Swets Cultivates Banking Roots

    HOLLAND — He had never held a particular interest in finance.

    During his early college semesters, like many students, Jon Swets was “bouncing around, not sure what I wanted to do.” Then he took an entry-level accounting class.

    The course opened his eyes to a career path.

    “I realized I kind of liked this stuff,” said Swets, who went on to earn a degree in accounting in 1987 from Calvin College and pursue a career in finance.

    The allure of his career choice, he said, is the professional challenge of analyzing and making sense of numbers and how they relate to what a business wants to do.

    “It’s the intrigue of finding the right way to do things from a financial perspective,” Swets said. “I’ve always felt confident and comfortable that I can pick through stuff and sort out what the best solution is.”

    The Grand Rapids native took the next step in his career this month when he joined Holland-based Macatawa Bank Corp. as a senior vice president and chief financial officer.

    Swets was recruited to Macatawa Bank Corp from the Grand Rapids office of accounting firm Crowe Chizek, where he worked for a year as partner in the banking practice. While Swets wasn’t looking to make a move, returning to a bank provided him a professional opportunity to again do the type of financial management he enjoyed and become part of the senior management team at a rapidly growing organization.

    In a little more than four years, Macatawa Bank has become one of the market leaders in Ottawa County and, with its recent acquisition of Grand Bank, looks to make further inroads into Kent County.

    When he was contacted about joining Macatawa Bank, Swets stepped back and began reflecting over which area of the business he liked — serving as an analyst and consultant to banks through his partnership at Crowe Chizek, or working as a chief financial officer at a bank.

    “As I stacked the two up, I realized my interests lined up really well with that CFO’s role, and Macatawa is just flying,” Swets said. “There’s a lot of fun things to do in a CFO’s job at a bank that’s growing this fast.

    “It’s an organization on the move,” he said.

    The move to Macatawa marks Swets’ return to Holland as a finance chief for a locally based bank. He spent more than four years as chief financial officer at the former Ottawa Financial Corp., the holding company of AmeriBank, which Fifth Third Bank acquired in late 2000.

    Swets left Fifth Third shortly after the acquisition and returned to Crowe Chizek in Grand Rapids, where he had begun his career years earlier, following his graduation from Calvin College. His first stint with the accounting firm was in the banking practice, where he worked for nine years.

    He joined Ottawa Financial Corp. just after its 1995 merger with AmeriBank of Muskegon, which doubled the corporation’s size. He left the position after AmeriBank was bought by Fifth Third because “I’d just be one small part of a huge, huge puzzle.”

    Returning to Crowe Chizek, Swets became a partner in the banking practice and welcomed an opportunity to take on a new leadership role where he helped to guide the organization. When Macatawa Bank Corp. CEO Ben Smith came calling last March, Swets saw an even greater opportunity to play a role in managing a company and helping to guide it into the future.

    Rather than work with a bank from an outside consulting position, he could become part of it, Swets said.

    “I can participate and partake and see the results,” Swets said. “There’s a lot more sense of accomplishment from the inside. 

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