When Ron Collins stepped down as Vinton County National Bank President in December 2018, he didn’t actually leave the bank family. Instead, he stayed on as CEO, in an advisory role to assist newly minted VCNB President Mark Erslan through the transition. With a mind like a calculator and a keen understanding of banking, Ron was just the ninth president in the bank’s long and storied past and was eager to ease the bank into a new era of leadership.
Ron joined the VCNB family when he came to First Bremen Bank as Head of Lending in 1998. He was named President of the First Bremen Bank in 2001 and served in that capacity until being named President of Vinton County National Bank when the two banks merged in 2009. One of his accomplishments was using his expertise as a skilled communicator and leader to soften the differences between the two banks, finding common ground and seeking ways to improve the combined operation.
During his career with VCNB, Ron used his vast knowledge of the lending world to improve the bank’s loan portfolio, making it both healthy and profitable. He also oversaw the development of the Canal Banking Center in Canal Winchester, Friendly Bremen Banking Center in Pataskala and the Jackson County Banking Center in Jackson.
“When I started, the Bremen Bank was about $160 million in assets. Vinton County was over $200 million. Working together, we were able to bridge the gap and now we’re a billion dollar bank. That wasn’t just me. That was because of a lot of people,” he said “And I’m proud to say that we did all of that while staying true to our core values.”
“My wife asked me if I’m sad. Yes, I’m a little sad. It’s like leaving a part of yourself behind. But I have such a sense of accomplishment and a sense of excitement too. I’m excited for the future of our bank, I’m excited for Mark, and I’m looking forward to this next stage in my own life,” he explained.
When asked about his hopes for the bank’s future, Ron discussed VCNB’s place in the banking world. “A bank has to grow to succeed. But the more you grow, there’s risk of losing focus on the community part of community banking. We don’t want to be like the larger regional banks. There are plenty of them but there’s only one VCNB and what makes us special is our commitment to our communities. My hope is that we always offer that personal touch,” he said. “I also hope we always deliver what the customer wants. If they want to talk to a person, I hope there’s always a person to talk to. If they want technology, I hope we give them technology. Whatever is important to the customer should be important to us too.”
He went on to talk about the role of the bank president. “Every president leaves their own mark. We all do things a little differently but we all always put the bank first. That means focusing on the customer, the community, and our employees. As long as we continue to do that, we will do well,” he said. “Mark has been with us for a long time. He understands our culture and what’s important to us so I have no doubt he will lead us well.”
After a lengthy career managing people and learning the ins and outs of different types of workplaces, Ron has much wisdom to share with a young person starting out in business. “I would say you have to ask yourself some questions. Where do I want to go? What do I want from life and from my career? Can I get there with this job or this company? I’ve had offers to move elsewhere but I love our culture and the people I work with. Another job might mean more money but I could be sacrificing things that are important to me,” he added.
What things are important to him?
“Health, family and job. These are the most important things and you have to balance the first two so you can take care of the third,” he said. “You have to look at the total package. We have one employee who can attest to that. She had a good job making good money in another field. But she worked long hours and missed out on a lot. When she asked once to go see her kid play baseball and they told her no, she knew it was time for a change,” he recalled.
He went on to describe the VCNB culture which encourages employees to maintain their health, to volunteer in the community, spend time with family and to have a happy life. “I love our culture here and the people I work with. You spend more time with your coworkers than anyone else in your life. You better like where you are when you go to work.”
Ron officially retired January 31 but he isn’t in any hurry to make a lot of plans. He wants to volunteer somewhere that he can work hands-on with elderly citizens. He enjoys fishing and travel and often combines the two passions. He anticipates visiting the last few states he hasn’t yet seen.
Ron also looks forward to spending time with Gail, his wife of more than forty years, who he credits for supporting him through a host of moves and career advancements over the years. “I couldn’t have done it without her,” he said with a smile.
They have two grown children, Jill and Ron Jr, as well as three grandchildren. “It’s our time. Gail and I will be free to do what we please without the pressures of running a company,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, retiring, but I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
VCNB will host a retirement party for Ron at Kingy’s Pizza in Canal Winchester from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, February 14. The public is invited to attend.
While he won’t be coming to work every day, he will remain a part of the bank family as he plans to remain on the Board of Directors. “It was a pleasure and honor to lead this organization and be able to work with such dedicated people. It’s been my dream job and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.”