Financial Firms Thrive in Business-Friendly Iowaestate

July 24, 2023 | Financial Firms Thrive in Business-Friendly Iowa Emery Styron, Corridor Media Group,

Home to 7,000 banking, insurance and finance-related companies employing 95,000 professionals, Iowa offers an environment where their industry can thrive, say three ABI members and leaders in the field.

“The financial services industry plays an important role in Iowa’s economy and represents a meaningful share of Iowa’s total GDP at roughly 14%,” notes Casey Cason, Wells Fargo’s senior vice president, Mid-Corporate Banking, based in Des Moines. “Not surprisingly, this sector comprises a bigger percentage of Iowa’s total GDP when compared to our neighboring states.”

Iowa: “a business-friendly state”

“Iowa’s business climate for the financial services industry has been a focus for policy makers and the number of careers around it is reflected across nearly every community,” said John Gilliland, senior vice president-financial advisor at RBC Wealth Management’s Des Moines office.

“The state of Iowa under Gov. Kim Reynolds’ leadership is a business-friendly state with an extremely resilient local banking system,” said Chip Reeves, CEO of Iowa City-based MidWestOne Bank.

The nation’s banking system faced a crisis beginning in March of this year, with the failures of Silicon Valley Bank, First Republic Bank and Signature Bank, but “ninety days after, Iowa’s banking industry remained strong and resilient,” Mr. Reeves noted.

Mr. Reeves, a relative newcomer to Iowa’s financial scene, joined MidWestOne last October, succeeding long-time CEO Charlie Funk. Mr. Reeves comes to Iowa after service at CEO posts with banking groups in Florida and the Pacific Northwest. In addition to praise for Iowa’s political leadership, Mr. Reeves lauds the work of trade groups including ABI and the Iowa Bankers Association for promoting the state’s business climate. “Iowa is a great place to do business led by a business climate that allows businesses to flourish,” he said.

Asked to compare Iowa’s finance environment with that of neighboring states, Mr. Reeves describes a similar economic climate in Nebraska, most of Wisconsin and Illinois, where there are rural to smaller cities and mid-tier metros. In major metro areas in neighboring states, downtown urban cores in cities like Chicago and Milwaukee, downtowns still haven’t recovered from the pandemic, he said. “Office workers haven’t returned to work and the office real estate climate is still suffering a touch.”

On the macro side, as a financial advisor, Mr. Gilliland is seeing the impacts of a historic generational wealth transfer occurring between Baby Boomers (the demographic born 1959-77) and their heirs. “It’s estimated that $53 trillion is being transferred from Boomers,” he said.

The preceding Silent Generation is still in the process of transferring wealth and is expected to hand down an additional $15.8 trillion, mostly over the coming decade, according to a June 24, 2023 report on Yahoo!finance.

While ultra-high-net-worth households have always passed down estates to their heirs, the practice has gone mainstream as boomers capitalized on an unprecedented 40-year-rally in stock and housing prices and are now at the stage of their lives to bequeath those assets at an equally epic scale, according to the article.

“Much of this is driven by Gen X and Millennials inheriting wealth as well as approaching and planning for their own retirement,” Mr. Gilliland said.

That gigantic wealth transfer is one reason “financial advisors and financial advisory firms continue to increase in Iowa at least on the regional and independent side,” said Mr. Gilliland. “Iowa has wirehouse firms that are not as focused on growing business in smaller states, but the number of advisors at regional firms and independent firms are growing in numbers,” he added.

‘Silver linings, growth opportunities’ ahead

Future prospects, if not overwhelmingly rosy, are generally positive. 

Bolstered by the state’s business climate, Iowa’s GDP “came back nicely in 2022” after shrinking during the pandemic, Mr. Reeves said. He predicts “a very small increase” for 2023 as Iowa bucks macro trends. “When you raise interest rates 500 basis points in a year, it has an effect. The Fed wants economic activity to slow down.” He expects growth in the 1-2% range for Iowa this year and probably into 2024.

Mr. Cason generally concurs on Iowa’s current economic situation. “Iowa businesses are still feeling the impacts of inflation, and labor continues to be a challenge. Despite these pressures, the second half of 2023 may present unexpected silver linings and growth opportunities,” he said.

The Iowa financial sector comprises a bigger percentage of Iowa’s total GDP when compared to neighboring states, added Mr. Cason. “This dynamic should continue into the foreseeable future.”

The financial pro’s modestly upbeat outlook on the state’s prospects is shared by his customers, who tend to be conservative with their debt and spending habits and are able to withstand downturns in the market and the economy, said Mr. Gilliland. “I have a sense from my clients who are professionals and business owners that they remain cautiously optimistic about the Iowa economy.” 


With $6.5 billion in assets, MidWestOne, is the largest headquartered bank in Iowa. MidWestOne operates primarily in the upper Midwest: Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and has operations in Denver and southwest Florida. Thirty nine of its 57 branches are in Iowa, which accounts for 65% of its loans and deposits and 525 of its 810 team members. 

Mr. Reeves said the bank offers a combination of expertise and products typical of a much larger institution delivered “in a very boutique community bank standpoint,” building on history and legacy from 90 years ago. With aims of building a “world class commercial bank,” MidWestOne continues to invest in digital transformation internally and externally. A new commercial loan origination system allows customers to input information digitally. A new digital and online mobile system will debut in 2024. 

MidWestOne has been honored as a top workplace in Iowa by the Des Moines Register and in Minnesota by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and named as best small bank in Iowa by Newsweek for two consecutive years. “The accolades are a part of our legacy, history and culture that we’re very proud of,” said Mr. Reeves.

Wells Fargo

At the end of fiscal year 2022, Wells Fargo total assets were in excess of $1.8 trillion and total employees exceeded 238,000. “From a local (Iowa) perspective, we have a workforce of more than 14,000 team members and 57 bank branches across the state. We’ve been serving Iowans and Iowa-based businesses for many decades,” said Mr. Cason.

“Wells Fargo is a national bank with a coast-to-coast presence. That said, many of Wells Fargo’s Iowa business clients operate internationally and/or market their products and services to buyers throughout the world and look to Wells Fargo’s international banking products and services to support their global business needs. As we support our clients in these endeavors, I expect the international aspect of our business to continue to evolve and expand over the next decade,” he continued.

“We have a local team of tenured bankers with deep industry experience, coupled with the vast scale and resources of Wells Fargo, which results in a tailored solution for each of our clients. Recent advances in our treasury automation and digitization capabilities are yielding efficiency gains and meaningful savings to business customers. Of course, our clients rely on us to be a reliable and dependable source of debt capital through ever-changing business and economic conditions. We take this responsibility very seriously.”

RBC Wealth Management

RBC Wealth Management offers a full suite of banking, investment, asset management, trust, insurance, credit/lending and other wealth management solutions. Clients are financially successful individuals and families, businesses and institutional investors from North America to Southeast Asia. Globally, there is a combined total of more than $802 billion in assets under management and approximately 4,800 financial consultants, private bankers and trust officers.

Its strategic goal is to be the preferred partner to corporate, institutional and high net worth clients and their businesses. 

RBC Wealth Management has approximately 2,200 financial advisors in 178 branch offices located in 42 states. The Des Moines office includes 30 advisors and staff.

“While there’s much more access to web-based financial trading tools and apps, most people eventually realize they can’t manage their investment strategy and their retirement planning on their own and will seek a financial advisor,” said Mr. Gilliland. “Finding and having a trusted relationship with a financial advisor can be a real benefit to a family. Having a solid financial plan can also bless multiple generations of a family.”