Banking is in his blood
By Erin Malcolm
Farmers State Bank — an independent family owned and operated bank with branches in Falcon, Calhan, Ellicott and Kiowa — has been in the Pieper family for more than a century.
The Pieper name is self-proclaimed to be synonymous with banking in Eastern Colorado throughout their many years in the industry. Currently, keeping the Pieper name at the forefront of banking on the Eastern plains is Randy Pieper, a third-generation Pieper and president and chief executive officer of Farmers State Bank.
The family’s rich history at the bank dates back to 1918 — only two years after the first Farmers State Bank opened its doors in Peyton in 1916 — when Randy Pieper’s grandfather, Albert L. Pieper, left his job at a different bank in Colorado Springs to plant the seed for what would grow into a family legacy.
Along with a partner, Albert L. Pieper purchased controlling interest in the bank in 1928, and he served as the bank’s president from 1961 to 1967.
Albert L. Pieper’s son and Randy Pieper’s father, John “Nap” Pieper, joined the bank in 1952 and served as president from 1974 to 1986.
Enveloped in the banking world from a young age, Randy Pieper’s future involvement in Farmers State Bank seemed inevitable.
He was raised in Calhan, the same town he called home for most of his life and still frequents regularly for work.
“It was a good place to grow up. Small town, you knew everybody,” Pieper said.
He attended high school in Calhan and during his summer breaks, he worked as a teller at his family’s bank. But after high school, it was time for him to fly the Calhan coop and discover what life was like outside of his rural hometown — and outside of the family business.
“I had always lived in a small town, but I didn’t want to someday have regrets and say, ‘What if I had gone somewhere else?’” Pieper said.
He first attended the University of Colorado in Boulder for finance and accounting; after graduating from there in 1986, he attended Columbia University’s business school in New York, where he earned his Master of Business Administration.
“New York City was a big change from the country,” Pieper said. “I lived at West 112 Street in Uptown Manhattan — not necessarily in the nicest section of the city and definitely a long way from the financial district — so that was an eye-opening experience. Seeing that many people in that type of confines when you grew up in Calhan was a change, but I love the city and I really enjoyed it.”
Still, Pieper always had a hunch that his roots would eventually pull him back to Colorado.
“I always planned on coming back,” he said. “I just wanted to have some time to learn and work for somebody else first. Just to get a feel for, you know, a different experience before I came back.”
An accounting job offer at Price Waterhouse in Denver (and admittedly missing his family) drew him out of the Big Apple and back to the Centennial State around 1988. There he spent a year working in audit and six months working in tax, and quickly realized it just wasn’t his niche.
When a position opened at Farmers State Bank in June 1989, he wasted no time settling back into the rural lifestyle and the family business.
His first job back at the bank was as an assistant cashier. After about a year, he transitioned into the loan department and worked as a junior loan officer. Climbing the ladder from there, he became president in 2000, a title that he shared with his older sister, Joan Lawson, until she retired in 2021.
“I have three older siblings, and none of them originally intended to come back to the bank,” Pieper said. “But my older sister taught for several years and then actually did come back.”
As co-presidents, the brother-sister duo split the job’s responsibilities in half: Pieper took over the financial management side of things, and Lawson took over the human resources and public relations side.
As the only president now, Pieper handles all of the duties that come with the title.
He primarily works at the bank’s Calhan location, and makes a point to rotate through the other three branches on a weekly basis.
Pieper said his favorite part of his day-to-day job is handling the books and budget side of the bank.
“I like the back side, the operational piece of the bank,” he said. “You know, setting deposit rates and loan rates and managing our cash flow, which is a huge part of keeping a bank solvent. That’s why most banks fail — because they do a poor job of that.”
Where his head goes gung-ho for numbers, his heart is set on people — in the community, in his business and in his family.
One of the most impactful ways that he cares for the community is volunteering to teach financial literacy courses to seniors at local high schools. He and his bank team coordinate with teachers at schools in Ellicott and Simla to blend the courses into existing curriculum and provide hands-on financial lessons for students.
For one day a week over the span of 10 weeks, they cover topics such as managing a checking account, using a debit card, avoiding fraud, applying for a loan and more. Then the real fun begins when the bank opens dummy accounts for the students to put their knowledge to practice. There, they have a checking and savings account, and the bank puts “money” into the accounts from the salary they earn at the occupation of their choice. The students must make payments on their mortgage, insurance and vehicles and monitor their accounts through online banking and statements. Pieper said students get a much more practical feel for the topic than they would after just reading out of a book or listening to a lecture.
“It has really made me feel much closer to the community. I get to know the kids, and I really enjoy that,” he said.
Pieper also said getting to know people in the rural communities where the banks operate is vital to successfully running Farmers State Bank.
“I grew up in the bank where you did banking on a handshake and your word was your bond. We find that in the rural communities, we can still do that,” Pieper said. “It just offers us the opportunity to really get to know the people that we’re working with. We can make a connection beyond a simple financial transaction. I find great value in that. And hopefully our customers find value in that, as well.”
Pieper includes his personal cell phone number on his business cards. “If one of our customers has a problem, they can call me at home, on the weekend, it doesn’t matter.”
Equally cherished as his customers are his employees.
“If you’re not good to your employees, you’re not going to be good to your customers,” he said.
Most of Farmers State Bank’s employees are long-term, some of them having been there for 20 or 30 years. Pieper correlates the longevity of the bank’s employees to the importance the bank places on family values.
Three out of his four kids followed Pieper’s path working at the bank during the summer. “The youngest one is not interested (in the bank), which is fine,” he said. “They’re all their own person. So whatever works for them works.”
One of his kids is currently with the bank.
Pieper said working with family can be challenging at times, and he admitted to often being a bit harder on family. However, carrying on the Pieper legacy through his own family has been a fulfilling experience.
The Pieper family moved to Black Forest three years ago and wouldn’t change a thing about where they are in life.
As for the bank, building up the communities that each branch occupies is perpetually on the agenda.
The newest Farmers State Bank branch in Kiowa opened in a rented building in November 2022; Pieper said he hopes to break ground on a permanent building this spring.
“We appreciate that we only exist based on the strength of the communities we operate in,” Pieper said. “So, whatever we can do to improve the financial situation for them, that is what we’re going to do.”