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What Being a Community Banker Means to Me

November 22, 2022 Community banking

We’d like to proudly congratulate our very own Ja Hillebrand for being recognized as one of this year’s Most Admired CEOs by Louisville Business First. Ja has always had a passion for the communities we serve – take a look at his perspective on what it means to be a community banker.

I’ve known the importance of relationship-building and giving back to my community from a young age. My family owned a local business, Hillebrand Electric Company, where I would have worked had I had any talent as an electrician (I guess you could say I wasn’t wired that way). Still, I saw firsthand how small businesses make real impacts on the people they serve and dedicate themselves to the betterment of their communities.

Being one of eight kids also gave me a strong sense of paying things forward and doing the right thing. So instead of stringing wires or digging trenches, I wanted to learn how to run a business like my father with the hopes of giving back to the people and community that helped raise me. I first started in banking more than 30 years ago. While studying at Bellarmine University, I took a part-time job as a teller at a local community bank to help pay my tuition. That job led to a management training program opportunity that changed the course of my life.

Had that local bank not invested in me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Being a community banker has given me a chance to be involved to help others on their path and support programs that make our cities better. It also allows me to serve on the boards of nonprofits, sponsor charitable events and be involved in projects that drive our economy forward and “practice what I preach.”

Being a community banker hinges on the relationships we make – with our colleagues, with our customers and with each other. Being a banker allows me to practice the values instilled in me from my family and the family business. Banking is a way to make a real impact on individuals and communities. Banks are a vital part of some of the most exciting times in the lives of our community members, like buying a house, starting a business, saving for college or planning retirement.

We’re also a part of some of the most trying times. We as community bankers shined when we stepped up to facilitate millions of dollars in PPP loans during the pandemic. We were quick, we were effective, and we were efficient to get money in the hands of people who needed it. That deserves a lot of credit and recognition.

It’s impossible to measure the value of what bankers do. I see how banks grow deep roots in their communities and create ripple effects through charitable donations, involvement, and action. We can also impact the rules and regulations that dictate how we do business through outreach and relationship building with legislators and other decision makers.

It’s clear that while we as bankers compete, we have the same goals in the end. We want to support our communities. We want to help people and businesses meet their goals. We want to be advocates for positive change. And we want to be better community bankers.


Stock Yards Bank. NMLS# 433971. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.