UMB Bank serves more than 1,000 agribusiness clients, and on Monday it tapped its top Kansas executive to grow that business by leading a new agribusiness division.
The Kansas City, Mo.-based bank said Bill Watson will oversee the division that will serve the bank in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Watson has served as UMB’s Kansas region chairman and CEO since 2009. The bank said the agribusiness division will be an expansion of its agricultural lending services and will target producers, processors, suppliers and manufacturers of agricultural goods and equipment.
The bank also said on Monday that Gil Trout, chairman and CEO of UMB’s Greater Missouri region, will assume Watson’s Kansas post.
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Trout, who also will retain his Missouri post, is expected to relocate from Springfield to Wichita. He has 24 years of banking experience, all with UMB, the bank said in a news release.
Watson said Monday his new job as president of UMB’s agribusiness division is effective immediately. While the new job will require his oversight of the bank’s entire territory, Watson isn’t moving.
“I’m going to run the agribusiness division right here from Wichita, and I’m excited about it,” he said in an interview Monday. He said his office will be in space separate from his current office, which is at UMB’s downtown branch at 130 N. Market.
That doesn’t mean the division will be based in Wichita, he said. Technology will allow the division to function without a central office, he said. What’s most important about the division succeeding, he said, is that its lenders are out meeting clients at their businesses.
“We’re going to build this division around face-to-face meetings,” Watson said.
Watson, who is 63 and has four decades in banking, said he’s ready to make the extra efforts required to launch a new division.
“I’ve really enjoyed working and building the Kansas region, and this is a great opportunity for me to expand my efforts into the entire UMB footprint,” he said. “Frankly, it’s a great opportunity for me to continue to learn and grow. That’s a huge part of what it’s about.”
Watson said agribusiness lending is an area he’s always enjoyed. He made his first “farm credit” as a banker in Indiana 40 years ago. He said he’d like to think that in the next five to seven years he could position the division in a way that would put UMB in the top 20 in the nation in terms of agricultural lending.
“We have experience and an excellent base in place,” he said. “And many markets, we feel, are being underserved right now.”
Watson was previously president and CEO of Union National Bank, which was the city’s third-largest bank until it was acquired in 1995 by Commerce Bank. He retired from banking following the acquisition and served part of his decade-long absence from banking as interim CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association in Washington, D.C. He returned to banking in 2005 at UMB in Wichita.