The job he’s loved, leading Johnson County’s only remaining locally-based bank, wasn’t even one Bob Heuchan wanted more than two decades ago.
When he was tapped to be the next president of Mutual Savings Bank, Heuchan was looking to get out of banking altogether. He was asked twice to consider joining the bank, and both times he said no.
But Heuchan decided to give Mutual Savings Bank a chance and 27 years later is retiring from his position as the president and chief executive officer after overseeing the financial institution through years of ups and downs.
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In his time there, Heuchan helped open and close new branches throughout the county, led the bank to become shareholder-based and switch from a building and loan to a state savings bank, and navigated through recessions and the biggest financial crisis the modern banking industry has ever seen.
At the end of the year, Heuchan will retire, and David Coffey, the current chief operating officer will take over in leading the bank with five branches throughout the county.
“If you like something, it’s easy,” Heuchan said.
“I don’t know what more I could have asked for.”
Heuchan is well-known in the community, not just as a banker, but also for his roles in helping the community, from leading the annual Good Cheer Fund charity effort to helping redevelop downtown Franklin through the city’s redevelopment commission and this year being named to the Franklin City Council.
The community means a lot to Heuchan because he grew up here and wants to be involved, Coffey said.
When Heuchan talks to his colleagues and friends about getting involved, he tells them to do more than just show up and attend meetings, Coffey said.
“He says, ‘Go help move the needle,’” Coffey said.
That value, of being a leader, is one Heuchan has been reminded of daily with an editorial cartoon he keeps on his desk from 2008 — the height of the recession — pointing out a lack of leadership in the financial crisis.
Heuchan has been a strong leader in the community, including through helping drive the revitalization of downtown Franklin through ideas that weren’t always popular at the time, but have since proven to make a difference, Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said.
“He had some of that vision to see that happen,” Barnett said.
“I am just glad to be a part of his era.”
Heuchan first started working in banking in 1976, a few months after graduating from Franklin College. At the time, the country was in a recession, the job market was tight and Heuchan was insecure and not always the best at job interviews, he said.
He was working as a night guard and in maintenance at the then-Franklin United Methodist Home, when a friend told him about an opening at Union Bank and Trust. He called and got an interview. But when he showed up for the interview, the person he was scheduled with had gone home sick, and the president of the bank, Don Kitchens, was there.
They spent 20 minutes talking about basketball, which Heuchan had played at both Franklin Community High School and Franklin College, and Heuchan landed a job as a management trainee.
He started working at the bank’s branch in White River Township, and on his first day there, he rolled dimes, he remembers. But the job got him out of his comfort zone in Franklin, and took him into a community where he needed to talk to people and get to know them, he said.
From there, Heuchan became a lender and then a trust officer, managing estates and wills, a job he thoroughly enjoyed, he said.
But then Union Bank was sold and sold again, and Heuchan quickly learned about how much bureaucracy played a role in banking. By the 1980s, he wanted out of banking and began looking at other jobs.
When Mutual Savings approached him in 1984, he turned them down. He turned them down again a few years later, because he had his eye on another job with Franklin schools. But when that job was filled internally, he went to Bob Smith, then-president of the bank, to talk.
A few days later, Heuchan was hired and a little more than a year later, he was named president of the bank when Smith retired.
The job fit him well, friends and colleagues said.
When they hired him, the board knew Heuchan was sharp, outgoing and familiar with Franklin and knew a lot of people, longtime Mutual Savings Bank board member Bob Ellett said.
They quickly learned he had a knack for hiring good employees, was knowledgeable and good at making tough decisions, he said.
And Heuchan definitely faced some tough decisions, especially in recessions in 2000 and 2008. Heuchan was meeting with bank examiners — having conversations that weren’t always pleasant — and had to make the choice to close branches in Edinburgh and on the southside.
At one point, the shares the bank had originally sold for $10 each had dropped to a value of $2 each, Ellett said.
But since then, the bank has rebounded significantly, with shares at $13 each earlier this month. Heuchan guided Mutual Savings through the transition into having shareholders and then the recession after, and also boosted the bank’s lending by partnering with other institutions through officials he met at events, Ellett said.
Heuchan has seen significant changes in the banking industry. That includes ending the law on not allowing banks to do business across county lines, meaning a significant increase in the number of banks in all communities, to the end of building and loan associations — which Mutual Savings started as — and converting to a state savings bank, allowing them to offer more services, such as commercial loans.
No longer do bank lobbies fill with customers on Friday afternoon looking to cash their checks, and regulations have increased significantly — especially since the Great Recession in 2008, he said.
But the changes are also good, with more women taking on leadership rules and new regulations meant to protect customers and prevent another housing market bubble burst, he said.
And throughout all of it, he made sure board members were kept up-to-date and knew everything that was going on, Ellett said.
Heuchan’s organizational and planning skills are well-known among his friends and colleagues. In college, Heuchan was the student that classmates borrowed notes from. Ellett joked that though 63 is a young age to retire, he is sure Heuchan has his finances planned down to the penny.
But colleagues also know that if they are going to a meeting with Heuchan, he will be prepared and they should be, too.
Those skills are one reason Eddy Teets selected Heuchan to take over as organizer of the Good Cheer Fund in 1992, which Heuchan continued until 2012.
During his time leading the annual charity, he was dedicated to it and helped it grow, Teets said.
“He took off and knew exactly what he was doing,” Teets said.
Heuchan always has a good sense of what is ahead of him, and what to do to get there, Teets said.
Jerry Petro, Heuchan’s longtime friend and mentor who had coached him in junior high, said he has always been the person to see his goals and then plan to achieve them.
“He does a considerable amount of mental goal setting, then preparing step by step to meet those goals. We all have our bumps in the road. He always bounces back and lands on his feet, motivated to do better and achieve his next goal,” Petro said.
He is fair with employees, and that is something they remember, Coffey said.
Heuchan describes his approach as a quiet confidence.
“No one wants to know you know everything,” he said.
That was one lesson he learned quickly during the recession: he thought he already knew what he needed to know after years of experience, but that wasn’t the case, Heuchan said. The recession lasted years longer than he had thought, and got way worse than he thought, he said.
“The best thing I am is mediocre. I’m not great at a lot of things, but I do OK,” he said.
When a potential customer comes to him, he doesn’t turn the conversation into a sales pitch. Instead, he gives what he calls disinterested advice, saying he will help them in any way he can, if they want him to, he said.
And he hasn’t let technology make him impersonal, he said. He stills signs everything by hand.
Heuchan has always remained approachable, friends and colleagues said.
That is something Coffey has learned from Heuchan: to be accessible.
“You can’t go see the president of a big regional bank, but you can come in here and ask to see Bob or me,” he said.
Coffey is honored to be given the opportunity to lead the bank, which has only had nine presidents in its 127-year history. He wants to continue helping the community the same way Mutual Savings has for years, he said.
“We have a great staff, we’ve got a lot of great momentum. I don’t know there needs to be a lot of changing course,” Coffey said.
Name: Bob Heuchan
Family: Wife, Paula; children David, Amy, Kyle and Jessica; six grandchildren
Education: Franklin Community High School graduate; bachelor’s degrees in business and economics from Franklin College; master’s in business administration from the University of Indianapolis
Job: Retiring at the end of the year as president and chief executive officer of Mutual Savings Bank
Local involvement: Franklin city council, Franklin redevelopment commission, Franklin Rotary Club, past president of Franklin Chamber of Commerce board, Franklin College adjunct professor and past alumni council president, active in various Masonic organizations, including the board of Compass Park