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Nov. 26, 2019
This paid piece is sponsored by The First National Bank in Sioux Falls.
“You don’t get an invitation; you just have to know you have to go,” she says as she remembers she has a Halloween birthday party for a client who is a resident at Dow Rummel.
“She loves the tomato basil soup from Grille 26, so I bring that out to her when we meet on Fridays.”
“She got the flu. Her daughter was out in the Black Hills, and the other daughter lived in Kansas, so they called me. I went over and spent the weekend days with her while she was sick, cooked her food, cleaned up and did all those things because they’re not just customers, they’re family.”
With 35 years of working with First National Wealth Management clients, trust officer Nancy Wahlstrom has built a wealth of stories like these as she has served not only clients but also the community of Sioux Falls.
Born in North Platte, Neb., Wahlstrom planted her roots in Omaha. She worked full-time in the trust department at a bank and went to school at night, working toward her bachelor’s degree in business. After some life-changing events, she thought it was time to “grow some wings and search for a new beginning.”
She decided a position at The First National Bank in Sioux Falls would be a good fit. Thirty-five years later, she can’t imagine being anywhere else.
On her first day with FNB in 1984, though, she probably wouldn’t have felt the same way.
“My first day I cried all day long,” Wahlstrom said. “My manager didn’t tell anybody he had hired me. I got here about 7:30 a.m., and I sat there and I sat there and I sat there. Finally, my manager came in about 10:30 and said ‘I’m a hands-off manager. Here’s a list of accounts, and welcome.’ And he walked out and left me. I just cried.”
But it didn’t take long for her to find the value of family at FNB. As Friday afternoon rolled around, marking the end to her first week on the job, she was thankful to have made it through the week. As she sat at her desk on the second floor, W.S. Baker — the bank’s president at the time and the father of current CEO Bill Baker — came in to ask how her week had gone.
“I was shaking inside. This was the president of the bank,” she said. “I worked at a bank in Omaha for a long time. I knew the executives, but I never got called up to the executive floor. Here this man (W.S.) is taking the time to walk around and talk to me on a Friday afternoon. I felt so good. But I felt even better when I found out he did that to all of the employees.”
As one of the bank’s few female officers, being a woman in a male-dominated field wasn’t easy. Wahlstrom credits her upbringing for instilling a respect for tradition, which in turn helped her succeed in her role and eventually lead the department from 1994 to 2018.
“You have to walk softly and carry a big stick,” she said. “I didn’t always succeed. There were times when I went like a bull in the china shop and crashed a lot of china, but I never intentionally crashed anything just because I wanted to be right. Sometimes I just had to say, ‘There’s an easier way to this.’ ”
Her time in the trust department has been marked by more than just her achievements. Wahlstrom hired Maggie Groteluschen, daughter of Bill Baker, in 2012. She has helped pave the way for Groteluschen, who has assumed the role of personal wealth manager.
“Nancy has been much more than a manager but a mentor for me in many aspects of my life,” Groteluschen said. “You will not find anyone more devoted to her clients, and it has been truly inspiring to learn how to make clients into family by working with Nancy.”
Throughout her career, Wahlstrom also has led the way in serving the community.
From 3 a.m. send-offs at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport to revealing to a child that he’s going to Disney World, she has invested herself in helping kids’ dreams come true.
Wahlstrom has volunteered with Make-A-Wish South Dakota for the past 16 years. The organization grants a wish to children with critical illnesses to give them the hope and courage to overcome their sickness. She served two six-year terms on the Make-A-Wish board and continues as a wish grantor and assists with fundraising events.
“We’re kind of like the worker bees who help facilitate the wish granting,” she said. “We meet with the kids and their families to figure out what they want their wish to be, and then we take that back to the organization and then stop by to keep their spirits up with small surprises, visits, gifts to keep the hope of their wish alive while they wait for it to come true.”
The mission of Make-A-Wish could not be fulfilled without the help of volunteers, and Wahlstrom has been more than happy to help.
“Nancy makes all of us want to do more and be better,” said Kerry Pollema, volunteer and outreach director for Make-A-Wish South Dakota. “She just gets our mission and what it takes to make the impossible possible. Even as staff, she inspires and teaches us how to be better at fulfilling our mission without even knowing it. I’m a better person because of knowing and learning from Nancy.”
With a career that has spanned 35 years, stories like these are too many to count because Wahlstrom has committed herself to building successful relationships by living out FNB’s FIRST Values each day – in the office and in the community.
“I always tell new hires you don’t want your headstone to say you were a great trust officer,” Wahlstrom said. “You want it to say you were a great parent or spouse, friend. God’s not going to ask me when I get to the pearly gates ‘So were you a good trust officer?’ It’s not being a trust officer that was the best part. The best part was the relationships that I was able to build and the opportunity to serve in our community.”
Many who work with clients compare them to family. But we’ve found few who go to the lengths this longtime trust officer does to prove she means it.