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Bates is new branch manager at BOTW

Ethan Bates is the new branch manager at Bank of the West in Worthington. (Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe)1 / 2
(Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Ethan Bates has been a college basketball player.

And a welder.

And a missionary.

He is a devoted family man and can speak three languages fluently.

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Now, Bates is the newest branch manager at the Worthington Bank of the West.

“This last April, I saw the posting for this position and was kind of eager for a job that provided for a more stable schedule where I was closer to home and not traveling as much,” Bates said. “With my other job, half of my office was my car because I was on the road so much.

“It’s been nice to have a more stable schedule now and able to home earlier to be with the family, and it brings me back to the banking industry. I’ve kind of come full circle.”

Bates has experience in the banking industry, getting his feet wet years ago as a teller. This isn’t his first branch manager position, but it is the first time he has worked for Bank of the West.

“With Bank of the West, right now it’s a fun time because I’m getting to know people, our customers,” he said. “It’s a different culture and a new organization for me.

“I have a great team here. We have a lot of experience here,” he continued. “If you were to total the experience here, we have over 100-plus years in this branch. They know their customers, and they know the community and are very friendly staff.”

Bates grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., where he was immersed in the Hispanic culture.

“Being from Arizona, I went to a high school that was about 70 percent Hispanic,” he said. “So I was surrounded by the Hispanic culture most of my life, actually. I was able to develop a real baseline knowledge of the language, just some conversational stuff. I decided to study Spanish in college because I felt like I had a pretty good foundation.”

Bates began his schooling at a community college in Phoenix, where he played basketball for less than a season after an injury derailed his career.

“When I injured my foot, I realized, gosh, this whole basketball thing is such a temporary thing,” he said. “When you go from running up and down the court and dunking a basketball to barely being able to walk down the hall to use the restroom, you realize your mortality and how temporary these things are. I thought, ‘I want to do something that might be a little more lasting.”‘

What he did was something that left a lifelong impact.

“I hadn’t quite decided to serve a mission prior to that, but that injury brought some perspective and determined I would serve a mission,” Bates said. “I received my call, and my assignment was to go to North Carolina to serve the new arriving Hmong refugees that were there. It was an absolute amazing experience serving and working with those people. I feel like I learned more from them than I was ever able to teach.”

It was there he learned the Hmong language.

“I read, write and speak Hmong and Spanish fluently,” Bates said. “It gives me a chance to interact firsthand with some of these populations. I really enjoy that. It’s nice to be able to talk to somebody directly and be able to build a rapport and relationship with them. It helps to overcome some barriers.”

After returning home from his mission work, Bates began a job as a welder. That, however, proved to be short-lived.

“I did commercial and residential structural steel and ornamental iron work,” Bates said. “I worked for a company back in Utah. I had a pretty severe injury where I fell two stories installing a steel frame landing for some stairs. I broke some ribs, broke an elbow in three places, had to have surgery on my right wrist, and it took me a little more than six months to really recover from that. I realized I maybe need to look for a different line of work.”

While he was recovering, he found a posting for a teller job at Wells Fargo. It was then he found his calling.

“I applied at Wells Fargo, got a teller position there and within a few years, worked my way up to service manager at Wells Fargo and branch manager,” Bates said.

With his family, Bates moved to Worthington and worked in retail banking at Wells Fargo.

“I moved to Worthington in December 2007, and we thought we’d be here for a year and it would be kind of a stepping stone,” he said. “Here we are six years later, and I’ve really enjoyed Worthington and the people here. I don’t love the winters so much, but I don’t know many people who do. I’ve gone ice fishing, though, and tried to make the best of it.”

Bates made the transition from Wells Fargo to the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership as the community coordinator for the Achieve Program, which helps support and promote the social and economic well-being of new Americans.

“They had an emerging markets homeownership initiative to find ways to deliver services to the limited English households, namely the newer immigrant population that have relocated in southwest Minnesota,” Bates said. “My job was to get into communities and connect with families, with households who may generally not be aware of what services are available to them, whether it’s understanding credit, understanding financing of a home loan, how to get their credit built and established — maybe even preparing for home ownership if that’s their goal.”

Bates said he was grateful for his time at SWMHP.

“I loved working at the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership,” he said. “I believe it to be one of the great non-profit organizations in the region, and am grateful for the opportunity I had to be part of the Achieve Program and work closely with limited English proficient households. Now I am excited to work for a great bank in a beautifully diverse community.”

Bates and his wife, Leslie, have five children. When he’s not working, Bates likes to spend time with his family.

“I get home and I take my banking hat off and put on the dad/husband hat and enjoy the family,” he said. “I’ll play basketball once in a while with some friends, and I enjoy reading. I love outdoor activities.”

And so far, in his short time at Bank of the West, Bates has enjoyed the transition.

“We have such good customers here, sometimes I feel like ‘What did I do to deserve such good customers?’” Bates said. “People come in and they are just delightful.

“We feel fortunate to live in a place like Worthington,” he continued. “It’s such a good community and a great place for a family. There are a lot of great activities for kids to get involved in and just great people here.”