Born in Gary, raised in Hobart, and a Valparaiso resident for the last 30 years, First Merchants Bank’s Dale S. Clapp knows the Region in and out. Combine that with an exemplary lifelong career in banking, and it only makes sense that he is now First Merchants Bank’s Regional President for Lakeshore and Northwest Indiana.
Clapp found an interest in finance early on in life. When he graduated from Hobart High School he enrolled at Valparaiso University, where he earned a degree in Business Administration. One thing he learned, though, was that he did not care for the process of being an accountant or managing numbers. Instead, he loved working with people and making a sale, and concentrated on developing his skills in marketing.
“I enjoyed sales and the team aspect of selling, it’s similar to team sports,” he said. “Although I didn’t particularly care for accounting as a career, I loved the finance and production/sales side of business. The markets were shifting so that banks were looking for non-accountant types of people who had more sales leadership skills, so the opportunity and timing worked out well for me.”
He found work at a local bank right out of college, and gradually worked his way up to executive positions throughout his career. In 2013, he was serving as Executive Vice President & Chief Sales Manager at Citizens Bank when they merged with First Merchants. He found a lot to like at his new workplace.
“At First Merchants, we focus on relationships, complete banking rather than transactions,” he said. “We really want to know about our clients and their needs to be their Trusted Advisor, at every level. It’s a philosophy we practice daily, not lip service. We sincerely believe in listening first and then solving their needs, not selling a product.”
Clapp noted that while their philosophy helps their clients first and foremost, building that positive relationship helps First Merchants as well.
“I’m a believer in transparent, straightforward, and ongoing communication,” he said. “I think our team and our employees appreciate understanding how our $1 billion dollar region fits into the corporate balance sheet of First Merchants, and how what we do every day with each client has an impact on our Region and our company overall.”
His goal is for people to see First Merchants as more than just a bank, but as an active member of the community.
“I hope people see us as a fixture,” he said. “We are tirelessly engaged in community service, and we ask our teammates to get involved in things they care about. Our employees and management team are part of the community we work in, and we’re proud of that fact.”
Despite his long career, Clapp said he is constantly learning from the team at First Merchants and the community he serves.
“My favorite part of my job is, no question, the people and the teamwork,” he said. “I’m not here in this new position without the incredibly talented team we’ve built, and they are the reason we’ve enjoyed such great growth the past several years. Between our people and the clients we serve, I get to learn from the best every day and it is an absolute honor to represent this team as their Regional President.”