Dickinson Financial Corporation, a multi-bank holding company with over 130 banking locations across 15 states, initially began in 1970 when Gary Dickinson purchased a majority stock interest in a bank with less than $1 million in assets in the small town of Dawn, Missouri.
Even at an early age, Gary had a passion for making deals. In fact, Gary executed his first deal with his father, a farmer himself, who loaned him money to purchase livestock. Gary repaid the loan, plus interest, and his passion for making deals grew from there. He sharpened his skills as an astute entrepreneur while selling farmland in rural Missouri. Instead of investing his commissions in more conventional stocks and bonds, he began purchasing farmland and community bank stock. Little did he know that his small investment in bank stock would serve as the catalyst for his future in banking.
Gary had an ability to find opportunity where others did not. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Gary expanded his banking group with acquisitions of mostly failed or failing institutions. After 1980 he deviated from his focus on agricultural banking and real estate lending by acquiring military banks, which further diversified the organization. While Gary celebrated unconventional thinking, and challenged his associates to do the same, his course was always intensely calculated and his plan of action was implemented one step, one associate, one customer at a time.
In the midst of growing his business from a $1 million bank into a multi-billion dollar company, Gary’s family always remained his top priority. He would often leave negotiations in Kansas City or from out of state, in order to make it back it back to Chillicothe to catch his children’s sporting events. In fact, he never missed a game. It was probably his emphasis on family, more than anything else, that has allowed his children to continue running the business today as a team, always putting the company before their own interests.
In 1997, while commuting from his home in Chillicothe to the bank’s new headquarters in Kansas City, Gary was struck and killed in a car accident. Everyone expected Ann, his wife, to sell the company, but his family decided to continue running the bank, with the hope of building upon Gary’s legacy. While taking on the responsibilities of Chairwoman, Ann was quick to identify new leadership to help run the bank, while two of Gary’s oldest children left law firms to join the company. Left with a strong foundation, Ann oversaw continued growth of the company, as it more than doubled in size.
After a long history of success, in 2008 Dickinson Financial found itself struggling along with most everyone else. In an effort to reconnect with the company’s strong foundation, the Dickinson family promoted Paul Holewinski (Gary’s son-in-law) to CEO and Dan Dickinson (Gary’s son) to a senior leadership position. As CEO, Paul saw an opportunity to re-energize Dickinson’s associates by creating a strong culture with a focus on people. Just as Gary did, Paul challenged and empowered associates to be thoughtful innovators, and he re-focused a nervous employee-base by placing a major emphasis on “getting back to business.” What eventually transpired at Dickinson was one of the bigger turnarounds of the financial crisis.
Today, Dickinson Financial maintains $2 billion in assets and serves its customers through two different bank brands: Academy Bank and Armed Forces Bank. With 87 banking centers in Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona and Florida, Academy Bank is one of the country’s largest in-store banking providers. Through 49 locations, Armed Forces Bank serves customers in 15 states and provides more on-base military branches than any other bank.
Dickinson’s most valuable asset will always be its people. It is constantly seeking out opportunities to grow responsibly, expand its customer base and remain civic partners in the communities it serves. But perhaps more importantly, Dickinson is more invested than ever in creating a culture of associates that will benefit from, enjoy and take pride in where they work. Dickinson plans to carry on the legacy Gary Dickinson started, one step, one associate, one customer at a time. – less