Aaron Jensen ’89, New President of Midwest Bank, has Evolved with the Industry


Monmouth College and Monmouth’s Midwest Bank change presidents at the rate of roughly once per decade.

The new president of the latter institution is a graduate of the former, as Aaron Jensen ’89 took over on Jan. 1.

A veteran of nearly 40 years in banking, Jensen is Midwest’s 18th president in its 154-year history. His alma mater will soon name its 15th president since its founding in 1853.

Jensen started in the industry during the fall of his sophomore year at Monmouth in 1986, working afternoons and weekends at Security Savings, where 1952 Monmouth graduate Ralph Whiteman was president.

“It was a little different for a bank president back then,” he said. “Ralph seemed like the oracle on The Wizard of Oz, in a back room making things happen. I don’t know how correct that was, but that was my impression.”

Joining Midwest Bank

Banking itself is different today, explained Jensen, who’s played a key role in overseeing those changes at Midwest Bank, where’s he worked since 1995, when it was known as The National Bank of Monmouth.

A prime example of change that Jensen has already overseen is a shift in the bank’s model with the addition of its wealth management and trust divisions.

“We changed the model of the trust department,” he said, “taking more of a wealth management approach to the process. We had to redefine how banks were driven and how roles were defined to make it work for us.”

Jensen has also managed the bank’s investment portfolio and bank operations, serving as chief operations officer, a title he will continue to hold.

He described his new role at Midwest Bank, in part, as “overseeing a community banking model that supports local businesses, farmers and customers, helping to drive the local economy.”

A recent change at the bank, which occurred in December 2022, is its designation as a financial holding company. It was previously a bank holding company. Looking ahead, more changes are on the horizon.

“What does the bank look like in an AI world?” he asked, referring to artificial intelligence’s impact on the industry. “How does that help us? How does that challenge us? We’ve always relied on technology, and that’s fine until you have a question or a problem or you’re doing something new. You want to talk to a person. So it’s important that we retain a component of human contact and help our staff evolve in that space.”

In his 29-year career at Midwest Bank, Jensen has certainly evolved, advancing from a trust officer to executive vice president and COO, to his new role, where he oversees the bank’s strategic direction, working closely with the executive team to drive innovation, enhance customer experience and strengthen the bank’s position.

Support system

That means there’s a lot on his plate, but Jensen is quick to say he’s not flying solo, either at work or at home.

“Our board has just been so supportive,” said Jensen. “I travel and visit with people from other banks, and not every bank is as fortunate to have as supportive a board as we do. You know you’re not alone.”

He cited a strong management team as another major area of support. It includes the bank’s former president, Chris Gavin, who serves as chief executive officer in addition to taking on the role as president of Western Illinois Bancshares, the parent company of Midwest Bank. The rest of the officer positions are Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Anderson, Chief Credit Officer Matt Gillen and Chief Retail Officer Sara Bockelman.

On the home front, he credits his wife, Dana Jensen, a former employee of the College for more than 20 years.

“I’ve had the support at home that’s allowed me to have success here at the bank,” he said. “That support and that belief, and not just from my spouse, but from our kids, as well.”

Two of those three children – Cassie Jensen Gauf ’08 and Cara ’18 – are Monmouth graduates, while Cory graduated from Bradley University.

Making it Monmouth

Jensen said his son was looking for a larger campus, but in the mid-1980s, the opposite was true for him.

“I took tours of Augustana and St. Ambrose, but they just weren’t what I was looking for,” said Jensen, who was born and raised about a half-hour from the Quad Cities in Prophetstown, Illinois. “There were only 58 kids in my graduating class, so maybe that’s what struck a chord for me at Monmouth. When I set foot on campus, it felt like where I wanted to go. It was a good fit.”

As is often the case, Jensen’s plans entering college didn’t wind up being the path he followed. He was considering a 3:2 program in engineering, but by his sophomore year, he’d shifted to business. Jensen kept his problem-solving side satisfied with a minor in mathematics, and he found that the two could overlap.

“At the time, (business professor) Rod Lemon was doing research for the natural gas industry,” said Jensen. “I helped him with multiple regression models he was doing. It was a great opportunity to connect one-on-one with a professor, and we’re still in touch today.”

Within his math minor, Jensen appreciated the opportunity to knock on the office doors of professors Rich Cogswell and Lyle Welch to ask them to explain concepts that weren’t quite clicking in his mind. He recalled building a multiple regression analysis for Welch that dealt with the most efficient way to staff bank tellers, a project influenced by his collegiate side hustle – a part-time gig that evolved into a bank presidency.

***Courtesy of Barry McNamara, Monmouth College***

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