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Raymo takes the helm at First State Bank Southwest

Kari Lucin/Daily Globe Greg Raymo, new president of First State Bank Southwest, sits at his desk in one of the bank's Worthington offices.

WORTHINGTON -- "Opportunity" might just be Greg Raymo's favorite word -- his job as a banker is providing opportunities to others, and just recently, he was given the opportunity to become president of First State Bank Southwest.

"From the time I was 15 years old, I knew I wanted to be a banker," Raymo said. "I'm just one of those very fortunate people in this world that wakes up every morning and can't wait to get to work. I was here this morning at 5 a.m. -- it's because I love what I'm doing."

As president, Raymo will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of First State Bank Southwest's offices in Rushmore, Leota, Edgerton, Pipestone and two in Worthington.

"There aren't many careers that allow you to help people succeed," Raymo said. "Our job as bankers is to allow people to succeed and provide the opportunity to succeed.... In order to borrow people money, you have to believe in them, and when these people come back to you 15 years later, the number one thing out of their mouths is 'Thanks for believing in me.' Boy is that a reward."

Raymo thanked Alvin Kooiman, the previous president, and former bank owner Gene Platt for the opportunity they gave him when they hired him in 1997. Kooiman will remain on the bank's staff as its chief executive officer and chairman of the board.

Raymo started at First State Bank as credit administrator, a position he continued to maintain during his tenure as executive vice president of the bank -- a title that meant he was next in line to become president of the bank. As credit administrator, Raymo was responsible for all the lending staff and all the loans First State Bank made, but he credited the bank's clean loan portfolio to its "incredible, talented" staff.

Sixty employees work at the six bank branches, including full- and part-time workers.

First State Bank has long focused on agriculture and small business, with a reputation built on being locally-owned and responding to customers rapidly.

Raymo's work has primarily been in small businesses, which has seen some changes since 1997.

"Everything has just gotten bigger," Raymo said. "A typical loan in 1997 was a couple of hundred thousand dollars -- today they're a million dollars. It just takes so much more capital to run your business today than it did in 1997, whether it's a farm or a business."

The economic downturn that has seriously affected larger banks and businesses hasn't affected First State Bank Southwest much due to the strength of the farming economy. Instead, the bank's biggest challenge is the changing regulatory environment, and the increasing number of rules and laws meant to fix problems with large banks that also affect smaller institutions, Raymo said.

But there are also many opportunities to be found in banking, which Raymo called "a great career."

Raymo's wife, Barb, is manager of First State Insurance Agency. They reside in Worthington and have three grown children and two grandchildren.