Bankers and accountants have a lot in common. Working with clients to navigate the numbers, organize the financials and decipher the deadlines, these individuals are sought-after experts in the financial world. At Heartland Bank, these two professions often meld into one creating associates with talents that fall just short of super-hero status – helping keep all systems in check. As Heartland’s controller, Aaron Cooke proudly wears this cape, but he draws the line at the tights!
Relying on his accounting education and banking experience to guide the accuracy of the financials and thus providing a strong foundation for the overall financial fitness of the entire institution, Aaron has a lot on his shoulders. “As controller at Heartland, I am involved in many different aspects of ensuring the accuracy of our financials. This includes things such as a review of transactions to make sure expenses are categorized correctly and accruing for various income and expense items so that they can be recognized in the proper time period. In addition, I work to structure the General Ledger so that the categories make sense for our business needs and allow our financial reporting team to easily pull reporting which can benefit the various lines of business. I also run the quarterly ALCO (Asset/Liability Committee) meeting and coordinate the annual budget process at Heartland which takes about 3 months each year and involves a combined effort from around 30 associates.”
Aaron started his career at Heartland as the assistant controller. With retirements and promotions above him, it wasn’t long, and he was promoted to controller. “Be open to change. Heartland is a growing company and with that comes change, whether it be in terms of products offered, procedures we have to follow to do our jobs, or even the coworkers you’re interacting with on a daily basis. Change can be scary, but it’s not a bad thing, and I’ve found here at Heartland there is always someone around willing to help you adapt to the changes that are constantly occurring at the bank.”
Positive changes have blessed Aaron’s career at Heartland, and the most recent was as a result of the bank’s first-ever acquisition. His department underwent some major changes, and he admits, “I am so proud of the entire accounting team and the way we pulled together to successfully accommodate the acquisition of Victory Community Bank into our financial reporting. We had to run two completely separate general ledger systems for a period of six months while also implementing a massive accounting system change and dealing with the impacts of COVID. Not only am I proud that we were successful in merging our reporting systems, but also in the way the team pulled together and went above and beyond to make everything work.”
Going above and beyond is a trait often recognized at Heartland Bank through a Quality and Excellence award given by associates to other associates who demonstrate their commitment to the bank’s Shared Values. In Aaron’s words, “Quality and Excellence means not being satisfied with ‘good enough’ and always going the extra mile to help out your customers or coworkers in whatever way possible even when it’s not directly part of your job duties just because it’s the right thing to do.” According to Heartland Bank's CFO Carrie Almendinger, "Aaron's attention for detail, sound judgement and consistent execution are key to our success at Heartland. He embodies the Heartland Shared Values of Quality and Excellence to ensure accuracy and mitigate risk. Aaron is a respected leader throughtout the bank, and I am thankful to have him on my team."
Aaron realizes that his behind-the-scenes role provides little opportunity to interact with clients, but he still embraces the fact that the impact of his actions and decisions reaches nearly every Heartland client. “At Heartland, we truly care about our customers and try to tailor our products and services to what will help us serve them best rather than just focusing on what is the most profitable.” Aaron also adds, “I would just like our clients to know how much work goes on behind the scenes in our operational departments in order to keep the bank running smoothly and that we are very aware that the end goal of all that work is to be able to provide our customers with the best banking experience possible.”
Born in Columbus, grew up in Upper Arlington and received a master’s degree in accounting from Ohio University, Aaron is an Ohio guy through and through but can’t wait to get back to traveling internationally. A visit to New Zealand is definitely next on his bucket list. He is also a competitive pinball player and established art collector. His wife, Mary, and cat, Milla, reside with him in Gahanna while his son and daughter, James and Valerie, attend colleges in Ohio.