Retirement is a blank canvas for Verna Covey
After 45 years in the banking community local looks to future
By May Soricelli
Verna Covey’s outlook on retirement is the same she had for her career; it’s a blank canvas, to make into whatever she sets her mind to create.
“You’ve got to meet Verna, she’ll take care of you,” long-time customer and friend of Covey, Steve Gardner recalls hearing this statement 20 years ago when he started banking at Berthoud National Bank. The words “You’ve got to meet Verna, she’ll take care of you” stuck with him because it was true, meeting Verna changed the face of banking for Gardner and countless others.
Since her family’s move to Berthoud in 1985 Covey has impacted the community through banking. It has been her friendliness, compassion and consideration, along with her strong analytical and mathematical skills, that have made her an exceptional customer-service provider in the banking business for the last 45 years.
“It’s interesting looking back and seeing all the things you wanted to accomplish and had done it,” said Covey.
Life in Berthoud
Covey and her husband had driven through Berthoud many times on their way to go boating at Carter Lake. She remembers a poignant time driving through Berthoud observing the quaint small town with tree-lined streets. “We were just driving through when we decided we had to live here,” said Covey. The small town’s charms appealed to her, in contrast to her life working in downtown Denver, which was full of commuting and bustle. She found herself longing for a simpler life and a safer place for raising her two children. “I’ve always loved it here. I think what attracted me was a small town that was still connected to everything.”
She has always loved the fact that everything in Berthoud is within walking distance from her home. “The first time we did errands that used to take us an hour of driving around, only took us 20 minutes. We got home after 20 minutes and I thought ‘Well, that’s done.” She looks back, stating, “You don’t have that other places,” She’s enjoys riding her bike or walking wherever she wants to go and loves there are others out and about as well.
“Because I love it here, I do everything in town.” For her it became a practice to try and support what is here. “Most things that I do, I can do here. That’s special,” she said. Covey has walked home for lunch nearly every day, and still gets a craving for an A&W hamburger.
“My favorite thing about Berthoud, it’s the people. It’s such a unique mix of people, which is really fun.” Because she has met so many people, she often runs into someone she knows when she’s out. “There is one thing I learned about living here, I can’t go anywhere without my makeup.”
The progression of a banker
Covey received college training at Denver Women’s College. In 1971 she began working at the Federal Reserve Bank in Denver until 1983. During her time there a historical moment happened when the deregulation of banking took place, altering many of the policies.
She also observed a significant evolution of women in the workplace. “Equality in the workplace was nothing then like it is now,” said Covey. Back when she started her banking career she remembers how women were frequently passed over by men for promotions no matter the skill or education level.
After moving to Berthoud, Covey took a temporary job as a waitress at Grandpa’s Cafe and quickly made connections with people that helped her gain her teller job at Berthoud National Bank in 1986. At that time the Berthoud National Bank was located a 310 Mountain Ave., where Home State Bank is currently located.
When Covey began as a teller in Berthoud there were no computers involved in the daily procedure. She said it was only at the end of the day additions would be made to a computer, and the bank closed at 3 p.m. just so they had time to file all the transactions of the day. She recalls having to verify every check individually with a matching signature on file cards. Covey states Friday’s were much busier in those days, “All four tellers would have lines backed up to the door.” Despite the busyness, Covey notes there was a lot more personal interaction back then, “Much more face to face,” she said.
“I got to know my customers because I had to memorize their information, what kind of account they had, the balance they kept,” she said. Not having computer data to fall back on, tellers would have to know their customers in order to help with transactions.
During her career at Berthoud National she progressed to opening new accounts and worked her way up to become more of a customer-service person. Covey was an innovator who helped facilitate the change from paper to electronic processing. “I got all the customers set up electronically and began what is called merchant processing” (credit card transactions). In 1998 Covey became a customer-service officer and was also tasked with getting online banking up and running. She then became an operations manager. “I worked my way up,” she said.
In 1999 Berthoud National moved to a new building across from A&W (presently Guaranty Bank). In the early 2000s Centennial Bank of the West purchased the bank. One memory Covey can’t forget was the Y2K scare that took place that year and how it impacted banks. “We had to have backup generators ready,” said Covey.
In 2006 Home State Bank moved into the building on Mountain Avenue. That year Covey was hired at Home State Bank as operations manager. Moving from Berthoud National to Home State Bank was, for her, a difficult transition after 20 years invested in one place. However, she was looking for a role with more opportunity to work with people directly again. “I wanted that personal type of banking where I could visit and talk to them,” said Covey. What truly surprised her was the number of customers who followed her to her new bank. “They trusted me I guess,” said Covey.
One year after being hired she was promoted to branch manager and has worked there for the last decade.
As branch manager she helped people with debit cards or online banking and all the new processes that came about with those. “I think the customers have always been my focus in Berthoud,” said Covey.
Customer Service is the best policy
Covey’s approach to banking isn’t mere numbers, procedures and organization, but is instead customer-needs oriented. Helping others in the banking world, for her, has always been a passion. She has used her knowledge base to walk others through dramatic banking changes over the years. Before the days of technology, Covey spent countless hours helping individuals simply learn to balance their checkbook and track their expenses and savings. Some would come in with months or years of untracked expenses and need her help to make sense of it all.
Privacy in a small town has been exceptionally important to her as it is important for her to be able to be involved in someone’s finances and still be a trustworthy source. Through her tact and patience, she would win over these customers by not judging or criticizing them. “People always felt comfortable with me,” said Covey, “And they ask me for my advice still.”
Another way she made a difference with customers, pre-computers, was to personally call a customer if their account became overdrawn so they could have time to resolve the issue. “They’re counting on me,” said Covey.
Even on days Covey encountered a more difficult costumer she embraced the situation with positivity. “Customers are a wide range of people, and it’s important to learn to have respect for all people,” she said. One present difficulty in customer service is that everyone is in a hurry, making it harder to have that quality time with a customer.
“I learned to listen to people; let them talk about what’s going on, and try to remedy the situation in any way that makes it as easy on them as I can,” Covey said.
She has made it a point in recent weeks to compile a list of customers to contact personally to let them know she won’t be at the bank anymore. “I have so many customers that have been like friends or family to me,” said Covey.
Retirement is a blank canvas
Despite the trepidation she may have about leaving her career, she looks forward to the adventure ahead. “It’s hard to imagine what your time will look like when it’s an empty canvas. It’s a picture to create as I go,” said Covey. “I have thoughts of volunteering. So I will have to see what feels like a good fit when the time comes.
Covey looks forward to having time with her many hobbies. “I enjoy cooking and eating new recipes; I’m an avid cookbook reader. I exercise quite a bit; walking, yoga and aerobics, to keep in shape. I ride my bike in the summer. I like to read, sew or do crafts,” said Covey. “I want to do it all.”
Before Covey renders the retirement picture, she is eager to wish all her faithful customers a farewell at Home State Bank on Wed. Jan., 27., the office will hold an “Open House” all day with refreshments for customers. Her last official day will be Jan. 29.
“Hard work and caring about people and doing your best that’s huge,” said Covey.
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