Tough time to open a bank Not if its done the right way

August 2, 2011
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Dave Blossey is president, CEO and director of Grand River Bank in Grandville. But he wasn't hired to take over the reins of the area's youngest bank. Blossey was brought here in 2007 from Bay City, where he had been president of Chemical Bank, to start Grand River Bank — a totally different kind of assignment.

The bank's organizers, who, years before it opened, correctly believed the business would succeed, began the process in 2006, and convinced Blossey to join them a year later.

Grand River Bank celebrated its second anniversary in April, but marking that date didn't come about easily.

"Part of the approval process is actually approving the key officers. So we were vetted pretty heavily on whether the government thought we were capable. It was roughly a two-year period behind the scenes to get everything in place," he said.

Blossey said the state's Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation had to grant the bank its charter, because Grand River is a state-chartered bank. Next, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. had to give its blessing to the fledgling business because a bank can't operate without insured deposits.

"And because we're a bank holding company, the Federal Reserve also had to grant approval," he said. "So we had three overriding agencies approve our original applications, but also, on an ongoing basis, review our results."

Blossey said getting a new bank chartered is a pretty straightforward process during normal times. But when he and his group were trying to get the bank up and running, the country's financial market was turned on its head due to the consequences following the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

"During that time period, all the established rules kind of weren't working as they had in the past. So there were a lot of times when we felt that this might go sideways on us. But I will say the organizing group stayed true and did what needed to be done, and because of that support, we were able to get open," he said.

"I really think the key to getting open was the fact that we raised a little over $17 million in capital and basically in the local market. I think that spoke loudly to the approval agencies that the local community really wanted this bank. I think that meant a lot."

Although Blossey began his financial services career in 1981 as a loans adjustment manager for Clinton Bank and Trust in St. Johns, Mich., he said his biggest break in his career came three years later with a bank that had been highly respected in the field for decades.

"It was getting hired at Michigan National Bank. David Foote, who was the credit department manager there, hired me as a commercial credit analyst, which started me on my career. Michigan National was one of the, I think, really great banks in Michigan. There were several, but they trained an awful lot of people in the banking world and did a really good job at it," he said.

"So I think having the opportunity to work in Grand Rapids in their training area was just a great start to my career."

Like many who work in the financial field, Blossey didn't head in that direction right after high school. Instead, he enlisted for a four-year hitch in the U.S. Air Force. He spent three of those years working as an intelligence analyst at the Royal Air Force Base in Chicksands, England, and one working for the National Security Agency on top-secret electronic surveillance projects.

"I was one of those Cold Warriors that was listening in to the Russians and their allies during the Cold War. I was stationed on a small base in the middle of England that had a huge antenna array, and we would listen to all sorts of things as much as we could. We would monitor their communications, their military traffic and their weather traffic to know what the weather conditions were at their bases in case we had to bomb them," he said with a slight chuckle. "I found it fascinating."

Dave Blossey

Company: Grand River Bank
Title: President, CEO and Director
Age: 57
Birthplace: Lansing
Residence: Gowan
Family: Wife, Cindy; children John, Jennifer and Jane.
Business/Community Organizations: Director and treasurer of Kent County Head Start; director of Grandville/ Jenison Chamber of Commerce; CEO Roundtable of Grand Rapids; Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce; Economic Club of Grand Rapids; Grandville Community Leaders; American Legion Post No. 101; Flat River Conservation Club.
Biggest Career Break: Being hired by David Foote of Michigan National Bank as a commercial loan review analyst.

After being honorably discharged, Blossey graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in building construction management and a minor in business administration. After graduating, he found there wasn't much being built in Michigan at that time, due to the recession of the early 1980s. So he spoke with a few bankers, who found his military background interesting, and got his start in the industry at Clinton Bank & Trust. He went on to earn an MBA in information systems and analysis from Central Michigan University.

Blossey was born in Lansing and now lives in Gowan, in the northeast corner of Kent County, with Cindy, his sweetheart from DeWitt High School and wife of 36 years. They have three children, who are all grown and on their own.

John, their oldest child at 29, is a commercial loan officer for The Bank of Northern Michigan in Petoskey. He is married to Nicki and is a father of two. "One is Connor, he is about 2½  years old, and Caitlin, who is 6 months," he said.

The Blosseys also have two daughters. Jennifer, 25, just graduated from Saginaw Valley State University and is hoping to find an elementary school teaching position. "She has wanted to be a teacher since she was in third grade," he said. Jane, 21, is finishing her last year at Central Michigan University. "She is looking at a career in family counseling," he said.

As for how he spends his spare time, Blossey said, "My focus has really been on my family. I've really enjoyed being part of their lives and what they've been doing, whether it's been sports or whatever. My wife and I are just very much interested in what they're doing and in supporting them.

"I'm a big history fan and spend a fair amount of time reading about history. But honestly, I'm your typical family guy."

Blossey is also active in the community, maintaining memberships in a number of local organizations, such as the CEO Roundtable of Grand Rapids. But right now he is especially active in two: He serves as the director and treasurer of the Kent County Head Start program and is a director of the Grandville/Jenison Chamber of Commerce. "That is a very active chamber," he said.

As Grand River Bank makes its way through its third year in business, its leader sees his personal and professional life somewhat tied together for his immediate future. And for Blossey, that's not only expected; it's also a good thing.

"I think it's kind of intertwined, to be honest with you. When you're starting something like (Grand River), you have to really make a commitment to it, and I've made that commitment. I've got a great team here who believe in what we're doing and believe in my vision of what we're doing. And I want to see that through," said Blossey.

"I want this bank to be as successful as it can be, and create the type of environment that other people can be successful in. I think what my plan is, is simply to make Grand River Bank the best bank possible."

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