Dan Daly: 40 Leaders Alumnus of the Year

Dan Daly, market president for Busey Bank, was a member of the 1996 class of 40 Leaders Under Forty, recognized for his outstanding achievements at First Capital Bank and as a volunteer with a myriad of community organizations. In the 18 years since this recognition, his commitment to the Peoria region has only grown.

From receiving the Outstanding Young Graduate Award from Bradley University to chairing the 1999 Heart of Illinois United Way Campaign to his 15 years of service on the Peoria Civic Center Authority, Dan Daly’s leadership in Peoria has been steady and unyielding.

He has played an essential role on the board of the Peoria Riverfront Museum and with the Human Service Center, CEO Council, Focus Forward CI and the Illinois Bankers Association, among many others. Nominated by his peers, Daly was named the first-ever 40 Leaders Under Forty Alumnus of the Year in 2014.

Describe some of your earliest community involvement in Peoria.
I grew up in a lower middle-class family here in Peoria that valued service to community. My parents imbued me and my siblings with the maxim: “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” Although we had modest means, we were strongly encouraged to get involved and work to improve the lives of others.

In 1980, as a young professional, I began my career at Peat Marwick, now KPMG, a large international public accounting firm that had offices in Peoria. One of the partners asked me to get involved as a part-time ambassador in support of the Heart of Illinois United Way. In this role, I helped support company campaigns and make calls requesting corporate support. This experience allowed me to meet business and community leaders, and lit the fire in me to get further engaged in the community.

Shortly after my first experience with the United Way, I was asked to join the board of directors of the Peoria Symphony. I had been providing volunteer accounting support to the Symphony, and they became in need of a Treasurer, so I agreed to serve as one of the youngest members of that board. From there, my community involvement snowballed with many wonderful organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the Tri-County Urban League, among many others.

Probably the key reason I got involved early in my career is that a professional who I respected asked me to get involved. You can never underestimate how important it is to ask young people to get involved.

Did you always know you wanted to be in the banking industry? Tell us about your career and the rise to your current position.
When I began my career, I did not have any clear expectations for a long-term profession. After nearly eight years with Peat Marwick, in 1985, I decided to take on a career risk and became part of a turnaround management team at Security Savings and Loan Association. At that time, many savings and loans in the United States were challenged by a very difficult economy and poorly-structured balance sheets. Security Savings was no exception.

Security Savings faced two significant challenges: a mismatched balance sheet which used short-term funding for long-term assets, and a severe recession in the Midwest that dried up loan demand. In an effort to restructure, the organization sold long-term fixed-rate loans and began to invest in loans throughout the country. Despite the tremendous efforts of the board of directors and the management team, the association ultimately failed and was taken over in August 1989 by the Resolution Trust Corporation, the government agency charged with cleaning up the failing banks and savings and loans. During my tenure at Security Savings, I earned a tremendous education, working with banking regulators, attorneys, investment bankers and other professionals as we tried valiantly, yet unsuccessfully, to save this long-term institution. There is much to learn from failure!

I stayed for a few months following the takeover, then left to pursue another opportunity. I was recruited to work with an investor group that was courting a newly-formed Merrill Lynch fund that had raised $45 million to invest in buying up failing banks and savings and loans in the Midwest. The planned transaction with the Merrill Lynch fund did not materialize, but I agreed to stay with the investor group that had purchased Heart of Illinois Bank, a small financial institution headquartered in Spring Valley, Illinois, about an hour north of Peoria. I served as president of Heart of Illinois Bank and also served as an officer of Community Bank of Greater Peoria, headquartered in downtown Peoria.

With great suddenness, and after many years of successful growth, Community Bank was wracked by a fraud scandal that nearly brought down the institution. Heart of Illinois Bank was unaffected by this scandal, and I negotiated its sale to a competitor bank in its market. After several months of work and anguish, in November 1993, Community Bank was sold to Magna Bank, a regional bank headquartered in St. Louis. The leadership at Magna Bank asked me to stay on as the regional president in Peoria. That role only lasted about nine months, and, as a result of a reorganization, I left the organization.

In late 1994, with a wife and four young children, I embarked on the organization of First Capital Bank—the first new bank in Peoria in over 27 years. I joined with a group of four other local organizers, and through a private stock offering, we raised $5.7 million and opened First Capital Bank in April 1996.

First Capital was one of the top-performing new banks in the country. We had a wonderful core group of employees and a dedicated board of directors. From its humble beginnings, we built First Capital into a $250-million bank with four offices in central Illinois. Busey Bank, headquartered in Champaign, Illinois, took note of our success, and, after years of courting, convinced us in December 2003 to sell First Capital and become part of First Busey Corporation, the publicly-traded parent holding company (under the symbol “BUSE”) of Busey Bank. Following the sale, I became the market president for Busey Bank, and I continue in that role today.

What does your current role entail?
As market president for Busey Bank, I am responsible for business development in the region. Busey offers a full range of financial services, including retail deposits, mortgage loans, business loans, treasury services, wealth management and agricultural services. Our customer base is primarily in the Metropolitan Peoria area, but we have customers throughout west-central and northern Illinois.

Busey Bank operates under what we call the “Busey Promise,” our organizational compass which defines our relationships, sets expectations for our actions, and guides decision-making with our four pillars: customers, associates, communities and shareholders. A big part of what I do is making sure that all Busey associates live up to our promise here in Peoria by working with the community to strengthen and advocate for youth, economic development, health and wellness, education and the arts. I am fortunate to work for an organization that truly values the Peoria community.

How important was community involvement as you moved up the ranks in your industry?
My community involvement introduced me to leaders from many industries and backgrounds, both in the Peoria area and throughout the region. From these leaders, I learned many different approaches to identifying and successfully addressing challenges. Learning from other people who valued the community was invaluable in my career as I developed my leadership style and assumed greater responsibility.

Had I not been involved in the community, I would not have been aware of all the great assets of the Peoria community, and most especially, the great people who make Peoria the wonderful place that it is for business and to raise a family.

What was it like to receive the 40 Leaders Under 40 Award?
I was deeply honored to receive the 40 Leaders Under Forty award just prior to my 40th birthday in 1996. Mine was one of the first classes of leaders to be recognized, and I marveled at the talents and abilities of my peers who were also honored. Many of those recognized with me have gone on to very successful careers and continued leadership in Peoria. Their success proves that Peoria is an incubator for leaders.

Please share some of the highlights of your volunteer involvement over the years.
I am very proud to have served on the organizing board of the new Peoria Riverfront Museum. The museum is a wonderful development that will bring enjoyment to generations in Peoria. I am especially proud to have co-chaired the $55 million expansion of the Peoria Civic Center, which is and has been a focal point in Peoria. I am very proud of all of my volunteer involvements, and I hope that my answer to this question does not slight any of the wonderful organizations where I volunteered.

Which organizations are you currently involved with?
I serve on the board of the Peoria Riverfront Museum as its recently elected chairman. I also serve on the boards of the Gilmore Foundation, the Human Service Center Foundation, the CEO Council, Focus Forward CI, the Country Club of Peoria, the Peoria Park District Foundation and the Illinois Bankers Association. I am on the finance council of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and a member of the finance council at St. Philomena Parish, and I recently co-chaired the Regional Scorecard Taskforce with Dallas Hancock.

How do you balance work, community and family? In your opinion, is there such a thing as taking on too much?
It’s important that we all recognize our limitations and work to achieve balance in our lives. There have been times when I have declined involvement in a worthwhile cause because I knew I would not be able to deliver the energy and time to be helpful.

I have been blessed to have the support of my wife, Sherry, who has supported and encouraged my business and community efforts, sometimes in deference to her and our children. She has worked with me and is committed to the Peoria community as well. Without Sherry as my partner, I would not have had the accomplishments or the energy to support many of my civic and charitable endeavors.

Our children have also been raised with the understanding that it is important to give back to others, and they have stepped up and made a difference in their lives as well. They learned from the periods of time in my life when my career and volunteer involvements were heavy, and came to understand that they are a priority, but we all must make sacrifices to meet the demands of life.

My involvement energizes me, but it’s important to be careful not to overreach. We all need time to recharge and be revitalized. I am honestly a little uncomfortable with the level of commitments that I have currently. It is forcing me to work smarter and more efficiently, and I am leaving one board position in the near-future. I would urge future leaders to make sacrifices on behalf of the community, but be careful to know where your individual level of balance needs to be.

In your experience, what characteristics make for the best leaders?
I have found the best leaders are those who have developed an understanding of their own uniqueness. They have a respect for the individual and embrace diversity. They offer autonomy to the people around them and encourage leadership opportunities in younger professionals in an effort to build drive, trigger a can-do spirit and inspire self-confidence.

I have also found that leaders are made up as much by their experiences as their skills. While this is common in most of us, the uncommon attribute of good leaders is that rather than being designed by their experiences, they become their own designers.

What advice do you have for today’s young professionals seeking to make a difference?
It’s important to have ambitions in terms of the way you want to live your life. Think about what you want in your life and think further in terms of what can be done to improve the area to help you meet your ambitions. The Greater Peoria area is of a size that we can make a difference and improve things through our efforts. Find an opportunity that interests you and pursue it with passion. You will make a difference!

Looking back at your vision for Peoria when you first received the 40 Leaders Under Forty award, how does today’s reality mesh up with that image?
Peoria has progressed since I received my award 18 years ago. Much has developed here, but much more can be accomplished. We need to ardently pursue priorities and make these priorities reality.

I am disappointed that we have not seen the development of downtown Peoria and the Warehouse District, in addition to the near-north side of Peoria. The great potential for exciting development remains, but we must pursue priorities to push ahead with the vision of new urbanism.

While I am disappointed that development has not happened at the pace I expected, I’m very enthused by the efforts of many to encourage entrepreneurism and the development of Startup Peoria, the Angel Network and the Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria. I’d like to see a concentration of leadership among these efforts. We can make the Peoria region a destination!

What is your vision for Peoria in the next… five, 10, 20 years? Where do we go from here? What can we do better?
I see Peoria as a much more dynamic place over the next 20 years. With the cooperation of elected leadership and business leadership, much can be accomplished to make the Peoria region a destination—a go-to place with opportunities for meaningful employment and expectations of continued successful growth.

We need to get business leaders, elected leaders, social leaders and educators working together. We must agree on priorities and zealously pursue them. We recently went through a period where the leadership got bogged down in form over substance. I am impressed that the leaders quickly got together and agreed that we needed to modify our approach to economic development, and I fully expect that these important regional efforts will get on track and be the key to success in the future.

This region is blessed with many resources, not the least of which are the human resources of caring people who want to make a difference and make their community better. I know we will pull together and successfully face our challenges and move the region ahead. iBi

 

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