FAIRFIELD – Jill Burnett is the chief executive officer at Libertyville Savings Bank, a fast-growing company that added its sixth bank last year when it purchased the Douds bank.
Those familiar with the bank will recognize Burnett as the daughter of Robert Stump, who began working for Libertyville Savings Bank in the 1960s and whose family now owns it 100 percent. Though her dad is now retired, going to work is still a family affair as two of Burnett’s sisters work for the company, Amber Stump McDowell and Laura Gaston. Jill and Amber work in the Fairfield office together, Laura is based in the Keosauqua office.
They all have busy schedules, and Burnett said they might go the whole day without bumping into each other. The sisters get along well. Their roles at the bank illustrate the important role women play in the industry. Burnett noted that banking felt like a male-dominated sector when she began in 1992, but times are changing. For instance, Libertyville Savings Bank has three women on its board of directors, and two of its three top positions are held by women.
The Stump children were raised on a farm, and they all had to do their fair share of chores such as baling hay, walking beans and mending the fence. Burnett said there was not a sharp distinction between male and female roles because everybody did everything.
“My mom hunted and loved the outdoors,” Burnett said. “My parents didn’t have this attitude that girls had to stay inside, because nothing would have gotten done. There were no limits placed upon us by our parents.”
Burnett and her siblings were born and raised in Libertyville. In her teenage years, Burnett began doing odd jobs at her dad’s bank in town and cultivated an interest in the industry. She attended Fairfield High School and later Iowa State University, where she majored in finance. After college, she worked for the Iowa Division of Banking as a bank examiner throughout Southeast Iowa such as Mt. Pleasant, Keokuk and Fort Madison.
Later, Burnett joined the family bank, starting at the bottom and climbing all the way to the top, becoming CEO in the early 2000s. She never had dreams of being a CEO or of running the bank.
“I just went to work thinking I would do the best job I could,” she said.
She started in the teller line, then moved to a loan assistant and later a loan officer.
“I’ve probably worked every job in the bank,” Burnett said.
Jill married fellow Libertyville native Steve Burnett. Steve farms, and Jill helps him, too. She said it feels like she has two jobs.
“I like to dip my toe in it,” Burnett said, referring to farming. “We have some cattle to take care of, too.”
Things have changed quite a bit in the banking world since Burnett entered it. When she began, it was a more manual practice that involved sorting checks by hand. Computers were used, but they didn’t play the central role they do now.
Burnett remembers having to do a lot of work to prepare the business’s computers for Y2K in 2000, since there was a fear that the change to a new millennium could crash computer networks.
Libertyville Savings Bank has been making moves lately to expand into other towns. When Burnett started working for it, it was based in the town of Libertyville, but in the late 1990s it moved its charter to Fairfield when it built its Fairfield branch.
Later that decade, the bank bought a building in Eldon and started a branch there. It put up a location in Keosauqua in 2008, and five years later it purchased a bank in Keota. In 2019, the company purchased a bank in Douds for its sixth location.
“We saw opportunities in all these banks we bought,” Burnett said. “They all had a lot of ag loans, and that’s an area where we are very strong.”
The bank just finished a major project in Keota where it moved into a brand new building since the old space was larger than the business needed. The bank donated the old building to the city.
Burnett said she would normally try to visit each of these locations once a month before the pandemic, but now out of an abundance of caution she mostly stays in the Fairfield office. Some of her colleagues worked from home during the pandemic, especially from March to May when the bank’s lobbies were closed. The company rotated staff through the building to limit the number of people inside at any one time. Since mid-May, the offices have been open, though Burnett said the drive-thrus are still busier than normal.
“Over time, we’ve seen more people comfortable coming in, but it’s not quite back to pre-pandemic levels,” Burnett said.
Burnett said the bank has been fortunate in that it has not been hit hard by the virus like other businesses. She said that people still need loans even in a pandemic, and when they do, Libertyville Savings Bank is ready to serve them.