Heartland Bank is fortunate to have associates that are career bankers. They know what they want, they are confident in their positions, and they are committed to their clients. These associates usually have been placed in many roles within the banking industry over the years giving them the opportunity to know their niche. Associates like Sarah Hitchens, Heartland’s operations payment specialist, often join the Heartland family knowing exactly where they can make the greatest impact for themselves and the bank.
After 17 years in retail roles, Sarah was ready for new challenges. “My stepmom, Marlise, already worked at Heartland and offered to pass along my resume. I had decided at this point that I wanted to step out of the retail side of banking and really focus on the operations side of things. Afterall, operational accounting is what I studied in college, and this is where my true passion lies. A week after passing along my resume to Heartland, I was granted an interview with Alissa Griffith and Ben Babcanec. They offered me an assistant manager position in one of the branch offices, but I was determined that my next job in banking would be in operations. So, while I knew Heartland was a great opportunity, I declined the offer but asked them to keep me in mind if anything opened up in operations. One month later, I got a call from Alissa that the Production department had an opening! And the rest is my Heartland history.”
With two accreditations in her back pocket, Accredited ACH Professional (AAP) and National Check Professional (NCP), Sarah is the subject matter expert for ACH and check processing at Heartland. Her daily functions revolve around money movement, fraud prevention, fraud recovery and exception processing. Even though many back-office processes are automated, human intervention is often needed. “I deal directly with the Federal Reserve in making sure our daily check and ACH files get submitted, received, and processed in a timely manner. Additionally, any transaction that fails to post or process automatically is what is called an exception. I review all exceptions on a daily basis and either intervene to make corrections and allow entries to manually post, or I make sure items that don’t belong to Heartland get returned timely so that they can be re-routed to where they need to go. My production daily duties are almost all time-sensitive and fast-paced which keeps things exciting. But attention to detail and accuracy is also very important and must be a strong skill set for everyone in our department.”
According to James Duckro, operations manager at Heartland, “Sarah has been driving Heartland Bank’s effort to stay updated and knowledgeable in the rapidly changing payments segment. Her efforts have been instrumental in allowing us to prepare for new products and services that clients will require as the speed of payments continues to move faster.”
Sarah’s commitment to the client goes beyond daily duties and extends to work ethic and personal pride. She believes in service – going above-and-beyond for the client. “We work hard to find solutions for our clients and rarely accept anything other than satisfaction. If a policy or practice is no longer working for ourselves or our clients, we work hard to get it changed in a responsible way.” This dedication directly relates to her belief of maintaining an exceptional level of quality and excellence – “Doing what is right, whether anyone is paying attention or not.”
To maintain this level of service and enhance her capabilities at the bank, Sarah plans to study and sit for the Accredited Payments and Risk Professional (APRP) certification exam next year. Passing this will complete her “Trifecta” of certifications and provide the bank with a go-to person in the new world of faster, real-time payments. In addition, Sarah volunteers for the NCP prep “study buddy” program, thus keeping her knowledge and skills up-to-date and front-and-center.
With all her time commitments, it’s hard to believe that Sarah has much extra time, but she certainly does! “I love to kayak, hike, backpack, camp, and just about anything else that involves being outdoors. Some years it’s rough, but I try to have my kayak on the water at least six months out of the year.”
Let Heartland introduce you to some of our dedicated associates – contact us today to learn more about your local community bank’s dedicated bankers!