Citizens State Bank

Mathwig marks 50 years in banking

Mathwig Bruce Mathwig

In Bruce Mathwig’s 50 years in the banking world, he’s experienced a lot of changes, but the thing that hasn’t changed is how much he enjoys the relationships he’s made over the years.

Mathwig, an ag lender and Financial Services Officer at Citizens State Bank Norwood Young America, completed 50 years in the banking industry earlier this year. He will be honored by the Minnesota Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota this summer for that career achievement.

Mathwig began his banking career in 1971 with his hometown bank, Citizens State Bank of Green Isle. In 1981, he went to work for the State Bank of Young America which eventually became KleinBank and then Old National Bank. In June of 2020, Mathwig moved across town to his biggest competitor, Citizens State Bank Norwood Young America where he remains an ag lending fixture in the community.

“I came from the farm,” Mathwig said. “I have always kind of regretted not being able to farm, but this is my resolve. I can help people who are in the industry and provide great service to them. I have built up great relationships over the years. It is amazing how appreciative some people are.”

During his senior year at Arlington-Green Isle High School, Mathwig worked at Citizens State Bank of Green Isle through a coop program until August. After graduating, he signed up to attend Mankato State University for accounting.

“As fall rolled around, I just decided I was going to stay on the farm with my dad,” said Mathwig, who grew up a mile south of Green Isle. “In October, my dad brought his milk check into the bank in Green Isle. Don Herd, the president, said he had someone quit. Don asked, ‘Is Bruce able to come and work for us?’ My dad came home and said, ‘you know, I can’t pay you enough here. Just go and learn what you can and work your way up and get established.’ That was the beginning.”

In Green Isle, Mathwig began as a bookkeeper and teller before starting to learn lending and collections. He credits Herd and vice president Dan Brown as being early mentors in his career.

Mathwig said the early days in Green Isle were strictly hands-on work and face-to-face with customers. There were hand-written deposits. Employees handled and filed checks before putting them in statement envelopes.

Mathwig continued to build his banking knowledge by attending American Bankers Association and Minnesota Bankers Association classes and seminars. One of the classes was hosted in the State Bank of Young America building (now the Willkommen Heritage Center on Main Street) when State Bank of Young America employee Lowell Plagge talked to him about a job opportunity.

Mathwig was hired by the State Bank of Young America as a bookkeeper and worked in the proof department, starting January 2, 1981. By 1986, he was promoted to full-time lender under Roland Narr.

For 39 years, Mathwig was a mainstay at the bank, mostly specializing in agricultural lending. During that time, the State Bank of Young America moved down to Faxon Road, merged into Klein Bank and eventually was bought out by Old National Bank. Banking technology changed. Ownership changed. Philosophies changed. But Mathwig kept rolling along.

“I can’t say enough about Bruce’s dedication. He would do whatever had to be done. He filled in wherever I needed help,” said Dar Mondor, who worked in several roles including office manager at Klein Bank. “Bruce was always right there to be involved. He was so much for the community and the bank. And he was also a lot of fun.”

Mondor fondly remembered the bank participating in a polar plunge at Baylor Park where she, Mathwig and several other bank employees jumped into Eagle Lake in the winter. “We had so much fun as crazy as we were!” she said. “Bruce could always see the big picture and how this would benefit the bank and the community. … You could not find anyone with a bigger heart than Bruce. He’s just such a nice person.”

Mathwig credits Narr and long-time State Bank of Young America president Charles Nuernburg as helping him advance his career. “Rollie Narr was like a father figure to me,” Mathwig said. During this period of his career, SBYA had many long-time employees who Mathwig enjoyed working with including Plagge, Mondor, Roger Zellmann, Jim Smith, Jerry Tiggelaar, Barb Rolf, Mona Bruers, Bob Hessevick, Terry Crolius, Greg Munson and Evan Wilson, just to name a few.

“I wish I could name everyone,” Mathwig said. “Through my whole career, the people I have worked with have been just fantastic. Everybody helped one another. It’s what helped make me successful.”

In April 1986, Mathwig married his wife, Lorinda. In July, they found out they were expecting the birth of their first child. Then in October, Mathwig was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. However, after radiation treatment, he was cancer-free by May 1987, shortly after his first daughter was born. “I was cancer-free for almost 25 years,” Mathwig said. During that time, the couple had two more children in 1988 and 1990.

The purchase of Klein Bank by Old National Bank eventually led to changes.

“A year later after the deal was closed, I was let go,” Mathwig said. “During that time, I had cancer and was in and out of the bank. I worked remotely as much as I could. I always felt working was important to get me through my health issues. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.

“I was with the organization 39 years, and one day they decide they no longer need me along with 12 other people. I wasn’t alone in the boat. That was just their corporate decision.

“What was so amazing was once people found out I was being let go, my customers and people in the community were so supportive of me that I had three different banks contact me that wanted me to work for them. This is all through other people making contacts and giving me a good reference.”

During the period Mathwig was seeking a new job, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“I was coming up on my one-year anniversary of my cancer. I wanted to make sure my health was good (before taking a new job.) I didn’t want to make a change and not be able to fulfill my duties,” Mathwig said. “My doctors were telling me to stay low for three months and figure out something after that.”

Mathwig waited until May 2020 before seeking employment. By that point, two potential suitors had changed plans because of the pandemic.

However, Citizens State Bank Norwood Young America was still interested. But going to work for his long-time closest competitor was a bit of a concern for Mathwig.

He met with Citizens CEO Perry Forst, who was the bank president at that time.

“I came to Perry and we discussed things and I was quite pleased with what I heard,” Mathwig said. “I never thought I’d be working for my competitor. I actually asked Perry about that in my interview.”

Forst said he has known Mathwig for more than 35 years and they had interacted many times on a community level.

“Bruce was a respected competitor and I know his customers received quality service,” Forst said. “I felt adding Bruce to our lending team would make the bank stronger at a time when we wanted to continue building an experienced staff. Bruce’s desire to serve customers was a natural fit for us. I have enjoyed getting to know Bruce better as a co-worker these last two years.”

Mathwig said knowing Forst, current Citizens State Bank president Jason Winter and some of the staff for many years has helped in the transition. “It was just a blessing to me really to move from where I was at and to come full circle back to a community bank,” Mathwig said. “Yes, we have the technology, but it’s more of a hands-on feeling here. … (Years ago) I used to do all the analysis and then it moved out to a credit analyst. You’d gather the information and pass it along to someone else and they would give you the results back. Now I’m back to doing the analysis where I put it down black on white. It is more of a challenge to do that, but it is something I always enjoyed.”

“Bruce and I have worked closely the last two years and together we take care of a lot of ag customers,” Citizens State Bank president Jason Winter said. “I can’t say enough good things about Bruce’s dedication to helping customers and being a great teammate.”

Mathwig added that having different banking products to offer has been a rewarding experience. “Being able to work with the Farmer Mac program, I have been able to help some people get long-term financing and really get things straightened out for them. It’s very rewarding to get to offer something people are quite satisfied with,” Mathwig said.

During his banking years, Mathwig has been a vibrant volunteer in the community. He spent 1981-2011 on the fire department, was a regular Stiftungsfest volunteer, enjoyed volunteering for the Norwood Young America Chamber of Commerce’s Taste of NYA, including lining up the petting zoo for several years, working at the Carver County Fair, attending 4-H functions and dairy non-profit organization events just to name a few.

“I’ve worked with a lot of great people over the years at these events,” Mathwig said. “I can’t stress that enough.”

But it is the relationships with many customers throughout the years he cherishes. He recounts many examples of customers sharing life events like news of daughters having babies or other joyous times. “It’s hard to explain how much that meant,” he said.

In addition, he said his family has always been extremely supportive of his career.

“It kind of comes back to my dad. When he worked, he worked hard. But when he played, he played hard. That’s been kind of my motto,” Mathwig said.

Through all the changes in the industry, his career and several bouts with cancer, Mathwig has modeled that.

“I have to say that I have been truly blessed to know and work with many great people over these 50 years. I have seen and experienced many changes. Some positive and some negative, but ultimately, I’ve learned change is inevitable.

Mathwig Bruce Mathwig

“Citizens has a great staff that is personal and professional. The staff cares about its customers and community. They strive to provide excellent service and create experiences that remind a person that they are important and appreciated.

“The last five years have been very challenging for me,” Mathwig said. “But the technology to bring my laptop and work from my hospital bed, it is just amazing being able to do all that. The support of people who helped me navigate through those troubled times is amazing. Yesterday I was getting text messages and emails from people and was able to jump on and answer them while sitting in a chair getting a transfusion for four hours. The doctor came by and asked, ‘you’re still working?’ I guess I don’t like just sitting in a chair.”

Maybe that’s a little of the farm kid left in him after 50 years in banking.