By Monica C. MeinertIn 1985, fresh out of high school, Dan Robb found himself at a job service agency near his hometown of Cairo, Missouri, seeking employment. As a teenager, he’d worked a handful of jobs: at the local yogurt shop, the local paper. Banking, at that moment, wasn’t exactly on his radar.
That may have been a good thing, because the job that he was offered didn’t involve counting cash or working the teller line—indeed, it wasn’t banking in the traditional sense. But when Robb showed up for his first day as maintenance man for a local community bank, he took his first step into the industry where he would build his career.
Many bank CEOs work their way up through the ranks, but not all of them can say they got their start changing lightbulbs. In those early days, Robb recalls, “I couriered coins from one branch to another, I swept the parking lot, I washed the windows, I cleaned the cooling tower of the air conditioning system. I always dressed nice, because my parents said: ‘It may be maintenance, but you’re in a bank and you need to be professional.’”
Robb’s can-do attitude and professional demeanor paid off: Within 30 days, he was offered a part-time position as a teller, kickstarting a professional banking career that would span more than three decades. He continued working in the banking sector while attending the University of Missouri in Kansas City, moving through the ranks from teller to new accounts representative to branch loan officer to eventually working in consumer lending in downtown Kansas City.
A family man
As he continued to hone his banking acumen, Robb also started a family, marrying his high school sweetheart, Dianna, in 1987. In the coming years, the couple would welcome two daughters: Meagan, now 25, and Morgan, 23.
Then, in 2003, he found another group of people to call family: the staff and customers of Jonesburg State Bank.
Founded in 1921, and today headquartered just a block away from its original location in Jonesburg, Missouri, the family-owned bank has been a cornerstone of the community for nearly 100 years. Robb recalls his first day on the job as the bank’s incoming president. “Scott Orr [the bank’s owner and then-chairman]walked me around, introduced me to folks, and by 10 o’clock in the morning, he said ‘good luck’ and left me there as president,” he says. It was a mark of trust—a trust that continues today with Scott Orr’s two sons, Ed and Jim, who are now chairman and vice chairman of the board. By and large, Robb says, “they leave me to run the bank.”
And run it he has. Under Robb’s leadership, the bank expanded from a single branch operation to the nearby town of Warrenton in 2005, and then to Montgomery City in 2018.
Running a $104-million institution comes with challenges, but also many opportunities. “We can react quickly,” Robb says of the bank, of which he is today president and CEO. “I can have someone come in with a very large loan request, and as long as everything looks good, we can get everybody on the phone and make a decision quickly. That’s something that my bigger bank competition down the road can’t do, necessarily.”
It also means that the bank’s 24 employees wear many different hats—including Robb himself. “I’m still that maintenance man from time to time,” he laughs. But those early experiences gave him a unique perspective and profound appreciation for what it takes to keep the bank running smoothly from the front lines to the back office to the C-suite. And he tries to show that appreciation daily. “One thing I like to do is thank everybody, every day.”
He’s also very protective of his employees. Recalling an emotional time after the bank was robbed, he says, “I was in tears seeing my tellers distraught.” About a year later, there was another robbery incident at the bank. When word of what was happening reached Robb, that protective instinct took over: he went out into the lobby, walked up to the robber and told him to leave.
Thankfully, the suspect fled and no one was harmed. And while he acknowledges that what he did was maybe not how one should respond to a robbery situation, the whole ordeal gives you a very clear idea of who Dan Robb is: a man who puts others ahead of himself.
“Dan is very much a people person,” says longtime friend Max Cook, who is president and CEO of the Missouri Bankers Association. “He takes care of his customers and employees very well. He really embraces the idea that that’s really what this world is all about: if we don’t try to take care of people, we have nothing.”
Just as Robb didn’t hesitate to put himself out in front when his employees were under threat, he’s also answered the call to be out in front when it comes to standing up for the industry. As a vocal advocate both at the state level and in Congress, Robb’s mission over the last several years has been to spread the message of community banking and work to advance pro-growth policies.
That involves communicating to lawmakers just how regulations affect his bank, his employees and his customers. “Our customers are our most valuable asset,” he says. “All the money in the vault will not replace those customers and their attitudes, and when we see them having trouble getting credit because of regulations that have been put into place, we have to voice that to Congress.”
Robb’s foray into advocacy began when he was tapped to participate in the Missouri Bankers Association’s Target Banker Program, through which bankers have the opportunity to visit with state senators and representatives during the legislative session. “That’s where I got the bug,” he says. “And when a senator in Missouri called me at home one night and asked me specifically about an issue that had just come up and what my opinion was, I was hooked.”
Since then, Robb has been an active part of MBA’s advocacy efforts. “He’s done just about anything and everything here at the MBA that you could possibly do, all the way up to being chairman,” Cook says. “And he has always done it with enthusiasm.”
That enthusiasm is sure to come in handy as Robb steps into his new role as chairman of ABA’s Government Relations Council, working to advance a number of complex policy issues at a time when Congress is more deeply polarized than ever before.
But Robb remains optimistic—despite that polarization, he still sees a viable path for bipartisan banking legislation. “Things are moving,” he says, crediting Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters for her efforts to advance bills addressing complex issues like cannabis banking and Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering reform. “It’s been encouraging.”
With a host of new issues on the horizon—everything from public banks to data privacy—Robb says it will be imperative for bankers to get themselves and their colleagues involved in advocacy. “Banking is all I’ve done for 35 years,” he says. “It’s our livelihood. If we don’t let our voices be heard, we’re putting our careers and investments on a very slippery slope.”