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Cynthia Reeves | SBJ

A Conversation With ... Mary Jensen

Residential Funding Coordinator, Guaranty Bank

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Last month marked your 50th year working for Guaranty Bank. What roles have you held throughout your career?
I was hired to work in an insurance agency that the bank owned at the time. In 1995-96, the president came to me – we were kind of getting out of the insurance agency – and he said, “Would you think about becoming an investment adviser?” It was kind of out of my realm, but I said I would entertain that. I studied and took the test, which was tremendously hard, but I passed it, and we represented Invest Financial Corp. out of Florida. That was our entry into stocks and bonds. I did that for a few years and, of course, 9/11 happened. The bottom really dropped out and that’s when I moved from that; again talking to the president, they said, “Would you like to work in mortgage?” Mortgage suited me better than anything I’ve ever done. I found my niche. I like detail work. I have been very, very fortunate to be able to make this my life’s journey through this one company.

As you’ve spent five decades in the banking industry, what are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed?
Things are so vastly different than they were when I started. The world we lived in then was not immediate. You didn’t get immediate responses to things you needed for your customers. You had to wait because there was no such thing as even faxing when I started, let alone emails or text messages. Everything was slower paced. Smaller organization, a very close-knit group because there was such a few amount of us then. Now, of course, there are people that work at Guaranty Bank that leave and I never even met them, but they’re in Joplin or some branch that I don’t go to. Technology is one of the biggest changes. Trying to take care of our customers has remained consistent no matter what the tools we had to do the job with. That’s why we grew back in those days. When I started, we didn’t have checking accounts. All we had were certificates of deposit, saving accounts and we did home loans. As time went by, we added checking accounts and we grew from there.

The average tenure for employees in the U.S. is just four years. It’s not often today that you hear about people spending their entire career with a single company. Was that longevity more common at the start of your career?
It was definitely more common. People found a job that they really liked and they melded well with their employer, they didn’t go looking for another position unless something happened – they had a change in life. Nowadays, people don’t even stay in their home long term. Everyone’s more mobile and always looking for something else.

For the last couple decades, you’ve worked in residential lending. This month, the Mortgage Bankers Association said mortgage volume was at the lowest level since December 2019, as rates are inching higher. What trends are you seeing at Guaranty?
It’s slowed down from what it was. It was crazy during the pandemic. We had so much work. It was wonderful for us. So many people refinanced and took care of what they needed to do, and they don’t need a new loan now.

Employers are struggling right now with labor shortages amid the “Great Resignation.” What is needed for employee retention?
One of the most important things is having good management and management who not only ask for input from employees but actually listen to what they say. And recognizing people who really are helping you grow your organization. We’ve, of course, had different management through the years – different presidents have come and gone – but it seems one thing that all of them shared is a respect for the employees. And I think that is very important, and it has to be genuine. If you truly respect your employees and take care of them, they’re going to stay with you.

Mary Jensen can be reached at mjensen@gbankmo.com.

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