Cover Photo: Fall 2023 Chairman Cover Photo and Convention Photography provided by Erin Hurst, Erin Hurst Photography | Lewisburg, WV (www.erinhurstphotography.com)
Tom Whaling has over 30 years of financial expertise and is a very active member of WVBA and numerous charitable organizations. He is the President and CEO of West Union Bank and is the 2023-2024 WVBA Chairman.
We recently had a chance to sit down with Tom and get to know more about him. We would like to thank him for his time. The following are excerpts from our conversation.
How did you start your banking career?
In 1988, I was working as an internal auditor for the West Virginia Department of Highways and was going to school part-time at West Virginia University to get my MBA. After 13 months, I graduated and started looking for a job in the financial industry. I received and accepted a job offer from National Bank of Commerce Bank in Charleston, WV, and have been in banking ever since.
I started out as an accounting officer and then became CFO of two banks. Then, in 2006, I became President of West Union Bank, overseeing all banking operations. I still have that job today.
Are there any individuals who had a major impact on your career?
When I worked at Commerce Bank, the CFO, Rick Wolford, took me under his wing. He gave me some good advice that has served me my entire career: Don’t let your job get in the way of your personal life. He believed in giving a hard day’s work, but when you leave work, you need to take care of your personal life. There has to be a balance between the two.
At work, I try to be conscious and supportive of my employees’ needs. There are days when it is hard to leave home at home — children get sick or emergencies come up — we make due. We cannot hold our employees back from taking care of their families. I am proud of the caring and supportive atmosphere we have created in our bank.
Do you have a favorite memory or experience of your career?
Being elevated to the CEO position meant a lot to me. I have been able to build off of the work that my predecessors had done and grow our bank. We currently have five branches and have grown from $93,495,000 in Total Assets to over $253,000,000 since 2006.
What advice would you give emerging leaders in the banking industry?
Stay open to evolving career paths and wearing multiple hats, as they say. One day, you could be making a decision on a major expansion, and the next, you could be approving an overdraft. Banking is a great field with a lot of opportunities. There are so many things you learn and career paths that you can take that are rewarding both financially and professionally.
What is something about you that might surprise fellow bankers?
My wife and I spend a lot of time working in our yard and grilling in our outdoor kitchen. It’s a never-ending battle between new flower beds, mowing lawns and keeping the weeds out.
This past May, I completed my first seven-mile race, and I am happy to say that I didn’t finish last.
Tell us more about you, your family, interests, hobbies and charitable organizations.
I have been married to my wife, Martha, for 34 years. My stepdaughter and son-in-law have two children. They live in Austin, TX. We love spending time with our grandchildren. They are a special blessing in our lives.
We also like to travel. My wife and I have been on a couple of the Viking River Tours in Europe and will be traveling to Ireland this fall. Several times over the past six years, we have rented a sailboat with my siblings and have gone on week-long expeditions around the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. I am thankful that my family is so close-knit. I enjoy spending time with them. I also enjoy skiing.
I have been involved with the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and the Doddridge County Community Foundation, since 1999. I am the Vice Chairman this year. Through grants, we help support the arts, education, the environment, human services or health and community development in our region.
What advice would you give someone considering entering the banking industry?
Banking offers so many career paths, especially in commercial and residential lending. Working in the banking industry offers a great work/life balance. There is so much opportunity if you’re willing to consider the options and work hard.
What do you think will be some of the dominant trends within the banking industry in the next 5-10 years?
The expansion of fintech and technology within banking will become more prevalent, not necessarily from the customer-facing side of things but from the backroom standpoint. Unfortunately, I see consolidation coming due to needing to find new talent to move up and take over. It’s hard to get young talent to move to small, rural areas unless they are from there.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Overall, helping people. From helping customers meet their goals and dreams to assisting employees and helping them get on the right career path, it has all been very rewarding.
How long have you been active in the West Virginia Bankers Association?
I’ve been a member through the banks I’ve worked at since 1988. I have been an active board member since 2006.
Why is being a member of WVBA important?
As a collective group, WVBA does an amazing job advocating for our industry. It’s important that our voice is heard on legislative issues, and that couldn’t happen without strong members. There is power in numbers.
What are you looking forward to most as the WVBA Chairman?
I am looking forward to the whole experience, not just one thing. I hope this will be a quiet year, but I am prepared for whatever comes. I am humbled and thankful that I have this opportunity to serve.