FORT COLLINS — When Mark Driscoll started his banking career at First National Bank, there was just one Colorado location, and it was in his hometown of Fort Collins.
Thirty-eight years later, there are 24 branches statewide, and he’s stepped up from a development officer to Colorado market president.
He originally hadn’t planned to be a banker, but after he left the industry for three years, he wanted to return and has been at the same bank since at 205 W. Oak St. in Fort Collins.
“Initially, I was given the opportunity with no experience to join the bank,” said Driscoll of Fort Collins, explaining he learned a great deal from his leadership roles and now loves many aspects of his job. “Most of what I do is different every day, and it’s working with people. I’m blessed to have a very good job.”
Driscoll’s resume lists two employers but multiple positions. He started with Colorado State University, followed by First National Bank, followed by CSU, and then he returned to the bank. He has spent a total of 36 years with First National Bank and six with CSU.
Driscoll, who originally is from La Junta, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from CSU in 1976 and 1988, respectively. His first full-time job was at CSU as the Ram’s assistant football coach, a position he held for three years until 1979 after serving as quarterback on the school’s football team.
In January 1980, Driscoll, who has a brother and sister who work in the banking industry, took the development officer position at First National Bank, wanting to use his degree and do something in business, he said. His position entailed calling on existing and prospective customers to generate new business, something he did for two years before moving into commercial lending. He worked in business-to-business banking services for 12 years and in 1994 became bank president, a position he held for nine years.
In 2003, Driscoll left First National Bank to become director of athletics at CSU, staying there until 2006, when he returned to the bank, once again as bank president. He found he had a stronger network and more experience in banking and wanted to go back to it, he said.
“When the opportunity came along, I thought I could help my school and the athletic department that helped me,” Driscoll said. “I found I was a better fit in the banking industry.”
Though the institutions of intercollegiate athletics and banking are different, athletics is run like a business and there is some transferability in skills, Driscoll said. From his time at CSU, he learned the value of getting work done as part of a team and that coaching is teaching and that leadership involves coaching, he said.
“I really began to enjoy and like the actual business of banking, how the bank makes money and gives back to the community, and how we manage assets and liabilities,” Driscoll said.
At the time of Driscoll’s return to First National Bank, there were three banks with three separate charters, including the location at 155 E. Boardwalk Drive that opened in January 1993 when Colorado began allowing banks to have branches. Each of the charters had its own president until 2008, when the charters merged into one charter, and Driscoll became president of that charter.
Driscoll’s role changed again in 2011 when First National Bank in Colorado merged with other affiliate banks into First National Bank of Omaha Inc., headquartered in Omaha, Neb. He became president of the Colorado market, keeping his office at the Oak Street branch. He took on responsibility for all of the First National banks in the state — now including 24 retail branches and three commercial banking centers — and reports on their activities locally and to headquarters, he said.
“I’m responsible for all the business that goes on in Colorado,” Driscoll said.
Driscoll’s role is that of a leader, working on team building, providing planning and strategic development, and engaging in decision making, he said. He meets both with customers and employees throughout the day.
“A lot of the job is customer relations, community involvement and community relations, being the face of bank,” Driscoll said. “It’s still about developing business, like with my first job, and attracting customers.”
Driscoll represents the bank at community events and through his involvement on several boards. He is chairman of the Colorado Bankers Association, which he joined in the mid-2000s, and is a board member of One NoCo, an economic development organization formerly known as the Northern Colorado Economic Alliance. He also serves on the boards for the Employers Council in Loveland and the Colorado State University Foundation. He previously served on the board and as chairman at the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce and as a board member and campaign chairman at the United Way of Larimer County.
“The bank is extremely active in supporting the community,” Driscoll said, explaining that the bank’s involvement comes from sponsorships, grants, donations and board memberships as ways to invest back in the community. “Both within the bank internally and externally, it’s all about the people.”
In 2011, Driscoll chaired the chamber board and came up with the annual Moving Fort Collins Forward! Campaign to generate memberships and sponsorships.
“He’s a great leader whether it’s at the bank or in the community,” said David May, president and chief executive officer of the chamber. “Mark was there providing leadership every step along the way. He’s had enduring impact on our work at the chamber. … He has his fingers in lots of things. He shows up and engages in whatever he commits to do.”
Driscoll learned a few things about business leadership along the way, he said. He tells young professionals they need three things to be successful: to be able to meet and get along with people, to network and build contacts and referrals, and to get things done through and with people, he said.
“When people start a business and grow a business, whatever part of the cycle it’s in, people always have to focus on their purpose, why they exist; focus on their values, what really matters; and focus on their own particular vision, what they view as success,” Driscoll said.
Driscoll finds that a good business leader needs to have courage and be willing to try new things and also fail when things do not work out, he said.
“Stay good at what you do while trying new things. Make sure the core of the business is strong,” Driscoll said. “A person always should try to get better in life, learn new skills and improve. Businesses should be the same way.”
Driscoll does the same thing in his office — it might be messy, but by the end of the day, his desk is tidy. He has the usual family photos — of his wife of 43 years, Neyla, and their three children and two grandchildren — but he also has something special, a statement of condition dated Jan. 1, 1885, showing the bank’s total assets as $203,000. Now, they are $2.8 billion in Colorado and $20 billion companywide.
“I work for a great company, great owners and the largest privately owned bank in the U.S.,” Driscoll said.
Outside the office, Driscoll has a few hobbies that include being a dedicated CSU athletics fan and spending his free time at community and church activities. He also likes to ride his bike, and he has a part-time job as a broadcast football color analyst.
“My favorite hobby is hanging out with my wife and children and grandchildren,” Driscoll said.