KOKOMO, Ind. – When people have the opportunity to earn college degrees, it benefits the entire community.
Because of that philosophy, Annette Russell, president and CEO of Security Federal Savings Bank, said a partnership between the bank and Indiana University Kokomo is a natural fit.
“We recognize that education drives the economy,” she said. “Having a higher number of graduates provides more opportunities for better-paying jobs that put revenue back into the community and improve the quality of life for everyone in the community. Seeing how many employers are looking for qualified candidates right now just emphasizes the need for the campus presence. I feel like we’re really fortunate to have IU Kokomo in our back yard.
Security Federal recently extended its long-standing partnership with the campus, by sponsoring a locker room in the new Student Activities and Events Center (SAEC), with a $50,000 pledge.
“Having the SAEC draws students into the campus, and gets them engaged with activities not only on campus, but out in the community,” she said. “I hope it gives them a sense of belonging in being part of an organization and getting involved. I think anytime you get students engaged in an activity that gives them a deeper connection to their campus and community, it’s a win-win for everyone. My hope is they would feel that connection and, if they aren’t from here, choose to stay after graduation, work in our region, and raise their families here.”
Staying in the community is close to Russell’s heart, as she earned her Bachelor of Science in Business, with a major in accounting, from IU Kokomo in 1994. Being able to work — she started her career at Security Federal Savings Bank in 1991 — while going to school made it possible for her to earn her degree.
“One of the reasons I attended IU Kokomo was because my family lived in the area, and I wanted to stay,” she said, adding that she was impressed by her first visit to the SAEC, which opened in fall 2020.
“It’s beautiful,” said Russell, who was recognized with the IU Kokomo Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006.
“I’m envious that when I attended school there that we didn’t have all of these facilities,” she said. “It was more like a satellite location then. Now it feels like a campus, with all the amenities to make it more desirable for students to choose.”
The bank’s long partnership with the campus has included having many alumni as employees, and also having bank leaders serve as adjunct faculty members. Russell noted that Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke also serves on the bank’s board of directors.
“We really look at ourselves as a regional bank, and our market share footprint is very similar to IU Kokomo’s,” she said. “Our strategies and goals really complement the campus’s, as far as the needs of the community.”
The campus is also a source of continuing education for bank leaders.
“Our industry is changing pretty rapidly,” Russell said. “If we don’t adopt a mindset of continuous learning and adapting to change, we won’t be around in five years. It requires our leadership to stay innovative and progressive. The opportunity to partner with IU Kokomo to help innovate and develop the products we need is a great benefit to us.”