“I’m sold to the bottom of my shoes that credit can do something that nothing else can do. It helps you fulfill the dream of the person who wants to borrow.”

The Dream Makers: Jay Dunlap and the Growth of Union Bank & Trust

Published 2023

It was 1964 when Jay Dunlap and his family bought a controlling interest in Union Bank & Trust. In those days, the bank had just under $10 million in assets and employed 15 to 20 people. Flash forward to the 2020s, and UBT now shows bank assets of $7 billion and trust assets of more than $40 billion at market value. The bank has expanded its geographical footprint and added diverse new product lines, such as fleet financing for trucking and church lending.

Through sound fiscal management, calculated risk, and entrepreneurial spirit, UBT has seized on opportunities when the timing was right. That’s the Dunlap way, and it’s become the UBT way. Always be mindful of the customer, the stockholder, and the employee. Faith. Family. Friends. Work. In that order.

And, of course, don’t bet the bank.

A peek inside

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The bank wasn’t tiny, but it wasn’t large, at least not large enough to sustain repeated fraud. Bringing in a banker—and honest-to-goodness, real-live banker—seemed long overdue. So the owners of Union Bank and Trust turned to one of the region’s most trusted names in the industry.

Union Bank and Trust would never be the same.

When you enlisted Jay Dunlap—or any of the Dunlaps—to run your bank in the 1950s and 60s, there was potential for the whole family to get involved. They were the ultimate package deal.

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The trustees were scared. They had reason to worry. You might even wonder why they hadn’t acted sooner. The bank was losing money, lots of it, and something had to be done.

Finally, someone had enough sense to suggest, “We’ve got to bring a banker in.”

It was 1964, and a check-kiting scheme had enveloped Union Bank and Trust of Lincoln, Nebraska. The trouble had lasted awhile, at least as far back as 1963. The bank had a customer who was suspected of kiting checks, yet nobody had done anything to stop him.

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Maynard soon found work at a bank in Douglas, Nebraska, a little town of less than 200, located 35 miles southeast of Lincoln, the state’s capital. The bank in Douglas—called Farmers State Bank—was owned by two aging bachelors, and Dunlap was just the sort of young fella they wanted to help with operations. Soon, Maynard was running the bank, and in little time the bachelors allowed him to buy into the business and become their partner. Maynard recognized immediately that these men were good partners. However, the bank was far from cutting edge. It didn’t even have a machine to post the accounts, so everything had to be posted by hand each day. That and numerous other tasks were all done the old-fashioned way. Every night, Dunlap would complete every customer’s ledger by hand.

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There was Maynard Dunlap, the patriarch, who had come up in the industry during the Great Depression, learning how to make a go of it when times were hard. As a high schooler, Maynard had worked part-time at the bank in Tecumseh, Nebraska. He left for the armed services during World War I, but when his duties had finished he returned to Tecumseh and got rehired in the same bank, only to get fired from the job in the early 1920s, likely due to difficult economic conditions.

“Times were tough,” said one of his sons. “He never forgot being fired. The owner had to cut the staff, and that was it.”

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That brings us to Maynard’s sons: Allen, Paul, Jay, and Don. They were classic, All-American boys, who loved playing sports and were always willing to help local farmers part-time in the summer. They ventured out of Douglas only on rare occasions, and those were usually to attend a sporting event in another nearby small town, 10 or 20 miles down the road. Once or twice a year they would trek to Lincoln, and those trips were special events, often highlighted by a visit to Kresge’s, near 13th and O Streets, where they could eat hot donuts.

The Dunlap boys learned the banking business from the inside-out, just like their father.

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He worked nights for a long time until they finally broke down and bought a posting machine. Somehow, even in the heart of the Great Depression, Maynard found a way to make a living on just $50,000 in bank deposits, thanks mostly to his entrepreneurial spirit. He supplemented his daily wage by settling debts during the Depression. In the days when people had little, if any, extra cash on hand, Maynard would approach banks and creditors on behalf of common folks and settle their debts, based on whatever they could actually pay. He took a small cut for his role, and he saved that money, which helped him buy into the Douglas bank. He also dealt in farm land for a time. It’s true: Maynard Dunlap knew how to make a buck. But he had to. He had a large family.

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The episode taught the boys about the sometimes-cold realities in the life of a working man, but early on they also developed an appreciation for the financial sector. In particular, they learned that a bank could be a person’s best friend in a time of need.

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As teenagers, the boys would go down to the bank in Douglas and help Maynard post the books every night. This arrangement went smoothly, at least until a couple of them got up the nerve to complain to their father about their wages. Maynard fired the boys on the spot. When they went home and told their mother Helen about what had happened, she made them go back and beg for their jobs. Maynard heard their plea and rehired them—at a lower wage than before.

“I was in high school,” recalled Jay Dunlap, a twin to brother Paul. “I should have known better.”

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Words from the client

“I must tell you, we love the book! It turned out great. What I like the most is the “tone” of the book. It sounds like us, and that was very important to me. In all honesty, people love it! The best part is my parents love it!”

– Angie Muhleisen, Union Bank & Trust

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