More Than Just a Bank

Photography provided by US Bank

What is a bank?

It seems like a fairly simple question. Yet you can spend years in school searching for an answer and all you will have is a collection of responses to a slightly different question: what does a bank do? 

A bank creates credit by lending to borrowers and securing corresponding deposits on its balance sheet. So goes the conventional definition. But that first question – what is a bank? – remains unanswered. 

A bank that constrains its functions so that it merely satisfies the definition above – creating credit by lending – exists solely in those terms. It is part of the community only to the extent that it lends to borrowers and collects deposits. In response, many banks have challenged that stereotype and have committed resources across segments of personal wealth, becoming leaders in investment management, estate and financial planning.   

But good banks do more than that. Consider the bank that embeds itself within the artistic, educational and civic functions of the community where it operates. 

Consider, for example, U.S. Bank.

As one of Fortune Magazine’s most-admired super-regional banks, it is a vital player in the community. The bank’s commitment to helping its clients realize their dreams is tethered to helping the communities where its employees live, work and play. U.S. Bank thus fulfills that other silent obligation owed by good corporate citizens: it supports initiatives for local citizens that offer opportunities to change lives for the better.  


 From Then to Now

U.S. Bank began its days as the First National Bank of Cincinnati, chartered by the U.S. government in 1863. In 1999 it merged with Milwaukee-based Firstar Bank and relocated its headquarters to Wisconsin. It acquired U.S. Bancorp two years later and kept the U.S. Bank name, moving its headquarters to Minneapolis. 

The fifth-largest commercial bank in net income and total deposits in the country, U.S. Bank has earned numerous accolades, including being recognized in March 2015 by the Ethisphere Institute as a 2015 World’s Most Ethical Company® for fostering a culture of ethics and transparency.

“When we started, we were initially capitalized with $1 million, which was a staggering sum 150 years ago,” says Mike Prescott, the Cincinnati market chief who took over in 2011 when Jim Schwab retired. “We’ve always been a well-capitalized bank. In the panic of 1933 there was a run on the banks in Cincinnati and you were limited to get out five percent of your deposit balance at other banks. We told people they could withdraw 100 percent. We literally had lines around the corner. People came with paper bags to take all of their money out and they brought it back a few days later because we were so safe and sound.

“Fast forward to the most recent financial crisis, we’ve always been profitable. We may be one of the only banks, of any size in the country, who can say that we’ve never lost money in any given quarter during the past several decades.”

U.S. Bank continues to have a strong presence in Cincinnati today. Local deposits rose 26 percent from 2013 to $31.2 billion, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. 

“It would have been very easy – and many corporations have done this as their headquarters shift away from their regional centers – for U.S. Bank to disinvest and fade out of Cincinnati,” says Gregory Waddell, president of the Waddell Family Foundation and son of Oliver Waddell, former president and CEO of First National Bank of Cincinnati . “But they are good corporate citizens. They (U.S. Bank) never forgot their roots are here. It’s good business, but it’s also the right thing to do.” 

Making Investments That Pay Dividends 

U.S. Bank’s dedication to Cincinnati is evident in its sponsorship and underwriting of initiatives that make real differences in the lives of people. This happens at the bank level, as each business line within the bank makes its own commitment to the community. For example, two lines of business within Wealth Management, Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S Bank and The Private Client Reserve, have more than 76 officers that serve on more than 52 boards in the Greater Cincinnati area. 

“The bank and our local team respect the role of engaged corporate citizen by committing to the community, helping to make them as strong and diverse they can be,” says Scott Farrell, senior vice president of The Reserve of U.S. Bank, the bank’s wealth management unit serving clients with $3 million or more in net worth. Scott is also a member of the board of directors at The Carnegie, the arts center in Covington. He explains, “We can’t just focus on the economic aspects that make banks strong. We must also place emphasis on the other things that make communities vibrant.” 

“There is always a good reason to invest in the community because doing so pays direct dividends back to you,” says Waddell. For example, The Private Client Reserve business line and the U.S. Bank Foundation are sponsors of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s LumenoCity event. 

In 2013 alone, the U.S. Bank Foundation distributed grants totaling $23.4 million to an impressive array of nonprofits in communities across the nation. Of those grants, 27 percent went to education, 23 percent went to economic opportunity and 17 percent went to arts and culture. 

Local grant recipients include Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati NAACP, Cincinnati Opera Association, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Cincinnati Union Bethel, Centrifuse, Boy Scouts of America - Dan Beard Council, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati, Catholic Inner City Schools Foundation, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, YMCA of Greater Cincinnati and St. Aloysius Orphanage, among many others.  

Helping the Community Help Itself 

By supporting community initiatives through sponsorships, grants and underwriting, not to mention the time and talents of many of its employees, U.S. Bank does more than just involve itself in the community – it helps the community thrive. 

The Reserve wanted to honor the work to which our officers and our team commit themselves in the community. In the following pages, we highlight three organizations in Greater Cincinnati supported by The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank: The Carnegie, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati.

If there is a theme to these stories, it is accessibility. Community initiatives that aren’t accessible, can’t be effective. Accordingly, the true measure of U.S. Bank’s corporate citizenship is not simply the fact of its involvement with these organizations, but the number of people who are reached by them.

The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank is located at 425 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, go to


An Anchor for the Arts in Covington

As the only multidisciplinary arts venue in Northern Kentucky, The Carnegie has long been among the most important cultural institutions in the region. Perhaps that is strange to hear. The arts can be evocative and enjoyable, but important? Yes – to the patrons, to the artists, to the city of Covington and to the many hundreds of children who have come to depend upon The Carnegie for inspiration, education and support. 

The Carnegie’s iconic building was constructed in 1904 as a Carnegie Library. It stands as one of the last remaining such libraries in the United States. From the outset, the building was open to all citizens, making it one of the first integrated libraries in the South. More than a century later, its inclusive legacy is carried on by The Carnegie’s mission of connecting people with enriching arts education, exceptional theater and unique gallery exhibitions.

Although The Carnegie hosts several gallery openings and mounts close to 50 shows per year for local and emerging artists, its most popular events – as most Greater Cincinnati socialites will know – are Art of Food and Suits That Rock. Of the two programs, Art of Food is the older event, having started in 2005.

“Food is important. It’s important in your life and in your culture,” says Molly Prues, president of The Carnegie’s board of directors. “People love coming to the event knowing that it’s Jean-Robert (de Cavel) behind the table serving them and not a chef from a big chain. These are local artists and chefs from small businesses trying to distinguish themselves.” 

“The Art of Food grew out of a desire to support local and regional artists in a fun way. Some of the artists happened to specialize in making things out of food,” says Scott Farrell, a board member since 2006. “It morphed into an event unlike any other. It’s a celebration of art and food as much as a celebration of community.” 

Farrell is senior vice president at The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank, which sponsors the event. “Our bank is only as strong as the community it resides in.” 

As for that community, The Carnegie is an important supporter of Covington businesses. “We are an anchor in this area,” says Prues. “A lot of traffic comes through here and the programs we offer are accessible to everyone.” 

Executive director Katie Brass says, “On average, 33 percent of patrons that attend an event at The Carnegie spend at least $75 or more in Covington when they come. That really adds up.” 

Ticket sales from Art of Food and Suits That Rock, together with support from organizations like The Reserve of U.S. Bank, allow The Carnegie to provide educational programs to students in classrooms and summer camps across the region. In 2015, The Carnegie will have 51,000 hours of contact with these students in 2,400 classrooms, and none of that would be possible without Art of Food or Suits That Rock. 

Not all of these students will become artists, but that doesn’t mean they all can’t appreciate art. That’s a lesson Farrell has internalized: “I will never be an artist, but I want to support the creativity and inspiration of their work. I want to make their art easily available to the community.” 

The Carnegie does so by offering gallery space to local artists to exhibit and sell their work. Gallery openings are free. Stage productions are often less than $30 per ticket. Nothing at The Carnegie is out of reach for the community. 

That’s important to Brass. She believes in making the art accessible, a belief predicated upon the conviction that “art can change things.” She rattles off a list of accomplishments for The Carnegie: participating in Covington’s bicentennial celebration, COV200; working with Covington to get it certified as a culture district through the Kentucky Arts Council; being invited to the leadership team of My NKY. “These are things that show we are part of our community, but we can help change it, too. We can do really great things outside of this building.”

The Carnegie is located at 1028 Scott Boulevard, Covington, KY 41011. You can reach them at 859.491.2030 or visit their website at


Pushing the Boundaries with LumenoCity

It is obvious why the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) chose to name its breathtaking symphonic and light festival LumenoCity. Its homonym refers to the energy radiated by an object in space, and the event is nothing if not energetic. It is also colorful, supremely creative and a perfect marriage of classic sounds with contemporary art forms.

LumenoCity has attracted more than 75,000 people over the last two years. In 2014, more than 300,000 attempted to reserve tickets through the website; available tickets were gone in less than 12 minutes. 

Around $1 million of the $1.4 million budget for the 2015 festival comes from underwriting by organizations such as the The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank, which will return as a Friday tent sponsor. Also returning is Friday’s presenting sponsor, the Waddell Family Foundation, which has a legacy of partnering with the CSO. 

“My father, Oliver Waddell, was CEO of First National Bank and served on the CSO board when the idea was brought up of doing concerts in the park,” says Gregory Waddell. “The concern was that the only people that really get to hear this Cincinnati gem are the paid members and more affluent citizens who can afford season ticket purchases. My father and the board wanted to be able to expose a broader audience to the symphony.”

First National Bank sponsored the CSO’s concerts in the park for more than 10 years. 

“When I walk to my office there is a line of posters from those parks concerts that were underwritten by the bank,” says Trey Devey, CSO president. “It has always been part of the spirit of the CSO to make the institution accessible.” 

Fast forward a few decades. Waddell assumed the role of foundation president and the idea of LumenoCity emerged as the spiritual successor to concerts in the park. For Waddell, sponsoring the spectacle was a perfect opportunity to further his father’s legacy. “It was in the same vein as Dad’s original commitment, which was to expose the symphony to a broader audience to draw people in and remain financially viable.”

Financial viability is no longer a predominant concern for the CSO, which last year quietly raised $26 million – $6 million over its goal – from local individuals and foundations for its endowment. Part of the $26 million will fund the hiring of 14 new players, restoring the orchestra to 90 full-time musicians, while the remaining money will be used to eliminate structural deficits. 

At the same time, the $125 million renovation of Music Hall entered its final phase in May. Construction is estimated to begin in 2016.

These developments are accompanied by a dramatic increase in audience figures. Over the last five years, attendance has grown 35 percent for both the CSO and the Pops. “There’s always assertions that classical music is dead,” says Devey. “But not in Cincinnati.” 

Because of its financial security – or in spite of it – the CSO has attempted to make its offerings more current. “We are trying to do edgier things,” says Devey, referring to the MusicNow festival that has featured popular indie bands such as The National, Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver.

“For us, the greatest successes are when we’ve experimented and pushed the boundaries, when we’ve tried not to act like an orchestra in the traditional sense,” Devey says. “And LumenoCity is certainly a great example of that.”

Of course, the festival couldn’t have happened without support from The Reserve and the Waddell Family Foundation. Devey knows that: “We are very happy U.S. Bank and the Waddell Family Foundation stepped forward to invest in something this wacky and crazy. It takes a special kind of donor.”

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is located at 1241 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. You can reach them at 513.621.1919 or visit their website at


Eliminating Child Poverty in Cincinnati 

Childhood poverty. It doesn’t sound like it belongs in our revitalized metropolis. Yet childhood poverty is a fact in Cincinnati, an insidious one. Not only does it threaten the present for these children, it also portends a darker future for the city as a whole. After all, no place can prosper when 53 percent of its children are impoverished – a statistic in which Cincinnati trails every other U.S. city save Detroit.

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati (BGCGC) is “a huge part of the solution,” says president Brent Seelmeyer. “We give kids that need us most the opportunities to achieve academically, to take care of their mind, body and spirit and also to learn how to be servant leaders.”

“That next younger generation is going to be a big factor in our community in the coming years, so it’s important to help them any way we can by giving back,” says Brian Clark, BGCGC board member and senior vice president at The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank.

U.S. Bank has been a sponsor of BGCGC for more than 15 years, and its support allows for better, more accessible programming. “Here in Cincinnati, we don’t charge membership dues,” says Seelmeyer. “During the school year it is completely free to any child that is a member. The support of U.S. Bank helps to make that possible.” 

BGCGC is a forward-looking organization. This is especially true of its new Price Hill location, an 18,000-square-foot facility to be opened during Major League Baseball’s All-Star Weekend that will feature smart classrooms, wifi connectivity, tablets and laptops, a large gymnasium, an outdoor recreation area and an outdoor garden where the children can learn how to plant and grow their own food. The new location, named the Rhonda and Larry Sheakley Boys and Girls Club, is possible through support from its eponymous donors as well as from MLB, the Cincinnati Reds, the Farmer Family Foundation and others. 

BGCGC is also forward-looking in that its mission is entirely about the long game. If it were a recreation center or a daycare facility, BGCGC could just keep kids off the streets. Would that help make things better? Probably not, but it might keep things from getting worse, and that would qualify as success. 

But that’s not BGCGC’s model. Attracting the 7,000 kids it serves every year into its facilities is only the first step; the second is helping them learn, have fun and mature into functional members of society. 

That model’s success has been phenomenal. 76 percent of its children test in the “healthy fitness zone” as measured by Fitnessgram (a measurement tool that rates body mass index, flexibility and strength). More than 2,300 of its children participated in service learning activities in 2013, completing more than 16,000 service hours. And by offering programs in areas that strongly correlate with success in adulthood (third-grade literacy and eight-grade proficiency in math), BGCGC helps 92 percent of its children graduate from high school.

One of BGCGC’s most important programs is Diplomas to Degrees (d2D), which provides tools and resources for students aged 13-18 with the specific goal of preparing them for trade school, community college or a four-year university. “These kids are at risk of leaving the clubs because maybe it’s no longer cool to be there. We bring them back in and help them navigate through a very difficult time in their lives, where they’re trying to figure out what is the next step that’s best for them,” says Clark, who volunteers with d2D every week. 

“The challenges these kids are facing are enormous. Many face a lack of education and parental involvement or support to encourage them to achieve higher goals. Often I think they lack hope that their life or path can be different,” says Seelmeyer. “But the program has made strides and we’re committed to improving every year to offer support and instill hope.”

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati is located at 600 Dalton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45203. You can reach them at 513.421.8909 or visit their website at