First National Bank President Joe Tapp has settled in nicely since taking the helm June 3. With friendly faces welcoming him to the new position and nearly 40 years in the banking industry, the transition has been smooth.
“People around here are pretty good, so that didn’t make it too stressful,” Tapp said. “And I’ve been a banker pretty much my whole career.”
Tapp started out in banking at the First National Bank of St. Paul in 1975. He went on to serve as president of White Rock Bank of Cannon Falls, Minn., where he presided over seven branches. Although that meant more branch managers, Tapp said the bank was quite similar to that of First National and its affiliates in Isle and Gilman.
“It was a lot of ag customers and small businesses,” he said. “It was the same type of customers, basically.”
It was that familiar connection to the community and a family-owned atmosphere that attracted Tapp to Milaca.
“When they contacted me, I liked the people I met with,” Tapp said. “I liked the bank. The town was very similar to Cannon Falls. The bank is successful, well-run bank, and that appealed to me.”
Part of that success can be attributed to the relationship First National has to the community and its residents, Tapp explained.
“Decisions are made locally here. The board of directors is local,” he said. “In a small town bank, all the employees know the people. They have connections.”
Tapp and his wife, Cindy, moved to the Milaca area in July and are in the process of affirming their roots with a purchase of a home.
“I’m meeting a lot of people,” Tapp said.
Throughout the decades, Tapp said technology has provided the most change within his chosen profession.
“I don’t want to sound old, but when I started, everything was done on typewriter or a register,” he said, laughing.
These days, with online checking, automatic deposit and other digital financial tools, banking has dramatically changed.
Those advances are only part of the transition Tapp is dealing with, however. Banking regulations have been the topic of national debate and changes emanating from Washington, D.C., are being felt in small town Minnesota.
“The changes in regulations are costly and time consuming for a bank our size,” Tapp said. “Although they appear to be helping the consumer, that’s not always the case. Most of these regulations are geared toward the mega banks, but they do affect us in one way or another.”
Despite these challenges, Tapp said he is confident in First National Bank’s ability to continue serving its customers to the standards set by his predecessor, the late Pete Allen.
“I never met him, but I’ve heard a lot about him,” Tapp said. “It seems like he was a great guy. He did a lot for this community. I believe the commitment to the community that the Allen family has made (will) continue and I’ll do everything I can to help. We will continue providing superior banking in the area, to provide those services people have come to expect.”