BankCherokee VP of Commercial Loans Julie Novak
In an era of consolidation, when big banks are often focused on big deals with big companies, community banks play a critical role in supporting small businesses. It’s the primary reason Julie Novak took on the role of Vice President of Commercial Loans for family-owned BankCherokee four years ago. “The businesses I work with are not credit scores or quotas to me,” she said. “I am invested in them personally, and strive to help them succeed and grow.”
Novak began her 30-year career in banking while she was earning a degree in business administration at the University of Minnesota. As a teller, she enjoyed interacting with the public. She moved into a role supporting the bank’s president where she continued to connect with bank customers and was also exposed to the inner-workings of the bank. It was then that Novak’s career path—as she described it—found her.
She observed lenders connecting and building partnerships with their small business customers in a more meaningful way than she had been able to as a teller. Novak noticed they were making a real difference in the community, and she could see herself in the role. There weren’t many women in loan officer positions at the time, but that only served as motivation. “A competitive side appeared that I didn’t know existed,” she explained. “I worked hard to let bank leadership know I was serious, and to prove I could do the job and succeed.”
Today, Novak’s track record speaks for itself. She has served in senior level and VP roles in banking for more than two decades. Novak has also dedicated her life to serving small businesses outside of work. She has volunteered on the board of directors for the Midway Chamber of Commerce and several nonprofit advisory committees dedicated to strengthening communities.
She has not had to look far for inspiration. Novak considers herself fortunate to have worked alongside bank leaders who have been outstanding members of the communities they support, including BankCherokee’s CEO Heidi Gesell. “She does a great job ensuring the bank is making a positive impact,” Novak said. “She encourages everyone on the team to be actively involved in the neighborhoods we serve.”
Ask what she enjoys most about her job and Novak will tell you she is particularly passionate about supporting and advocating for women- and minority-owned businesses—both of which are areas of focus for BankCherokee. When big banks turn them away, Novak is committed to helping her clients find the resources they need to thrive. “It’s easy to support a business when everything is going well,” she explained. “But it’s far more important to be there for them when they are facing challenges or when times are tough.”