GRAND RAPIDS — Joe Manica’s first job at United Bank was building shelves in the basement as a teenager.
That was 24 years ago, before the dawn of the Digital Age fundamentally changed how the banking industry operated.
“When we still had a lot of paper files in the ’90s, before things went digital, we had rooms where we kept all of the loan files and we needed another block of shelving to be built, so that was my job when I was 15,” said Manica, who has gone from the basement all the way to the executive office of the bank his father previously ran.
The 39-year-old Manica took over July 1 as president and CEO at Grand Rapids-based United Bank. He succeeded his father, Mike Manica, who retired after nearly 40 years with the privately-owned bank.
Joe Manica holds an undergraduate business degree from the University of Michigan and an M.B.A. from the University of Notre Dame. After college, his first “adult job” with United Bank came in 2006 as a commercial loan officer, an area where he spent much of his career.
The leadership transition follows a succession plan that was put in place more than three years ago, said Manica, who describes having the opportunity to succeed his father as CEO as “a neat thing.”
“It’s cool. I’m really grateful to our ownership and board of directors that they’ve emphasized developing and promoting from within,” Manica said.
While United Bank “will always be refining and evolving,” Manica said there are no “massive changes” or “90-degree turns” planned with the leadership transition.
“My focus is really ensuring that we have the right people in the right jobs and making sure they have the tools to excel,” he said. “I spend a lot of time meeting with other employees, talking about what they are hearing from customers, how should we respond, what are the trends that they’re seeing. The people on the ground, they’re the ones that see the changes in the marketplace first.”
Prior to his promotion to president and CEO, Manica served for one year as the bank’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. Along with his appointment as bank CEO, he also was appointed as executive vice president and chief operating officer of parent company United Bank Financial Corp., succeeding his father in that position as well.
“We’re very fortunate to have Joe lead United Bank into our next phase of growth,” said United Bank Chairman Art Johnson. “I believe we are well positioned for supporting economic development with our experience and commitment of serving the diverse needs of our communities.”
United Bank has 12 offices in Kent, Allegan and Ottawa counties, and operates mortgage, wealth management and insurance divisions. As of midyear, the bank had a little more than $700 million in total assets, up from $629.5 million a year earlier.
Manica moved into the CEO role as United Bank enjoys continued growth in what he calls an increasingly competitive banking market in the metro Grand Rapids area.
“It’s really never been better. We’ve had record growth the last few years and it’s been entirely organic. We’re blessed to be part of the West Michigan economy,” said Manica, noting that the region’s prosperous economy brings with it higher competition in the market for banking.
“For every loan out there, there are three or four banks chasing it, so it’s incredibly competitive, which is just a reflection of a pretty strong West Michigan economy,” he said. “West Michigan’s a great place to be. There are also a lot of banks here, so you really have to be on your toes and be aware of what’s out there.”
United Bank last expanded its footprint in the fall with the opening of a branch office on Ionia Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. The bank “is always kind of looking” for new locations to further expand its branch network, although it has nothing planned right now.
Yet if “the right place comes up, we’re going to hop on it,” Manica said.