Dean Toft has been in the financial lending business for a long time. That time is coming to an end at the close of this year, as Toft has decided Dec. 31, 2017 will be his last day on the job.
Growing up in Tyler, Toft did not initially set out to enter the world of finance. Out of high school, he planned to become an architect, but while at the University of Minnesota discovered he had different skills that led to earning a degree from the university’s school of business.
After graduation, he was hired as a trainee with the Federal Land Bank of St. Paul. That role, as part of the Farm Credit System, involved working in different parts of the state, including a month-long stint in the Redwood Falls office. Toft took a liking to the community and wanted to stay.
However, there wasn’t a job opening for him, so his first job as a lender was for the Federal Land Bank Association in Crookston. The year was 1974.
Two years later, Toft learned of an opportunity to become an assistant manager at the Federal Land Bank office in Redwood Falls. He applied and got the job starting his career in southwest Minnesota in 1976.
Three years later Toft became the manager of the Redwood Falls office. Toft said those years offered a lot of learning experiences for him in the industry. In particular, Toft recalled the 1980s and the farm crisis and the challenges he faced during the ups and downs of that period.
In 1986, Toft was contacted by the leadership at the State Bank of Redwood Falls who offered him a job. After considering the idea, Toft entered the banking business as vice-president of the State Bank of Redwood Falls.
In 1993 Minnwest Bank purchased the State Bank of Redwood Falls, and Toft continued working there primarily working in agriculture and commercial lending.
Then in 1997 a new opportunity came his way when the Redwood Falls Federal Savings and Loan Association opted to expand its services into ag and commercial lending. Toft was hired to fill that role in January 1998. At that time, the name of the entity was changed to HomeTown Bank.
Four years later, Toft was named the president and chief operating officer at HomeTown Bank and, with the retirement of Paul Pryor in 2004, Toft became chief executive officer.
“I have always been interested in finance,” said Toft. “Banking is all about helping people achieve their dreams, and I really like trying to help people with that.”
Banking, added Toft, is about helping communities grow, and over the years Toft has enjoyed the opportunity he has had through his role in banking and lending to do his part in the growth of the City of Redwood Falls.
Of course, helping a community grow did not just happen inside the walls of the bank, as Toft was very active in community-minded volunteer roles as well. He has served on various boards and with civic and development groups, and in 2015 was inducted into the Redwood Valley Hall of Fame for his efforts in enhancing local education opportunities.
Toft added his father-in-law was also in the banking industry, and he always admitted the work he did running that bank, serving customers and being involved in community growth was something Toft admired.
Currently the president and CEO of Redwood Financial, Inc. and of its wholly owned subsidiaries, including HomeTown Bank and Community Insurance Brokerage, Inc., Toft looked back at his 44-year career and said while there were certainly down times there have been a lot more ups.
During his time of leadership, HomeTown Bank has grown from three locations to nine, and the total assets have grown from $82 million to nearly $300 million.
Toft said he has worked with many of the same customers for 40-plus years, adding in some cases he has also worked with the same families for years most recently helping serve the third generation of those families.
Toft expressed his appreciation to those who gave him the chance to serve and lead, also recognizing there have been so many people who have worked alongside him who were also instrumental in the successful growth of the company and of the community.
Toft said he is going to miss the customers and the employees as he steps down from his role at the end of the year. He and wife, Gail, reside in Eden Prairie. In retirement, Toft plans to spend a lot more time with his family, including his children and nine grandchildren, adding he and Gail also will be doing some traveling.
While he is retiring, Toft will continue to serve on the Redwood Financial, Inc. board of directors, and will also find other opportunities to serve.
An open house celebration is being held Dec. 15 at the HomeTown Bank location in Redwood Falls from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The public is invited to come out and wish Toft well in retirement.
“It’s time for me to step aside,” said Toft.
The Redwood Financial, Inc. board of directors has named Timothy Grabow as its new president at CEO effective Jan. 1, 2018. He has served in the banking industry for 37 years.