If you’re a longtime INB customer who has frequented the Montvale and Wabash branches, you’ve likely met Debbie Shelton. And there’s a good chance that her smiling face and friendly disposition stood out to you.
Or – as INB Executive Vice President Pat Phalen likes to tease – Debbie’s Christmas scarves, Halloween sweaters and love of bees might have stood out to you even more!
It’s with a lot of mixed emotions that we bid farewell to her smiling face and bold holiday attire, as we wish Debbie Shelton a “happy retirement!”
Making a Mark on INB
Debbie has worked at INB since inception in 1999, first leading the Montvale Branch and then serving as branch manager for INB Wabash.
INB was a new concept at that time, created by a group of banking professionals who had grown weary of big bank mergers and wanted to get back to community banking. Debbie was feeling the same way when she was approached by Sarah Phalen, now president and CEO of INB.
Debbie was working at National City Bank, which had just taken over First of America Bank, and Sarah invited her to lunch at Lime Street Café.
“The bank merger was very difficult, and I had heard rumors of a new bank possibly opening, taking the INB name, and I hoped she would discuss a job opportunity!” Debbie recalls.
Debbie guessed correctly: Sarah did offer her a branch manager position with the new INB. Despite the news that the position would mean a pay cut and reduction in benefits, Debbie jumped at the chance. She was “miserable” in her current job, with days that seemed filled with apologizing to customers and trying to make the recent merger better.
“I wanted to work for a local bank who truly cared about the community and would give back to the community. I started my banking career at American Savings & Loan in 1979, and I learned how important that was from them,” Debbie says. “I discussed the job opportunity at INB with my family, and since being happy and proud of the company I worked for was very important to me, I accepted the job offer!”
Debbie’s first day at INB was May 1, 1999 at the 2nd floor of the Charlie Robbins office building, located at 2144 South Macarthur Blvd. “I was so excited and a bit overwhelmed thinking about where to begin but soon had a plan,” she recalls.
Debbie’s Countdown of Changes in Banking
- I was so pleased when we no longer had to look up AND file signature cards.
- When tellers reviewed Social Security checks, we would have lines of customers requesting to cash or deposit.
- I remember putting orange cones in the drive-up lanes on a Friday night at 6 p.m. so we could close.
- On that note, actually WORKING on Fridays until 6 p.m.!
- I recall ladies were not allowed to wear pants to work and had to wear nylons.
Creating a Dream Bank
That plan was easy to carry out given the team she was not only working for, but the team she was allowed to build. “That was exciting,” she says. “We hand-picked people who are still here today . . . we created a dream bank.”
Debbie notes it was her personal dream to get to set up the Montvale branch. She had a hand in everything, from the way the teller lines and offices were set up to hiring an artist to create artwork for the space.
“I remember the first day that we got a car in the drive-up; we were so excited we had a car!” Debbie knew they’d found success.
Because Debbie was so good at what she did, she was eventually asked to move to the bank’s Wabash location in 2005, where she’s been ever since.
“The favorite part of my job is helping customers with their banking needs and informing them of products and services they didn’t think they needed but got it and loved it,” Debbie shares. “I love working with fellow employees, being a team and working to be the BEST TEAM!”
Fellow Coworkers Look Back
Kathy Greer, SVP, Retail Executive Manager at INB, has worked with Debbie since American Savings was sold to First of America Bank. During that time, they’ve opened new branches together, hired and fired employees, ran branches on days when very few employees made it in due to weather, and did “whatever it took” over the years to make the branches successful.
“During the years we have worked together, we have traded back and forth reporting to each other. While that might have been difficult for some people to do, we have a respect level for each other that allowed us to do this, and we each had different strengths that complimented each other, so it all worked,” Kathy shares.
Kathy left National City right after Debbie to join INB. Because the INB team was so small starting out, Debbie and Kathy both stepped back into a teller/banker roles and sat side by side opening accounts for customers who followed them from National City. Together, they felt like they were part of a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Kathy notes that many things have changed over the years as INB has grown, but Debbie’s dedication and passion for providing the best customer experience has remained constant.
“She has a unique ability to take a situation with an upset customer and turn it around with a solution that is in the best interest of the bank and the customer,” Kathy shares. “Her management style is one of modeling the behavior she wants to see in her employees and setting a high standard of performance expectations – but she also knows how to have fun. She wants to enjoy coming to work and to be sure everyone else does as well. When her employees are happy, she knows that will spill over into how they treat customers, and that is always her end goal.”
Debbie’s work ethic has always been exemplary, and she has never wavered from her dedication to the bank, says Pat Phalen. She will certainly be missed!
“Debbie has always been the consummate professional. From the way she approaches the customer, the way she handles conflicts, complaints, concerns and general problems, even the way she stands up and greets the customer. Everything she does in the customer service arena is spot on,” Pat says.
“Also, Debbie is a great mentor,” he adds. “She has trained tellers and bankers to be branch managers and leaders. She teaches by example – and if that doesn’t work, she will tell you what you are doing wrong in a very caring way. We have so many wonderful employees at INB because they were taught by Debbie Shelton.”
“To many customers, Debbie is INB,” Kathy points out. “She is well-known and recognized wherever she goes within the Central Illinois community. I’ve worked with her for so many years that this place will not be the same without her.”
Currently Debbie doesn’t have specific plans after retirement, but she’s operating under the mantra that “when one door closes, another one opens.”
“I have been truly blessed with working with so many wonderful people, they have enriched me,” Debbie says. “Working here has also been such a fun ride, but sometimes the rides go faster, and I’m getting older, so it’s time to hop off.”
Thank you for your years of service; we wish you the best in retirement, Debbie!