The Beers Bankers

For some families, it’s common for one or two generations to follow the same career path. The Kennedys in politics and the Bernsteins in law are just a couple of examples.

But it’s very rare when five generations of the same family – dating back more than a century-and-a-half – choose the same profession.

Traverse City native Adams Beers is the fifth generation of his family to become a banker, dating back to 1856 when TC’s founding father Perry Hannah established the original Traverse City State Bank. Hannah and the Beers family are related through marriage.

“There’s something deeply rewarding about maintaining my family’s commitment to northern Michigan,” said Beers, a commercial banker at Fifth Third Bank. “The original Traverse City State Bank was established to help grow commerce in northern Michigan. Fast forward 158 years and I find myself carrying out the same objective.”

Traverse City was an energetic, growing community when Hannah launched his bank just three years before the Civil War. Traverse City State Bank was the largest in the region in terms of both capital and the size of loans made to local businesses. It was one of Hannah’s many successful business ventures, which also included the Hannah Lay Company, a grist mill, a shingle mill and a department store – which boasted it was “Dealers in Everything.”

Perry Hannah’s only son, Julius T. Hannah, ran the bank for several years before turning the reins over to Adam’s grandfather Julius H. “Jake” Beers, who served as bank president from 1952 to 1983. It was a time of dynamic growth and change in both the banking world and the Traverse City community.

Jake Beers died in 2002, and a year later the landmark Fifth Third Building, which presides regally over the corner of Front and Union streets, was formally dedicated to him for the critical role he played in developing both the bank and the local community.

Jake Beers’ sense of civic duty began early when he served as an infantry captain in World War II. He spent 25 years in the Army Reserves, retiring as a Lt. Colonel. An energetic supporter of his hometown, Beers served on a number of community boards, including the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Munson Medical Center, the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Traverse City Area Public Schools. He was a fixture in both the financial and community scenes.

At the 2003 building dedication, the presiding president and CEO of Fifth Third John Pelizzari spoke of Jake’s accomplishments. “He was a great man and a great leader,” said Pelizzari. “It is a great thing to be able to dedicate this to him.”

Adam Beers says it’s a thrill for him to work in the same building dedicated to his grandfather. “When I come in the building, it’s special,” said Adam. “It’s full of history. We have a number of historical photos and displays that remind us of our heritage.”

Jake’s son, Richard “Mack” Beers, followed in his footsteps in the banking business. He started at Traverse City State Bank in 1974 and stayed for 38 years, serving in several roles over the decades. He moved over to Northwestern Bank in 2012. When Northwestern became Chemical Bank in 2014, Mack continued in his role as a regional credit officer.

As an undergrad at the University of Michigan, Mack had no thoughts of becoming a banker. He earned an engineering degree and worked for a local hydraulic manufacturing firm after graduation. But that line of work didn’t appeal to him and he turned to his father for advice.

“He said if I was interested in going into banking I should get my MBA,” recalled Mack. “So I went to Eastern Michigan and got my MBA in ’73-’74.”

Mack said the family banking legacy factor did play a role in his decision to get into banking.

“I really wanted to try it and I’ve never been sorry,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Nephew Adam Beers is quick to credit his Uncle Mack for advising and helping him in his banking career. “I learned a lot from him,” he said.

Ironically, Adams Beers had another career in mind when he was studying economics and management at Albion College. He landed an internship at an options trading firm in Philadelphia. After graduation he was offered a job and enthusiastically entered that field in July 2001. Then 9-11 happened, his company got bought out and he was subsequently laid off.

In 2005 Adam and his wife, Allison, decided to settle in Traverse City and raise their children Anna and Jake.

“I never really set out to be a banker,” said Beers, now a commercial account manager at Fifth Third Bank. “But now I love it. I love helping people. You’re part of the community and you’re helping people grow their businesses and make their dreams come true. That’s very gratifying.”

Adam spent 14 years in the financial industry, doing financial analysis, sales, marketing and responsibilities before joining Fifth Third in 2005. He left the bank in 2008 to oversee the commercial credit department at The Bank of Northern Michigan, before returning to Fifth Third in the summer of 2014.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Adam back to the team,” said Dave Shooltz, who joined Fifth Third as community president, northern Michigan, last year. “Not only does he have an outstanding record of solving clients’ complex financial needs, but Adam understands northern Michigan’s business environment and is committed to helping the region grow.”