Julie Sands Causey '85

 

banking on it

%1128%right%When Julie Sands Causey '85 left her Minnesota home for Colby, she didn't know that she'd end up back where she started, on home turf, working for the bank that had been in her family since her grandfather bought it in the wake of the Depression. She also didn't know it would be such a good fit.

"I've been back here for thirteen years," she said, "after twelve years on the East Coast, working and doing graduate school. Washington, D.C., was a great place to be young and single. It was a great place to be married. And it was a terrible place to have two tiny kids."

Causey first left the Midwest for Maine to study economics at Colby, spent two years with a Washington D.C. consulting firm, then went to Philadelphia to study at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. M.B.A in hand, she went back to D.C. for more consulting work, until she returned to Minnesota to found a consulting firm for Minnesota-based multinational companies. After more than a decade away, she found the call of Lake Wobegon impossible to resist.

Back in the Midwest, Causey soon found herself being sucked into the family affairs. "I never had the slightest intention of joining the family bank," she said. "I joined the board in 1999 to sort of anchor that third generation. I was very involved in my career at that point. I signed up for six to ten meetings a year. Then I slid down that slippery slope and ended up chairing the board."

Western Bank mainly deals with small businesses and nonprofits, and Causey finds that more gratifying than multinational business. "We've done a lot of economic development work," she said, "and working with entrepreneurs of color and immigrant entrepreneurs. It's very much an urban bank. It's been on University Avenue for ninety years, which is the central corridor between Minneapolis and St. Paul. And that's great, because I believe a lot in cities and the opportunities that are created by keeping urban economies healthy."

Causey sent her kids to the local public primary school, where 17 languages are spoken and where 30 percent of students didn't grow up speaking English. "I think where we send our kids to school," she said, "and how we've chosen to support this neighborhood, and the work that I do at the bank in terms of economic development and small business is all pretty integrated in terms of a choice my husband and I have made about living in the city, being in the city, and supporting the city."

But she's getting out of the city as well. She and her husband, an East Coast transplant, have built a place up north, across the border. "He fell for [moving back] pretty easily, and he's really taken to it. He's catching fish in the summer. One of the fun things we've been doing is we're building an off-the-grid cabin in Canada, on one of those border lakes."

By off the grid, she means a 12-mile boat ride in, solar power, woodheat, and composting toilets. "My husband thinks having a cabin up in Canada is part of the fun of living in the Midwest. You don't get to do that in Washington, D.C." Causey said.

Last year she was appointed as an overseer at Colby. She hopes that will help keep up with the College, which she feels left her well prepared to chair a community-focused bank.

"This sort of job is a combination of some pretty rigorous technical skills," she said. "Finance, economics, public speaking. But it's also a lot of heart and soul. And I think from Colby I really got both of those two sides."

,Frank Bures