With a degree in marketing in hand, Susan Fleming began her career in her hometown of Decatur as marketing director for the Economic Development Corporation of Macon County. Fast forward over 15 years, and Susan has begun her tenure as INB’s Mt. Pulaski and Riverton Branch Manager.
Susan explains it wasn’t a big jump from working for the development corp. to banking. “One of our board members was from a bank,” she recalls. He told her, “You’d be great at this.” She’s found the perfect fit for her skills and personality as a business development or branch manager for a bank. She’s held the roles in Springfield with both Prairie State Bank & Trust and West Central Bank.
Though Susan didn’t have an “Ah-Ha I’m going to be a banker!” moment, she says, “The roles suit me. I enjoy working with people. You feel like you’re helping in small, little ways that matter. You get to know customers and their families. It feels like a family. When they need something, you can help them.”
Helping has sometimes meant doing more than the job requires. Susan says she’ll never forget an older customer who had breast cancer. She’d been very ill, even spending some time in the hospital. “She realized at some point that someone was using her account number to pay their Comcast bill. This had gone on for some time because the woman was so ill. I went to Comcast for her and met with someone to get that straightened out. I got a little more than half of her money for her. That felt good, but then one day the woman’s daughter came to see me at the bank. She had been out of the country when I helped her mom. The daughter threw her arms around me and thanked me for helping her mom.”
Help Along the Way
Susan grew into banking thanks in part to a great boss and mentor at her first banking job. While the woman had a severe case of Crone’s disease, often spending months at a time in the hospital, Susan says, “She never gave up. She made me appreciate my health, my job, everything . . . I respect her so much. She made me want to stay in banking.” Susan remembers thinking, “I want to be like her.” And she remembers when she first had the feeling: Susan was getting ready to head out on vacation. Her mentor called from the hospital to wish her a happy vacation. “I thought, ‘I hope someday I can be like that to someone else.’ She just helped me to have a better outlook.”
Another strong, female role model has been her mother. “She made me the person that I am.”
Susan joined INB about the time things were shutting down due to Covid-19. With all the job loss we are seeing, she says it’s hard for her to say and admit that, personally, it’s been an awesome time. “The day all this started, INB called me to offer me the job.” With fewer branch visitors, she says the lull in branch traffic has given her time to ease into things. “I know it’s not a good time for everyone else, but it’s been nice for me.”
Looking Forward to Meeting Customers In-person
That said, Susan is looking forward getting to know the bank’s customers. “I’m looking forward to getting to build relationships where they trust me.”
One thing she learned over the years is if you just listen to people, you can gain trust. “Even when they’re angry, they’re not upset with you but the situation. Sometimes you can remedy it by giving them options. But you can’t do that without really listening and understanding their perspective.”
She says anyone thinking of a career in banking shouldn’t be afraid of change. “As soon as you learn something, a procedure or a regulation changes. Things are constantly evolving. You must be ready to adapt.”
As for her first months with INB, Susan says she’s been impressed with how professional everyone is and the fact that there’s so much openness. “Nothing is kept from employees. We know what’s going on. The all-bank emails (from Sarah Phalen, president and CEO) and all-bank meetings during the pandemic have made me feel very comfortable about where I’ve chosen to work.”
Susan, NMLS# 1972573, earned her degree in marketing from Illinois State University. She is passionate about animals, especially dogs. She’s volunteered at shelters, walked and fostered dogs. She enjoys hiking and biking, especially at the family cabin in Hardin, Ill.