SOURCE: SourceMedia


December 01, 2011 09:00 ET

American Banker Names Robert G. Wilmers of M&T Bank Corp. Banker of the Year

Innovator of the Year, Community Bankers of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Awards Also Presented

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Dec 1, 2011) - Robert G. Wilmers, chairman and chief executive officer of M&T Bank Corp., has been selected by the editors of American Banker as their 2011 Banker of the Year, it was announced today. Jane Thompson, former president of financial services at Walmart Stores Inc. received American Banker's Innovator of the Year award. The 2011 Community Bankers of the Year are Richard W. Evans Jr., Chairman and CEO of Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc, Melanie J. Dressel, President and CEO of Columbia Banking System Inc. and Michael L. Kubacki, Chairman and CEO of Lakeland Financial Corp. American Banker also honored with a Lifetime Achievement award William R. Rhodes, President and CEO of William R. Rhodes Global advisors and former Senior Vice Chairman and International Officer of Citigroup Inc. Read the full article at

American Banker has been honoring Bankers of the Year since 1991. The six individuals honored this year stand out for different reasons, but all represent what the editors of the 175 year-old publication regard as the best of banking.

"Praising bankers isn't real fashionable these days, but behind the negative headlines many bankers continue to do right by their customers, employees, shareholders and communities," says Neil Weinberg, American Banker's editor in chief.

Banker of the Year

Wilmers is currently in his second stint as M&T's CEO. Recognized as American Banker's Lifetime Achievement award winner when he first retired as CEO in 2005, Wilmers returned as CEO in 2007 and, at 77, appears to be in no hurry to retire a second time. Under Wilmers, M&T has consistently ranked among the industry's best-performing banks and continued to expand into new markets and businesses. Its acquisition of Wilmington Trust Co. earlier this year, for example, significantly increased M&T's market share in the Mid-Atlantic while greatly expanding its asset-management capabilities.

"Bob Wilmers has kept M&T on top by sticking to basic banking principles and pulling off well-timed deals, like the one for Wilmington Trust," says Weinberg. "M&T is also one of the industry's best corporate citizens, with the leadership coming from the very top."

Innovator of the Year

This year's Innovator of the Year, Jane Thompson, is not a banker but during her nearly decade as Wal-Mart's head of financial services she was out ahead of the banking industry in making financial products affordable to low- and moderate-income consumers. Thompson retired from Wal-Mart earlier this year, but she remains passionate about finding ways to profitably meet the needs of under-banked consumers.

"Financial institutions can and should find a way to serve these customers, and they can do so and make money," Thompson says.

Community Bankers of the Year

Continuing a tradition, American Banker named three Community Bankers of the Year. Cullen/Frost's Richard Evans is honored for keeping his company on a strong growth path amid the recent financial crisis, thanks largely to prudent -- but not necessarily popular -- decisions he made in earlier years. Columbia's Melanie Dressel was selected for her role in transforming the bank into a regional power through a series of failed-bank acquisitions, while Michael Kubacki was honored for building Lakeland into one of the industry's top-performing banking companies, despite its focus in mostly slow-growth markets.

Lifetime Achievement Award

This year's Lifetime Achievement recipient, William Rhodes, was honored for his role as the go-to crisis manager during his decades at Citigroup. From Mexico to Argentina to Korea, Rhodes spent his career helping arrange financial lifelines for governments in distress. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said he often sought out Rhodes because, unlike most bankers, Rhodes had an "instinctive understanding of the varied interests at stake." Rhodes possessed "the ability to marshal a consensus and, when needed, the will to exert authority," according to Volcker.

About the Awards

The Banker of the Year Awards honorees have been selected by the editors of American Banker in an independent and journalistic process since 1991. To accompany the awards, a special report, "Best in Banking 2011," showcasing the year's most important stories and trends, will be published in the December 1 daily edition of American Banker. It is also available online at

About American Banker and SourceMedia

American Banker

American Banker ( is the banking industry's daily source of information, news and analysis covering global and national issues, mortgages, consumer finance, legislation, investment products, card and payment systems, and technology.


SourceMedia, an Investcorp company, is a business-to-business media company serving the financial industry and the related fields of professional services and technology. SourceMedia offers its clients and subscribers professional information services -- both print and digital -- industry-standard data applications, in-depth seminars and conferences, and specialized marketing services.