Charting the Course

Tom Austerman knows the challenge of bumpy roads. More importantly, he doesn’t let them stop him.

As the president and CEO of Evansville Commerce Bank, Austerman could have walked away from his community bank during the height of the recession. At the time, Capital Bancorp Ltd. owned 51 percent of the bank he’d started from scratch. There was a real chance that Evansville Commerce Bank would be restructured and sold.

Yet Austerman held on, sticking to the Apollo 13 commandment of “Failure is not an option.”

That made a difference. Evansville Commerce Bank later gained independence from Capital Bancorp Ltd. in October 2011. Austerman has been working hard to achieve major goals ever since.

The key to his success? Not listening to the word “no.”

“If I’d listened to every ‘no,’ there never would have been Evansville Commerce Bank,” he says.

Austerman is in the unique position of being one of fewer than 100 people in the country who have founded two banks. He retired from Bank of Evansville (now German American Bancorp) in 2005 after founding it in 2001. He then opened Evansville Commerce Bank in May 2006 to provide more personal service to the community — particularly to local entrepreneurs.

Austerman, meanwhile, defines himself as a leader. He works to raise capital, gain market awareness, and make sure Evansville Commerce Bank distinguishes itself in the Tri-State area. Those challenges, he says, are easier with an effective, enthusiastic team behind him.

“Good leaders are not the ones who travel down the highway,” he says. “They travel the rocky, bumpy road and still reach their destination.”

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