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2. West Plains Bank and Trust Company

Find out how West Plains Bank and Trust Company made the list for Best Places to Work 2023 in the Large Employer category.

by Lucie Amberg

Sep 2023

West Plains Bank and Trust Company team photo
Photo courtesy West Plains Bank and Trust CompanyWest Plains Bank and Trust Company made the top three in the Large Employer category of Biz 417’s 2023 Best Places to Work.

Back in 2012, West Plains Bank and Trust Company began taking a deep look at its culture. As President/CEO David M. Gohn says, the bank was growing, and it needed to build up a layer of managers and supervisors who were empowered to make decisions. So it hired an outside consulting company and embarked on an intensive three-year process to refine and communicate the bank’s unique culture. After that, the organization continued to work on culture incrementally, and this emphasis still plays a big role in the hiring processes used today.

“In hiring, it’s more important to get the culture fit right and then teach the banking skills that are needed for the position,” Gohn says. “Certain positions are very specific, but at the entry level, you can teach skills—if you can get the culture fit right.”

In 2014, the bank made another important shift when it implemented an employee stock ownership plan. Employee benefits already included a 401(k) plan with an employer match and a profit-sharing plan. Transforming employees into employee-owners was a sensible next step, Gohn says.

“Now at the end of the year, instead of making a contribution to the 401(k) through the profit-sharing plan, we make a contribution to the employee stock ownership plan,” he says.

“Our value will outperform most 401(k) plans, so the employee will get a better return on their dollar and be better off in retirement.” Plus, the ESOP brings an extra benefit. “Everyone takes extra accountability because they’re thinking like an owner now,” Gohn says.

Team at West Plains Bank and Trust Company
Photo courtesy West Plains Bank and Trust Company
“In hiring, it’s more important to get the culture fit right and then teach the banking skills that are needed for the position.”
— David M. Gohn, President/CEO of West Plains Bank and Trust Company

This ownership mentality affects how team members treat each other—with support and encouragement—and that, in turn, creates an environment of trust that makes customers feel comfortable with the bank.

Customers also value the bank’s community-focused approach, which shows up in initiatives like organization-branded debit cards. The bank offers different debit cards that are styled after local elementary or high schools, Missouri State University–West Plains and Ozarks Healthcare Foundation. “Every time you swipe it, we allocate three cents per swipe and donate it back to the organization at the end of the year,” Gohn says. “We’re donating over $80,000 a year now—it’s turned into real money.”

All of this has become part of the bank’s brand. As Gohn puts it: “Our customers see that we have fun at work. We support one another and support our communities, and that’s helped us grow.”

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