the most simple, yet, profound statement that I have ever heard. It is so true, and I have remembered this quote for many years and have repeated it to many people.

How does getting involved with the Iowa Bankers Association help you and your bank?

The IBA is without a doubt the best banking organization in the country. The leadership of John Sorensen and the outstanding staff is truly a huge benefit to us as bankers. We know we have support in important legislative issues as well as support in day-to-day bank operations. IBA staff always have the best interest of our bank in mind, and we appreciate their efforts so much.

When you’re not at work, what do you like to do most?

I love adventure and enjoy traveling with my husband and children to destinations near and far. I greatly enjoy spending time with our two grandchildren and three grown children and their families.

What is a quote or guiding principle you live by?

“Don’t wait all of your life to live your life. Whatever it is you like to do, do it as life is fragile.” I firmly believe in this quote. We all enjoy different things. Enjoy the journey of life, not the destination. I am a person that enjoys planning. Planning for the future, planning for everything, etc. It can be a challenge for me, but my goal is to always be present in the “now” and pay attention to the joy of the present.