Before Ann Marie Baker does most anything, she listens.
It’s a trait that has run through her nearly 40-year career at UMB Bank.
“I take an intentional approach and focus on the client by truly listening and learning from them, which is the foundation for building healthy and sustainable relationships,” Baker says.
She notes this approach has allowed for an intimate understanding of clients’ operations, goals, challenges and dreams, and it’s led to creative and collaborative working relationships. Baker’s expertise as executive vice president at UMB Bank includes providing comprehensive solutions in lending, deposits, treasury management and technology to businesses, institutions and nonprofit organizations.
“I recall countless examples of helping clients make life-changing decisions affecting their companies, their employees and their communities,” she says.
“What a pleasure it is … to know clients who have literally changed the local skyline, manufactured products that have improved our world, brought jobs and families to our region, and impacted the face of our communities. When I know that I played a role in making that happen through my counsel, my service or my advocacy, I share in the joy and pride of their success.”
The decision to become a banker was influenced by her mother’s career in banking and solidified by a love for math, Baker says. She had considered going to medical school or becoming a professional musician but says once she started her career, she never looked back.
“My role allows me to work with such a variety of clients and live vicariously through my clients. They’re in all these different industries, different niche markets. I enjoy that variety,” she says.
Baker began her career in consumer lending fresh out of college. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She went on to hold numerous leadership roles within the bank. In 2001, she was named southwest Missouri region president, and her territory was expanded as she became president of the greater Missouri region.
After decades in the industry, Baker continues to set the bar. She recently received UMB’s Top Producer Award recognizing new business production that exceeded all peers across the Kansas City-based bank’s footprint. She also was the recipient of the first UMB Leadership Award in 2006. And she’s given to the industry on a national level, serving as president, board member and faculty member for the American Institute of Banking.
But she says it’s the work outside of the bank walls that she considers the highlight of her career.
Baker is known in the Springfield community for her volunteer leadership. She served six years on the Board of Public Utilities, five years on the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce board and two terms on the board for the Springfield Business Development Corp. On each board, she has functioned as board chair. She currently is a member of the Mercy Children’s Hospital board, a sustaining member of the Junior League of Springfield board, and an endowment chair and council member at Trinity Lutheran Church.
As in her professional career, she’s appreciated the diversity in her volunteer positions, citing her support of causes such as economic development, children’s health, affordable energy and mentoring.
“My volunteer career has spanned almost four decades and has included everything from leading a chamber delegation to Tlaquepaque, Mexico, to formally dedicate Plaza de Springfield as part of our Sister Cities relationship to painting walls at the Family Violence Center and power-washing outdoor furniture at the Vision Rehabilitation Center of the Ozarks,” she says.
Baker says the work in her industry and the community each informs the other and makes her a stronger leader.
“My professional experience has made me a more effective community leader, and my volunteer work has shaped me into a more passionate and informed banking adviser,” she says. “It’s important that business leaders in the community engage in positive ways that allow them to do more together than they could alone.”
In 2015, her efforts were recognized statewide as she was a recipient of the Missourian Award, which she describes as a pinnacle in her career. And just this year, the Junior League of Springfield awarded Baker with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
While Baker says her career has been marked by developing a listening ear, avid volunteer Morey Mechlin says the community has learned that when Baker speaks, it’s time to listen.
Mechlin serves on the UMB Advisory Board, where she says Baker has earned the respect of everyone at the table.
“She leads with intelligence and always delivers as promised,” she says of Baker’s work at UMB. “Her focus is always on helping them achieve their goals, and she does this by building healthy and sustainable relationships. She listens, learns and assesses their needs. She treats everyone, from the largest manufacturing client to the newest teller, with respect and dignity.”
Baker says she hopes to instill that love of giving back to the community to the people she mentors. Formally and informally, she says she has mentored a number of people at the bank and in the community. She recently helped the Springfield chamber launch a mentorship program.
“I hope that my choices over my career have illustrated my desire to give back, and I don’t think that will ever change. I hope to continue giving back through volunteer service, whatever those opportunities look like, because I love it, I’m energized by it and I recommend it for everyone else to consider,” she says.
Retirement, she says, simply doesn’t sound appealing.
Atlanta-based Chicken Salad Chick made its Springfield debut; husband and wife Garrett and Rose Cochran opened Heirloom Candle Bar; and mobile eatery Girldad BBQ LLC was launched.