Central Oregon Market President Gary O’Connell talks about banking and his brief time in movies.
Gary O’Connell started making loans in high school. As an avid sports card collector, he would buy cases of baseball cards at Costco, bring them to school, and sell individual wax packs. If his friends didn’t have money to buy them, he gave them loans to fund their purchases – a crude captive finance model. The primary source of repayment usually was their lunch money the following day with any losses were covered in the gross margins on the sale. Thirty three years later as Central Oregon Region Market President of Summit Bank, he has added additional fun experiences to his banking career –including working at a captive finance company, in consumer finance, and in several commercial lending and banking leadership roles. He’s been with Summit Bank for seven years and shared his thoughts on several topics.
Q. What do you like most about Central Oregon?
A. The Central Oregon market is a melting pot of entrepreneurs, all with a unique story to tell and a full spectrum of different beliefs and approaches. Sometimes I feel like I have PhD in the hard knocks of business from listening to others who have come before me or who quite simply are smarter or more impactful than me in what they do. The “learning by listening” approach from working and interacting with so many interesting entrepreneurs is a joyride that I don’t ever want to end.
Q. If you weren’t in banking, what else might you do for a living?
A. This is a question I love to ask others – as well as, “What do you like to do in your free time?” I would pursue a career in the performing arts. I mess around with the mandolin, but I am horrible. I love to sing, but I am terrible. Just ask my family – they’ll tell you. I briefly had a Screen Actors Guild card and was an extra in a movie… I thought, “Maybe I should pursue this,” but I was a miserable failure at it. I love songwriting and screenwriting, but I lack discipline and training there. Those are things I would do for a living, but clearly, I could not “make” a living doing those things, so I think I will stick to banking.
Q. Where might we find you when you’re not at work?
A. When I am not at home, you can find me at work. When I am not at work, I am at home or shuttling my children to their next activity. We have a large family. When the stars align, we find ourselves out on our boat or in Hawaii.
Q. What’s one of your favorite memorable experiences with a client?
A. Oh my, that’s a great question. There are so many memories. I will answer with the first one that just came to mind. It was March of 2020, and the sky was falling. I remember a few specific experiences being on the phone with more than one business owner when deep tears were shed and fears revealed. They shared their fear. They had challenges. I shared my fears. I shared the bank’s challenges and concerns. We came up with solutions together. There was no veil to hide behind for either party. It wasn’t Gary the banker and Sally or John the business owner. It was just a very unfiltered human experience of togetherness. And perhaps that is what made it so enriching and memorable. We placed trust in each other to work together to produce solutions. Ultimately, we came out the other side, but at the time we didn’t know that would happen. Consequently, the bonds forged during that time of crisis have proven to be incredibly powerful, and I am sure they will be long-lasting.
Q. What do you love most about banking?
A. It sounds like a cliché, but the two things I love the most are: 1) helping to make a positive impact in the community on behalf of a winning organization committed to those it serves, and 2) the experience, memories, and interactions with so many other interesting and great people who happen to call themselves bankers and are incredible colleagues to work with.
Q. What sets Summit Bank apart from other financial institutions?
A. This will sound odd but, in my view, what sets Summit Bank apart is that we are far from perfect, but our intentions are visibly pure. What we lack in perfection, we more than make up for in humility, transparency, professionalism, approachability, doing what we say we are going to do, and not surprising our clients. We are genuine in that we don’t put ourselves on a pedestal. Our client base knows that we are in the trenches with them and to serve them. This is important because our clients see this and they are very forgiving when they truly understand that our motivations are honest and simple: to make every effort, as a cohesive team, to help them and their organizations be more financially and operationally successful.
Q. What is the best part of your job? What is the part of your job you wish you could change?
A. The best part of my job is that I get to do what I love every day (or at least most of the day). I am fortunate and grateful for the opportunity to do what I love to do. Sometimes I think about others who cannot say such a thing. It makes me want to reach out to them to help them identify their passion and pursue it. The part of my job I wish I could change? That would be the ability to turn off my work mode sometimes. It is very hard to disconnect. I am always thinking about work, not in a nervous or stressful way, but in more of a daydreamer kind of way. My mind often wanders to areas of vision, strategy, and self-improvement. I get excited about making the impossible become