Banking on experience: Executive builds on 23-year career in new role

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Nate Knoll serves as the new president at Alpine Bank Mesa County. He’s worked in a succession of positions, including teller, loan officer and senior loan officer since joining Alpine Bank in July 2000. Knoll expects to apply what he’s learned to his latest position and what he believes will be more of a role as a leader and mentor.

Nate Knoll has held a lot of titles during his 23-year career in banking. He’s most excited about his latest title — president.

It’s not just because the position constitutes the realization of long-term goal. Knoll expects to share what’s he learned over the course of working more than two decades in the industry in his new role as a leader and mentor.

While the bank and local economy face both opportunities and challenges, he says he’s pleased to continue working for an organization that offers so much support to employees and communities. “That’s fun to be a part of and humbling to be a part of.”

Knoll became president of Alpine Bank Mesa County in July.

The bank maintains headquarters in Glenwood Springs and banking offices across Colorado. But one of the heaviest concentrations of operations is located in Mesa County, Knoll says. The bank runs three branches in Grand Junction as well as branches in Clifton and Fruita. Employees in the downtown Grand Junction branch also handle various back office functions for the entire bank. About 300 employees work in Mesa County, he says, a number that makes Alpine Bank one of the larger employers in the area.

Knoll says his new duties as president haven’t yet been fully determined. But he expects to transition roles from loan production to leadership and mentorship. His responsibilities as a leader will include training replacements — the loan officers and other bank employees who will in turn move into leadership positions of their own.

He says he’s looking forward to that process and working with employees individually to accommodate different learning styles. “That’s leadership.”

It’s a process Knoll says he went through himself.

He joined Alpine Bank in 2000, first as a teller in the downtown branch and then a loan assistant. He went through the training program Alpine Bank offers prospective bank officers. He subsequently worked two decades as a loan officer and senior loan officer, the majority of the time at the Mesa Mall branch.

Knoll received a bachelor’s degree in business administration at what’s now Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

He says he was initially interested in travel and recreation management. But he discovered jobs in that industry often require working nights, holidays and weekends — and for what’s usually less pay than what he could earn in other industries.

He switched to the banking industry and has worked for Alpine Bank ever since.

His 23-year tenure isn’t unusual for Alpine Bank employees, Knoll says. “The tenure here is very strong. People like working here. It says something about an organization when people want to work here and stay so long.”

Knoll says his long tenure has given him experience in working through the ups and downs of business cycles. That included what was dubbed the Great Recession, a downturn that extended from December 2007 to June 2009.

Knoll says he’s always considered his role individually and the role of the bank more generally to serve as a trusted advisor to customers — to provide them with solutions tailored to their situations and help them achieve their goals.

In determining whether to issue a loan, Knoll says he sometimes had to say no because he believed it was in the best interest of customers. But he says he continued to work with them so they could get to a yes.

The COVID-19 pandemic and what’s followed has created a different situation than past economic cycles, Knoll says, including a surge of government spending to counter the effects, then inflation and then higher interest rates to curb inflation. Knoll says he expects a higher interest rate environment to persist for awhile.

Higher home prices and less affordable housing poses another challenge, he says. “Affordable housing is on everyone’s plate. Where does the workforce live?”

Knoll says he remains cautiously optimistic about the opportunities ahead for local businesses and Alpine Bank.

A more diversified economy has positioned Mesa County to fare better. Moreover, Colorado and Mesa County remain attractive places for people to live and work.

Alpine Bank continues to grow and will continue to succeed, he says, because of its employees and their relationships with customers. “It comes down to the people, and our people make the difference.”

The values of Alpine Bank also make a difference, Knoll says. That includes the time employees donate to serve on groups and boards as well as the money the bank gives back to the community in donations, sponsorships and scholarships.

“Anywhere there’s an Alpine bank branch, the community is better off,” he says.