Vol. 108 2024 Issue 2 (Mar/Apr)

W. Elaine Furnish

Senior Vice President & Treasurer – First Farmers Bank & Trust Co., Converse

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

My first 20+ years in banking was at Exchange Bank in Warren, Indiana. I worked in various areas, including retail-teller line, loan support and the accounting/finance department. Preparing the functional cost analysis and budgets helped me understand the costs associated with running the bank and to think strategically about the mix needed to grow the bank. I had a great mentor who encouraged me to gain a strong foundation in banking and not be afraid to think outside of the box.

What drew you to banking?

I was pursuing a degree in accounting and knew a number of people who worked at the local bank. I thought that would be a good opportunity to use my accounting degree. The experiences from the first bank I worked at gave me valuable insight into how all areas of the bank function and work together.

What recent professional challenge taught you an important lesson, and how did you overcome it?

After a lot of prayer and soul searching, I took a job with a bank that was struggling during the financial crisis. The executive team brought me in to manage their liquidity position as they worked to raise capital. This was a two-year adventure that taught me a lot and ended with the FDIC taking control of the institution. We maintained our liquidity position through the ordeal. The biggest lessons learned: capital is king, maintaining liquidity is extremely important, and credit issues and loan workouts often take too long and can destroy an institution.

Elaine, her husband, Rick, and their grandchildren on a trip in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

What advice would you give to someone just starting their career in banking?

Shadow someone in all areas of the institution to gain an understanding of how every department of the bank operates and fits together. I recommend they attend an ALCO meeting to gain a better understanding of the importance of managing the balance sheet, monitoring your risk profile and determining how best to generate income to grow in a responsible manner.

If you weren’t a banker, what would you do for a living?

I would have loved to be an architect. I love to create beautiful and useful things.

Who or what inspires you?

My father inspires me. He was a fighter pilot in the Air Force. He faced a critical decision — bail out and destroy a small town in France or attempt to crash-land his plane. Due to injuries suffered in the crash, he could no longer fly. He went back to school and became an accountant. Until recently, I never realized how much pain he was in for most of his life; he was just always there for his family. I like to think I get my work ethic from him.

What is the thing you have done/accomplished, professionally or personally, that you are the proudest of?

I have been married for almost 48 years; we have raised three great kids in a Christ-centered home. I like to think I have mentored a number of people at each of the institutions I have worked at. l enjoy helping new employees gain a better understanding of what makes a bank successful. I received the Craig Langley Award in December 2023 from First Farmers Bank & Trust. This award was previously called the Outstanding Service Award. It was renamed upon Craig’s passing as an example for all to follow. It is awarded to a long-term employee of the bank who exemplifies the outstanding service and dedication to promoting our community, our customers and our bank for the benefit of all.

Elaine and her family at Disney

What are you reading or listening to?

From a work perspective, I enjoy reading and listening to Chris Low, chief economist at FHN Financial. Chris comes at economics from a different perspective and has a good understanding of the forces driving the economy. I also enjoy attending and listening to webinars and conferences put on by Darling Consulting Group. I get a Monday Morning Musings from J. Keith Hugley Company (Transforming Potential Into Performance). This is a short read that gets me thinking early in the week. On a daily basis, I receive The BID from Pacific Coast Bankers Bank; it usually has a very insightful article.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

I love to work at home in our flower beds and in our water garden. I also love to spend time with our seven grandchildren ranging in age from 6 to 14 years old. We do a lot of traveling as two of our children live in different states. We like to watch the grandkids play baseball, soccer, basketball, football, tennis and play board games with them. We all get together two or three times a year and have fun at the beach, a Cubs game, an IU game or doing some activity.

Tell us about something on your bucket list.

We love to travel and have four states left to visit. We would also love to travel to Australia and possibly go back to Europe.

Elaine, her husband, Rick, and their three children

“Elaine is one of our bank’s most dedicated, committed and hardworking people. She has spent her career in the financial services industry, yet never fails to pursue excellence with youthful enthusiasm and passion. She is a true inspiration to all of us and we are so grateful for her.”

– Mark “Doc” Holt, president & CEO, First Farmers Bank & Trust Co., Converse

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