Augustana Means Business: Alumnus’ Career at U.S. Bank Fulfills Passions for Lifelong Learning, Building Community and Service

Written by Senior Director of Alumni Engagement Joel Gackle

Mark Runkel ‘99 is the senior executive vice president and chief credit officer of U.S. Bancorp. He has spent nearly 20 years at the company, also serving as the senior vice president and credit risk group manager of U.S. Bancorp’s Retail and Payment Services Division. He brings a unique combination of analytical and accounting skills to his role. He and his wife are also very involved in the community, supporting the Special Olympics and many civic-minded organizations. 

Q: Can you share a little about your family growing up?

A: I grew up in Rushford, Minnesota, and had a great childhood. Education was very important to my family. My mom was a teacher and my dad was an accountant. Like many kids in small towns, spending time outdoors hunting and fishing and playing sports were priorities for me.

Q: How did you discover Augustana?

A: One of my friends had an older brother who played basketball at Augustana, and we used to go along to watch his games. Those trips were really my introduction to Augustana. When I was considering colleges, my parents wanted me to go to a smaller liberal arts school with a great academic reputation and one rooted in faith. My dad was also a pilot, and at the time, Augustana had an Aviation Administration Program. I knew I wanted to study business, and the aviation program was an added bonus.

Q: How did your Augustana education impact you?

A: The quality of the education and the broad perspective in business really resonated with me. It helped provide me with business skills to navigate new situations with an open mind. The Christian ethics that were reinforced, as part of the curriculum, helped solidify how I should act and behave on a daily basis. This also clarified what a good cultural fit would look like in my career. 

For my senior Capstone Project, we were challenged to explore and consider other perspectives. Two friends and I attended an African American church in town. Obviously, we stood out, but what was memorable was the hospitality we received from the congregation. The feeling they provided us was unbelievable. We were invited to lunch and Bible study. That experience was transformational to me, and I still use it as an example today. In business, how do I/we consider those with different perspectives, and how do we create an inclusive environment to make them feel comfortable to share those views and perspectives? 

Q: How did you decide to narrow your focus to accounting and finance?

A: I wanted to study accounting because I knew it would be a good skill set that could provide opportunities to learn and grow. It is foundational to so many aspects of business. I also really enjoyed studying math, and accounting came naturally to me. I enjoyed studying statistical and analytical methods in finance as well, and found they work well with accounting to make better business decisions. In my first job after graduating from Augustana, I conducted analytics research around credit performance on a credit card portfolio for a retail store. This combined both the statistical analysis and accounting aspects. I'm a firm believer that you need to find what your passion is, what you could see yourself doing all day, and follow it. 

Q: How did you decide to get into banking?

A: The company I was with was acquired by another organization, and I considered three banks. My grandfather was very influential in my life. He owned a small community bank in Wisconsin, and I was able to see the value it provided. He shared the importance of a strong financial system in creating jobs and opportunities in a community.  

I chose U.S. Bank because I felt it would provide the best opportunity to learn and grow, while allowing me to remain in the Twin Cities. Throughout my nearly 20 years with the company, I have had the opportunity to work in several different areas — currently serving as the chief credit officer, a role I’ve been in for seven years. Prior to this, every year or two I took on a different job with new responsibilities, learning and growing throughout that time. U.S. Bank has allowed me to continue learning, and it aligned with my core values of giving back to the community. What's rewarding to me is I get that opportunity every single day to see how we provide loans for businesses and consumers to help them realize their full potential and their dreams.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted your work?

A: Although it has been challenging for us all, some of our greatest work has happened in the past year. I have been able to see my team rally around building new programs, and helping those who have seen their hours reduced or  positions eliminated. In some of the greatest pain, I have seen programs that have allowed our customers to remain in their homes and keep their cars. Providing payment relief to bridge some of the most uncertain times has been rewarding. Those moments when you're actually helping a client or an employee see their full potential are the moments that push us forward. I also get to see larger organizations put together a plan and strategy for growth, and we  provide the capital to make that vision succeed. Their growth provides jobs and services within the community. Those opportunities are so rewarding. 

Q: What advice do you have for building a successful career?

A: My parents always taught us to never be afraid of failure. I had been at U.S. Bank for almost four years, and I was ready for a change. I asked my manager for new challenges and opportunities, and that began my growth at U.S. Bank. While new opportunities required hard work, new learning and sometimes longer hours, I wasn’t afraid of failure. To reach your full potential, you need to challenge yourself and put yourself out there. Every role allows you to build skills necessary for the next opportunity. 

The pandemic has shown more work can be done remotely, and that technology will play an ever increasing role. Having technical skills is going to be even more important as we move into the future. Banks have shrunk the footprint of branches, but have expanded investments in mobile technology. Every industry will continue to expand their technical components, and it’s vital to have an understanding of the newest technology and a willingness to learn. 

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