A little more than a decade ago Kurt Gustavel became the president of Idaho Independent Bank when he was 35.
That’s a lot of responsibility for a man of that age.
“At the time I probably would have told you that I was ready,” Gustavel says.
What he didn’t know then was that a few years into his tenure the banking industry would be forced to endure a major crisis: The Great Recession.
“You learn that you don’t know everything,” Gustavel says.
But today Gustavel is proud of the fact that Idaho Independent Bank emerged from the financial crisis as the largest independent bank headquartered in Idaho. The company employs 200 bankers.
“We’re a lot smarter and we gained a lot of experience,” Gustavel says. “We came through it stronger and we’re well-positioned to grow and we’re growing now and doing quite well.”
After making it through a dark time, Gustavel is excited about a brighter future.
“Our banks really reflect the overall economy and the Idaho economy is really strong,” he says.
Idaho Independent Bank was founded in North Idaho in 1993 by Kurt Gustavel’s father, Jack. A few years later, the company eyed expansion to the south.
“That was one of the more fun things I’ve been involved with in my career,” Gustavel says. “It’s been really satisfying for me because we were just a small bank … and opening up a new operation in Boise was a big leap of faith.
“I moved from Coeur d’Alene to do that, and now (the Treasure Valley) represents about 70 percent of our overall operation and it’s our key market.”
That one-time small bank now has nine offices in southern Idaho.
“Looking back on that, I think it was a big accomplishment,” says Gustavel, who can sometimes be found on weekends at the family’s cabin on Cascade Lake. He and his wife, Leanne, have two sons, Jackson, 14, and Carson, 12, who enjoy fishing and hiking in the area with their yellow lab, Bubba, traipsing alongside them.
Like the family cabin, Gustavel says his company remains completely rooted in its home state.
“We’re focused on Idaho,” Gustavel says. “It’s in our name, it’s in our DNA, and we’re really focused on reinvesting back in our community. The decisions are local and we’re locally managed.”
When making those decisions Gustavel sometimes reminds himself of a favorite quote from Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Gustavel says he’s learned over the years that the easiest route for Idaho Independent Bank isn’t necessarily always the best one.
“I think it’s about questioning and being open to other opportunities, and sometimes that’s hard work,” he says. “You’ve got to step back at some point during the day and … try to find different approaches to problems.
“I really learned that from my father (who founded Idaho Independent Bank). He’s always questioning and trying to figure out the best way to do something.”