Virginia Banker and Nebraska Attorney Receive Top Ag Banking Awards

Virginia Banker and Nebraska Attorney Receive Top Ag Banking Awards


The American Bankers Association today announced the recipients of its annual Bruning and Blanchfield Awards, the association’s premier awards presented for significant contributions to agricultural banking. ABA will honor Keith Phillips, senior vice president and ag division supervisor, First Bank and Trust Company based in Lebanon, Va., with the Bruning Award and Steven Turner, an attorney with Baird Holm LLP, with the Blanchfield Award at the ABA Agricultural Bankers Conference, Nov. 6-9 at CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb..

Bruning Award

J. Keith Philips is this year’s recipient of ABA’s Bruning Award, which recognizes the lifetime achievement of agricultural bankers for their leadership and outstanding dedication to providing credit and financial guidance to farmers, ranchers and businesses in rural America. Named after its first recipient, Nebraska banker Frank Bruning, the Bruning Award is now in its 25th year.

“We are pleased to present the 25th annual Bruning Award to a highly deserving banker like Keith,” said Ed Elfmann, senior vice president, agricultural and rural banking policy at ABA. “He is the epitome of a successful ag banker and community leader who has never wavered in his lifelong commitment to agriculture.”

“Receiving this award is certainly a highlight of my career,” said Philips. “I stumbled into ag lending early in my professional life and now, as our bank’s ag lending program has grown, I get so much satisfaction in helping the next generation of ag lenders develop their skillset and their ability to help producers in our region.”

Philips’ career in banking began in 1977 as an agribusiness officer with Rockingham National Bank. Since then, he has remained focused on agricultural and commercial lending. In 2001, Philips joined First Bank & Trust Company to lead the bank’s efforts to establish an agricultural lending division. He has grown the bank’s agricultural lending portfolio from $10 million in 2001 to more than $634 million today. Now, as senior vice president and manager of the agricultural lending division at First Bank & Trust Company, he oversees the agricultural lending activity of the bank’s primary markets of Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina and manages a team of 28 lenders. Under his leadership, the bank’s agricultural lending division is now the fourth largest in the nation among ag banks and 30th among all U.S. commercial banks. Despite only having physical locations in three states, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, First Bank & Trust Company has been named a Farm Service Agency guaranteed lender in seven states including Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and West Virginia.

Phillips has served in various leadership positions on committees, programs and initiatives at ABA and various state and federal lending programs. He has volunteered his time and expertise to educate Federal Reserve staff and students in colleges and universities in Virginia. Throughout his career, he has supported 4-H and Future Farmers of America youth programs and collaborated with leading agricultural industry groups to provide monetary scholarships and human resource support to various educational and service programs. Phillips also mentors young bankers with an interest in agricultural lending, helping to develop the industry’s next generation of leaders.

“Agriculture is cyclical,” said Phillips. “The same challenges that we’ve always had will continue to be present. What’s changing is the technology, and the next generation of ag lenders are going to be critical to working efficiently and overcoming those challenges.”

Phillips is a native of Augusta County, Va., and has been involved in various forms of production agriculture throughout his life. He earned a B.S. in Animal Science from Virginia Tech. Phillips currently resides in Virginia with his wife of 41 years, Lee. They have two children, Koree and Josh.

Blanchfield Award 

The ABA Blanchfield Award, named in honor of former senior vice president of ABA’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Banking John Blanchfield, recognizes the contributions of a non-banker who has made significant contributions to the advancement of agricultural lending.

Steven Turner

This year’s recipient, Steven Turner, is a celebrated attorney whose areas of focus include commercial and agricultural financing transactions.

“Winning this award is a significant honor for me,” said Turner. “Over the years, I’ve become good friends with John Blanchfield, so it certainly makes it more meaningful to receive an award named after him.”

Turner, who has been an attorney with Baird Holm LLP for more than 40 years, is an active member of the legal community. He is a member of the American Bankruptcy Institute and has served on its board of directors and is past chair of its Uniform Commercial Code Committee. He is a fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy and a member of the Nebraska State Bar Association. Turner is also active with the American Bar Association and has served on its Uniform Commercial Code Committee, Commercial Financial Services Committee, Subcommittee on Agricultural and Agri-Business Finance (former chairperson from 1987 to 1994) and the Task Force on Revision to Article 9 of the UCC Relating to Agricultural Financing (chair).

Turner attributed much of his firm’s success in the agricultural finance space to a strong familiarity with agriculture. “As a firm based in Omaha, we naturally have a deep understanding of agriculture and the unique needs of our clients and their customers,” said Turner.

Turner has been widely recognized throughout his career. He is included in the Great Plains Super Lawyers 2013 list for his work in banking law, and every year since 1989, Turner has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America in the fields of banking and finance law, bankruptcy and creditor-debtor rights law and financial service regulation law. He is listed in Chambers USA, America’s Leading Lawyers for Business for his work in financial transactions. In 2009, Turner was designated by Best Lawyers in America as the Banking Law Lawyer of the Year and in 2011 as the Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law Lawyer of the Year.

From 1985 to 1990, Turner was an adjunct professor of law of bankruptcy and reorganization for Creighton University School of Law. He has served as an instructor for the American Bankers Association School for Agricultural Bankers and the Agricultural Lenders Institute in Fresno, Calif. for the past 15 years.
Turner and his wife of 47 years, Maureen, have 4 children and 4 grandchildren.

The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $23.7 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ more than 2 million people, safeguard $19.6 trillion in deposits and extend $11.8 trillion in loans.

Since 1997, the Bruning Award, named after its first recipient, Nebraska banker Frank Bruning, recognizes bankers that demonstrate outstanding leadership and dedicated service to providing credit and guidance to farmers, ranchers and their fellow agricultural bankers.

Established in 2015 in honor of John Blanchfield, former senior vice president of ABA’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Banking, the Blanchfield Award recognizes agricultural professionals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of agricultural lending.

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