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Crain named CEO of Bremer

By Staff | Dec 16, 2016


The new chief executive officer of Bremer Financial Corporation is a former Rugby resident.

Jeanne (Heilman) Crain was chosen to be the new CEO by Bremer’s board of directors on Nov. 14, succeeding outgoing CEO Pat Donovan.

Prior to becoming the CEO, Crain served as group president for Bremer Bank and CEO of Bremer’s Twin Cities Charter. She joined Bremer in May 2012.

Born in 1959 in New Rockford, Crain is the daughter of John and the late Harriet Heilman. She attended Little Flower Catholic School from first through sixth grade and was a 1978 graduate of Rugby High School. John was a watchmaker and owned Heilman’s Jewelry.

“Dad joked that he had built-in help,” said Crain, who was the sixth of eight kids: seven girls and one boy.

Crain credits the family business as the start of her foray into business and finance. She pursued a Bachelor’s degree at the University of North Dakota and entered the commercial loan trainee program at First Bank in Grand Forks. She stayed for five years, becoming a commercial lender.

Crain would soon get a “hunger” for more education, pursuing a Master’s degree at Marquette University and supporting herself by working at what would later become Bank One Milwaukee. She became the president and CEO of Marquette Capital Bank.

She would later move to the Twin Cities, where the person she worked for at Bank One also worked and became CEO at another bank. She and her future husband were deciding where to go when a job opportunity opened up.

“It’s maybe serendipity sometimes where life takes you,” Crain said.

She became the vice president of private and commercial banking for Excel Bank, and in 2007 became the leader of M&I/BMO Harris Bank’s Twin Cities banking division. She would then be president of the Minnesota region for two years.

For Crain, working with people, providing innovative client service, as well as ways to impact communities and help business growth has been a source of strength, the energy of which she said has kept her in the industry for over 30 years.

Crain cited a saying within the company “Be the Bremer culture and ready it for tomorrow” as a business strategy that resonated with her and as a driver for success. Crain said it means having the teams of employees be energized by what they do; pay attention to a changing world, customer needs and markets; and look where to find growth and ways to take care of clients.

“Our people are our brand,” Crain said. “We’re all partners in this.”

Earlier this year, Crain took the opportunity to go around the state to various operations, including a calving and grain operation near Devils Lake.

“[The operator] was absolutely passionate about what he did,” said Crain. “It gives [me] the energy to do what I do.”

In March, Crain also visited Rugby, where she took a stop at the renovated Little Flower Catholic Church. Crain recalls lighting a candle for her mother when a gentleman in the church at the time asked how her father was.

“It’s so precious, the environment,” Crain said of small towns such as Rugby, where everyone knows everyone. “[I was] not as incognito as I thought.”

The Bremer Financial Corporation includes Bremer Trust, investment services, insurance and two banking regions in North Dakota.

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