James A. (“Ja”) Hillebrand ’91, Business Administration
CEO, Stock Yards Bancorp Inc. and Stock Yards Bank & Trust Co.
Ja Hillebrand is chief executive officer of Stock Yards Bancorp, Inc., which, with $3.4 billion in assets, is the parent company of Stock Yards Bank & Trust Company. Stock Yards Bank, which was established in 1904 in Louisville, now has 38 offices in the Louisville, Indianapolis and Cincinnati metropolitan markets and offers commercial banking, private banking, commercial real-estate lending, treasury management and securities services. Its mortgage group offers conventional, VA and FHA financing, as well as a program for low-income, first-time homebuyers. Stock Yards, a publicly traded company, also has a wealth management and trust group with more than $2.8 billion in assets under management. As CEO, Hillebrand leads 600 employees. He also serves on the board of directors of Downtown Development Corporation.
How did your Bellarmine education help prepare you for what you are doing today?
My fourth and final year in college was non-traditional, as I finished on nights and weekends to be able to take advantage of an opportunity to begin my career a year early. I may have missed out on some fun that year, but I would make the same decision again today. Bellarmine and its faculty helped prepare me not only for my first job but also taught me invaluable life skills. The ability to think for myself, analyze information and effectively express my ideas are all skills I continue to use today. Lastly, having capacity for lifelong learning is vital in all arenas of life.
What advice do you have for alumni or students interested in pursuing your profession?
My professional success has been determined by the passion I have for my industry. Helping others reach their financial goals can be complex, but that’s what is rewarding about our industry. Your degree will not make you successful. It prepares you. Your drive, ambition, talent and/or intellect will have the most impact. Whether it’s in financial services or another industry, daily execution creates long-term success. No matter how tall the ladder you are trying to climb, every ladder has more than one step. I have had great mentors throughout my life, and the best advice I can give is to listen to them. Not every piece of advice has been good. I learned as much from taking bad advice as I have taking good advice. Think for yourself—but if you haven’t listened to others along the way, expect poor outcomes.
What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am most proud that my career allows me to be invested in our community. Our company, Stock Yards Bank & Trust, and our employees are highly involved in the communities we serve. My parents were a living example of always giving back, and I am grateful that my accomplishments allow me to give meaningful time to several community organizations. I genuinely enjoy making an impact in the community that helped raise me.
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