Iowa brothers deliver on family value of ‘leave it better than you found it’ during illustrious banking careers
JOHNSTON, Iowa (Sept. 21, 2022) — The Iowa Bankers Association presented two brothers and community banking leaders — Neal and Dwight Conover — with the 2022 James A. Leach Leadership Award on Tuesday during the IBA Annual Convention at Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
The brothers share between them 100 years of banking experience. Neal Conover is currently director of Northwest Financial Corp. and Northwest Bank based in Arnolds Park, and Dwight Conover is chairman and CEO of Northwest Financial Corp. and chairman of First National Bank in Creston.
“Neal and Dwight are part of a quintessential American story, starting from humble beginnings and succeeding through hard work and a desire to support the communities they serve,” said John Sorensen, president and CEO of the Iowa Bankers Association. “For more than four decades, they have operated under the motto — leave it better than you found it. In turn, their bank team members, customers and communities have thrived.”
The IBA created the award in Congressman Leach’s name in 2000, following his term as chairman of the U.S. House Banking Committee. The annual James A. Leach Leadership Award recognizes a distinguished Iowa banker who, like Rep. Leach, has made significant, lifelong contributions to how Iowa banks serve Iowa communities.
“Neal and Dwight are so deserving of the James A. Leach Leadership Award. Their lifelong commitment and legacy that they are leaving on this industry is unprecedented,” said Greg Post, CEO of Northwest Financial Corp. “They are genuinely caring men who truly believe that if they have the resources to help the communities they serve, it is important that they support their communities to thrive and grow.”
Born in Holstein, the Conovers lived and worked on their family’s farm where their father instilled in them the motto — “leave it better than you found it.” It’s a value the Conovers have lived by throughout their banking careers.
Neal and Dwight followed similar paths — both attended Iowa State University and graduated in 1969 and 1975, respectively. They then began their banking careers as ag bankers with Brenton Banks, and it didn’t take long for them to advance to leadership positions. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, they both had become presidents at Iowa banks.
In 1984, Dwight purchased First National Bank of Creston, and Neal later joined him as a partner in 1985. In late 1988, Neal and Dwight acquired Northwest Federal Savings Bank (in Spirit Lake, Lake Park and Estherville) and Home Federal Savings Bank (in Spencer, Algona and Humboldt). With these first acquisitions, and the others that would follow, the Conovers stayed committed to their father’s ingrained value of “leaving it better than they found it.”
The brothers have taken Northwest Financial Corp. from one bank with 32 employees and $48 million in assets to a company with 23 locations, 412 employees and $2.69 billion in assets. This year, Northwest Financial Corp. was recognized as a 2022 Top Workplace in the USA, and it received Top Workplace in Iowa honors from 2015-2021.
Neal and Dwight have been heavily involved in their communities and the banking industry throughout their careers, participating in numerous speaking engagements, initiatives, committees and leadership roles.
Neal served on the Industrial and Economic Development Board in Clay County; Dickinson County Regional Marketing and Economic Development Group; was a registered lobbyist for agricultural and banking issues in the Iowa Legislature/U.S. Congress; served as instructor/student adviser for the National Agricultural Bank Management Conference, other schools, conferences and seminars on agricultural finance, loan workout and bank management; a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Advisory Board; member of the IBA Committee on Debtor/Creditor Relations; chaired IBA Legislative and Agricultural committees; member of ABA Government Relations and Leadership committees; served on chambers of commerce, education and school task forces; Foster Parents Program; member/officer of Jaycees, Lions, Rotary Club, Masonic Lodge, Kiwanis and County Fair Board; 4-H leader; and Sunday school teacher.
Dwight served on the Iowa Department of Rural Economic Development and is a founding member of the Iowa Mediation Board; a director of the IBA board and chairman in 2002-2003; a director of Iowa State University’s Board of Governor’s Extension Board and awarded the Floyd Andres Award for College of Ag in 2021; founding director/treasurer of the South Central Iowa Community Foundation; president of the SWWC Education Foundation, Crestland Betterment Foundation, Creston Chamber of Commerce and Union County Development Company; chairman of the Okoboji Foundation; and a member of the Masons, Elks, Rotary and Leadership Iowa.
“Both brothers have been involved in so many committees, boards and initiatives their impact is truly immeasurable,” Post said. “Neal and Dwight have a passion for serving customers, helping their communities prosper and taking care of their employees. There are many things that go on behind the scenes that people do not see, but you cannot have a profitable company and 400 employees and not do something right.”
Past Leach Award Recipients
Past recipients of the IBA’s James A. Leach Leadership Award include Leslie Miller, Iowa State Savings Bank in Knoxville; Bob Steen, Bridge Community Bank in Mount Vernon; James Schipper, American State Bank in Osceola; Brad Davis of Hampton State Bank; Nancy Dunkel, Fidelity Bank & Trust in Dubuque; Robert Rigler, Security State Bank in New Hampton; Thomas Huston of Columbus Junction State Bank; Thomas Gronstal of Carroll County State Bank in Carroll; Mick Guttau of TS Bank in Treynor; Alan Tubbs of Maquoketa State Bank; Oliver Hansen of Liberty Trust & Savings Bank in Durant; Edward Tubbs of Maquoketa State Bank; Arnie Schultz, GNB Bank in Grundy Center; O. Jay Tomson, First Citizens National Bank in Mason City; Don Carmody, Henry County Bank in Mount Pleasant; Jeff Plagge, Northwest Financial Corp. in Arnolds Park; Paul Johnson, Iowa State Bank in Algona; Dan Krieger of Ames National Corp.; Holmes Foster of Banks of Iowa, Inc.; Ron Hansen, Liberty Trust & Savings Bank in Durant; and Charlie Funk of MidWestOne Bank in Iowa City.