Ryan Kelley, State Bank of Cross Plains

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Ryan Kelley, commercial appraisal specialist, State Bank of Cross Plains.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

One of the most challenging aspects of my job is developing high-quality, usable data. My bank tracks valuation metrics on 10 specific commercial real estate property types and tries to be aware of trends within approximately 50 different subtypes. Data is often incomplete, disconnected, or otherwise hard to access. I identify and aggregate data on properties’ physical characteristics and costs, market conditions, comparable sales, market rents, vacancy rates, property expenses, and capitalization rates from numerous resources. Sometimes, there just isn’t any good data, no matter how hard you look.

When I develop good data, I still need to figure out how to the appropriately assemble a coherent analysis. I tend to be a problem solver by nature. So, for me, the reward comes when I can approach a complex question and find a solution. I recently tested and implemented a process for using a regression-based residential evaluation system. My work dove into unchartered territory for both the bank and many of our peers. It took a great deal of effort, but I am confident it will pay great dividends for both the bank and our customers.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

I’ve had the fortune of working with two recent In Business magazine Executive of the Year award winners. I worked with Paul Hoffman at Monona Bank through the financial crisis and learned the value of discipline during lean times. From working with Jim Tubbs at State Bank since 2011, I have come to appreciate how that discipline can interact with the possibility of “what if?”

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Last year, I won the 2017 Risk Management Association National Article Writing Competition. I wrote an article on how I perceive my job function, the data collection process, and how it can assist other areas of the bank with data-driven decision-making processes. There has never been a great template for my job. As I have grown in my role, I have developed my approach on the fly and hoped to be right. Receiving the award was a nice validation of my efforts.

Winning the award came with several perks. I was flown to the RMA’s national conference to receive the award. I got to record a podcast about the article. One of my software vendors is using my work as a case study in their marketing efforts. I want to say that nothing could beat the day the copy of the RMA Journal with my article showed up in the mail. Seeing my writing in print was unbelievable. But, about a week later, I received a hand-written note from a CEO of a CRE software firm. It floored me that someone would think highly enough of my writing to take a moment to pen a note.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

When I was 22, I lived in Montana and was a cooking and washing dishes at a truck stop. One day, I read the sports section and saw a story about this 20-year-old guy, Kerry Wood, tying the record for strikeouts in a game, with 20. I’m a lifelong Cubs fan, so I was happy, but I also remember that it put my own accomplishments in stark relief.

A few years later, I moved to Madison and started in banking as a teller. I remember that first month: I was terrible and spent many nights wishing I could quit. I had something like 85% transaction accuracy when the goal was 99.5%. I had to work from making no errors in the morning to making no errors all day. Then, all week. I was never perfect, but I eventually improved and was named one of the bank’s quarterly top performers.

Looking back, I think the best thing I could tell myself would be to stick with it and keep solving problems. Someday, maybe, I will reach my own equivalent of a 20-strikeout game.



What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I love that you can get out of town and explore somewhere completely different in about 15 minutes — maybe 30, depending on Beltline traffic. There are so many great places to explore. Over the years, my family has developed our list of favorites, but we are always on the lookout for new adventures.

Staying a little closer to home, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the Monona Parks and Recreation Department. Their facilities and programming really help make Monona the jewel of the east side!

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I started playing water polo at 38. I had played a little bit as a kid, but never in high school. It was always a bit of a “what if” for me. I had told my wife about it and one day she sends me a text, “Look up Madison Hippos.” I did, and I jumped in. It has been one of the hardest, but most rewarding things I have done.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Ice cream. I have a list of my favorites but am always on the lookout for new adventures.

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