Katie Lorenson began her financial services career at 15, working at the bank in her hometown of Oklee. The northwestern Minnesota town wasn't far from the Grand Forks, N.D., headquarters of what is now Alerus Financial, which has rapidly expanded its Twin Cities presence in recent years.

Lorenson will come full circle with her promotion to president and chief executive at Alerus. In January, she will succeed long-time CEO Randy Newman, who will retain his role as board chairman in a transition the financial-services firm announced in September. Lorenson also will join the board.

Lorenson joined Alerus as chief financial officer in 2017, getting deeply involved in strategy and operations and leading its business segments — banking, retirement and benefit services, wealth management and mortgage.

In addition to spearheading Alerus' $60 million-plus initial public offering in 2019 and its listing on Nasdaq, Lorenson has worked closely with Newman on other major initiatives such as the firm's COVID-19 response and its entry into the Denver market through a recent acquisition.

Alerus' net income grew 51% to a record $44.7 million in 2020, and the company also received an all-time high of nearly 90% favorable responses on its employee engagement survey.

As CEO, Lorenson hopes to build on the momentum of the past few years, continuing both organic growth and the acquisition strategy the company has had since 2002.

"Our growth has been tremendous over the past several decades," Lorenson said. "Twenty-four acquisitions as well as entering new growth markets and most recently incredible success keeping and retaining our talent as well as acquiring other talent."

She said it has been "exciting and very humbling for all of us on the leadership team" through the past few years. The mix of offerings and Alerus' focus on customers rather than products and transactions, she said, have positioned the firm for continued success.

"It is what makes Alerus a strong performer today but a thriver into the future," Lorenson said. "This is a consolidating industry, and without a business model and a diversified array of solutions to offer clients to truly be their partner and help them grow their business or help them get to a place of financial success, I believe that that's what separates the survivors and the thrivers in this industry from those that will have to sell."

Lorenson is the first woman to serve as CEO at Alerus, although currently three of the five C-suite positions, including Lorenson's, are held by women and the leadership team as a whole is evenly split as far as gender.

Minnesota, with six Alerus locations, accounted for nearly 32% of Alerus' $2.7 billion in deposits, 90% of its mortgage originations and nearly half of its loans as of June 30. The firm expanded its Small Business Administration lending efforts in May, adding a Twin Cities-based five-person team with more than 100 years of combined experience.

Alerus, which also has locations in Arizona, acquired a retirement planning services firm in the Denver area as part of a growth strategy focused on national expansion and continuing to offer diversified financial services.

"We certainly intend to replicate what we've done here in the Twin Cities in that [Denver] market, albeit at a strategic and measured pace," Lorenson said.

Lorenson previously was chief financial officer for Central Bancshares and MidWestOne Financial Group, which acquired Central Bancshares in 2015. Before that, she was a manager on the financial institutions team of what is now RSM.

Her predecessor, Newman, joined First National Bank North Dakota in 1981, becoming president in 1987 and chief executive in 1995.

For Lorenson, a financial services career was inevitable after her positive work experience at her hometown bank, where her mother worked part-time.

"In communities of that size or small communities, the bank is an incredible partner in all things — the schools, the businesses — and that really resonated with me," Lorenson said. "That has driven my interest in the sector from the beginning."

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is todd_nelson@mac.com.