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Dan Stoltz Named Most Admired CEO

December 03, 2020
Dan Stoltz Named Most Admired CEO

When Dan Stoltz took over as President/CEO of SPIRE Credit Union in 2010, the financial institution was reeling from the Great Recession and losing money.

Since then, SPIRE has seen assets triple, employee count almost triple, and the number of branches double. The credit union also has become a model philanthropic entity under Stoltz, who believes giving back is important to SPIRE's mission.

In January, SPIRE created a give-back coordinator position. That person's job is to work with SPIRE employees on how to devote time and resources to causes they're passionate about.

Stoltz himself is personally invested in the local community. He sits on numerous boards, including the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Regions Hospital Foundation, St. Paul Police Foundation, and Friends of the St. Paul Library. 

"If you do the right thing, the right things happen [in business]," he said. "We know that it's just good business to give back to the community. We want our legacy to be community driven."

Business has been solid under Stoltz's leadership, too. Just a few of the credit union's accomplishments under his tenure from 2010 to present include:

  • Assets were about $500 million when he started. This year that figure is expected to hit $1.5 billion.
  • The credit union had about 120 employees a decade ago. Now it has about 310.
  • The customer base was about 50,000. Now it's about 128,000.

Stoltz also has overseen six acquisitions of other credit unions with another expected to happen in 2021, he said. Currently, the credit union has 20 branches, up from 10 a decade ago. SPIRE has moved into the northern suburbs since Stoltz took over. His goal is to move into the west (Minnetonka area) in the Twin Cities and south (Burnsville area).

"When I do speaking engagements, I came up with my definition of success: No. 1 is being a go-getter. You know, if you fail, get back up and give it your best," he said. "No. 2 is being a giver. None of this has to do with the car you drive, title you have or degree you have."

In the wake of George Floyd's death while in Minneapolis police custody, SPIRE is currently in listen-and-learn mode. After getting enough feedback from the community and its employees it expects to put together a formal plan on how to act. In January, SPIRE created a diversity committee to tackle some of these issues.
"We feel we're being proactive," Stoltz said. "What we're trying to do is listen and lean, and then act intentionally."

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I just wanted to be a president of anything! I met so many adults who were presidents of their own businesses or presidents of organizations and listened to them talk about the challenges and rewards. It just sounded fun and cool. I grew up on the East Side of St. Paul and it was instilled in me by my parents to chase my dreams and dream big.

What was your first job?

What did you do with your first paycheck? My first job was a paper route for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch in junior high school. I would wake up every morning at 4:30 a.m. and deliver morning papers, and then right after school I would deliver afternoon papers. My first paycheck seemed like so much money at the time. I wanted to buy my own speed boat and ended up saving most of those early paychecks because I knew it would take a few years to have that much money. By the way, I did buy a used speed boat in high school.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your company and team members?

SPIRE is fortunate in that we are deemed an essential business because we are in banking. That being said, in one week when the pandemic hit, we moved over 140 employees into their homes all over Minnesota, writing loans and taking customer phone calls successfully. With interest rates at historic lows this year, SPIRE has had record-breaking months in growth and loan volume all from the living rooms of our great team here at SPIRE. Also, lobbies needed to be shut down and we went to drive-thru only in the beginning. Now, our new model is lobbies open but appointments are preferred to handle traffic flow safely. I am so proud of how the team handled this crisis courageously, while serving our customers with fantastic personal service. In fact, our customer service surveys have received our highest service scores in our history. Just super proud of our team!

How has it affected you?

Professionally it has taught me and our leadership team to be nimble, quick and decisive. I was clear with the leadership team that we must lead with three C's immediately. Care: We needed to show and ensure that our customers knew we truly cared for them. We also had to let our employees know that we cared for them. Finally, we jumped in and helped our community to strengthen and encourage those who were hurting. Calm: We needed to be calm as an organization. With such uncertainty with business and health and safety, it was important to show calm to all. Courageous: We needed to lead with courage in these uncertain times. We had to make decisions daily with care and calm, but also needed to be decisive and move on to the next challenge. As we moved further through the pandemic, I added a fourth C: communication. With all of the decisions and changes happening and employees working remotely to serve our customers, we needed to be front and center and proactive in our communication, and not be reactive. These C’s have served SPIRE well.

Has it changed your leadership style or your thoughts on what being a leader means?

I have always said two things about leadership and these were strongly reinforced during this time. No. 1, leadership is not tested during calm waters, but during rough waters. It is awesome and fun to lead when all is great, but leadership and character are tested with many watching during tough times, and this was never more true this year. No. 2, I have learned and believe strongly that leadership is less about doing, and more about being. During the pandemic, this held true as well. Of course, leaders need to step up and decide and do, but for leaders who are respected and trusted, it is more about being: character, integrity, working hard, leading by example, showing up, caring, failing and getting back up, and encouragement.

Have recent protests and calls to address systemic racism impacted your company or team members? Absolutely! In the beginning of the year, before the social unrest, SPIRE put together a DEI council internally with a diverse employee group to help guide and advise SPIRE on equality and inclusion issues. In addition, since the unrest, leadership is going through a book study with the book “A Good Time for the Truth." SPIRE is truly trying to listen right now, then learn and then act!

Has it changed your leadership style or your thoughts on what being a leader means?

No, because we’ve always strived to have an inclusive culture of equality. But it certainly has heightened our awareness, and we have been asking how we can do better.

With all the challenges and turmoil of 2020, what’s been a bright spot? Personally and professionally it has highlighted the need for balance and what is truly important. The pandemic caused everyone to lose something. But it has also allowed us to be home more and not always running from one event to the next. It helped show what and who are really important in our lives. I also saw so many people in the community step up and put others before themselves. It really was humbling, inspiring and amazing: We versus I.

What are your top goals for the year ahead?

  1. I want to be the best leader that I can be — not for me, but for others! Live a life that is intentional. Don’t let life deal you, you deal life! Don’t count your days, make you're days count!
  2. I want to truly find more balance. Life and work are great and fun, but you can get caught up in tasks that don’t matter long term. 
  3. Give back! Make a difference! Strengthen the community! Help those who need help! Encourage, don’t discourage! Say thank you! My motto is to work hard, play hard and give back to others harder!


What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

Personally and professionally is to have a legacy that life is about giving and not getting. You need to give to fully live — that is critical for any business or person. Do the right thing and make a difference in others’ lives. Invest and give back. You cannot afford to not give. The biggest goal for me is to be a net-giver in life and business!

Photo credit: Nancy Kuehn – Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

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