Jul 23, 2020

A Light in the Darkness

Vikki Nielsen Spends Banking Career Serving Others

Early in her career, when Vikki Nielsen worked as a banker at Bell’s first location – in the Northport Shopping Center in Fargo – she received a phone call that would leave a lasting impression on her life.

One of her long-time customers died unexpectedly, and his wife called Vikki to ask for help. The widow had never written a check before and didn’t know how to pay her bills. Vikki taught her how to do both, and the client eventually became confident in managing her checkbook and finances.

When asked why she so selflessly goes out of her way to serve others, Vikki easily explains, “It’s always the right thing to do. In her darkest moments, this client knew that people cared and wanted her to be successful.”

Growing up the youngest of four daughters in a family with parents who instilled the importance of kindness, gratitude and humility, Vikki says her parents will always be her most important mentors. “Through their examples of integrity and goodness, we learned the most valuable lessons in life,” she notes.

A major part of how she lives her life, it’s no surprise that Vikki works in a career where “doing the right thing” is part of her job description.


Building a career of servant leadership

As a wealth and fiduciary advisor, Vikki asks many questions and listens carefully to her clients to help them find a plan to achieve their financial goals. Helping clients open investment and retirement accounts and transfer assets to Bell Bank Wealth Management, working in a fiduciary capacity means making recommendations that are in the customer’s best interest – always. Vikki works with clients’ tax advisors to navigate charitable giving strategies, estate planning attorneys to coordinate important legal documents, and she works closely with the beneficiaries of trust accounts. She also serves as a financial quarterback, in a sense, coordinating with her colleagues to bring together the strongest group of Bell professionals to handle private banking, investment and farm management, and financial, estate and tax planning for her clients.

You could say she’s been a servant leader throughout her 27-year banking career. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance from Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) in 1993, Vikki started at another bank, working as a personal banking officer at a branch located in a grocery store. It was an interesting experience, she says, because she “wore every hat,” working as a teller, opening accounts, handling loans – even coordinating marketing events such as turkey bowling in the grocery store to engage potential customers for the bank.

In June of 1996 – just 4 months before the birth of her first child – Vikki was hired at Bell Bank (then State Bank of Fargo). She considers it a strong testament to Bell’s values and culture that Richard Solberg (then president and now board chairman) hired her so close to when she would be going on maternity leave.

A few years later, Vikki filled the newly created teller coordinator position, where she had an opportunity to hire, train and coach the frontline staff. She loved her position, which she developed and worked in until the birth of her third child – when she opted to work for a bank closer to home while her children were younger. 

After working as a branch manager for a Barnesville, Minn., bank, where she oversaw 6 rural locations, Vikki was ready to return to Bell, and she joined the wealth management department as a trust officer, earning her Certified Trust and Financial Advisor designation from the Institute of Certified Bankers and Cannon Trust School.

“For me, it’s always been about people and relationships,” Vikki affirms. “I see what I do as an opportunity to serve and help others.”


‘Making the world a better place’

It was while working in wealth management in 2018 that Vikki received a Bell Value Award – our company’s highest honor – for providing unequaled personal service for a client. Employee-nominated, the awards honor those who excel in demonstrating our values of service and paying it forward.

After a client – who had been dealing with significant challenges following the loss of her spouse – was hospitalized and spent a long time in rehabilitative care after falling on the ice and breaking her pelvis, Vikki spent hours outside of work facilitating the client’s ability to recover at home with in-home caregiver assistance.

Without Vikki’s diligence in working with family members to screen, interview and engage home health care services and implement other safety measures, the client would have had to live in a care facility instead of in her own home as she preferred.

“Being recognized by my peers for simply doing the right thing for our client was deeply humbling,” Vikki comments. “I’m very grateful to work with the best team of colleagues who share the same goals of providing unequaled personal service to our wonderful clients.”

The following year, Vikki was surprised and honored to receive the Julie Peterson Klein Bell Culture Builder Award, given to employees who go out of their way to exemplify Bell’s values of creating a family atmosphere, providing unequaled service and paying it forward.

“I was honored to present Vikki with this award, and I'm even more honored to work with her,” remarks Julie, Bell’s EVP/chief culture officer, “I have known Vikki for over 30 years, and there is no one more deserving! Vikki truly cares about all people and is a huge contributor in making the world a better place. Vikki is kind, caring, looks for the best in others and has a huge pay-it-forward heart.”

Vikki has made it her mission to always be kind, because she says, “You never know what somebody is going through. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to work in a culture that celebrates and encourages employees to live each day with kindness, love and respect. I cannot help but feel incredibly blessed.”

It’s a value she and her husband have worked to instill in their children, too, by encouraging them to volunteer and give back to others. And as a family, they decide how to spend the money Bell gives employees each year to pay it forward to people and organizations in need.


Filling her pitcher

One of the most important things Vikki learned while in college did not come from any of her classes. A college mentor gave her a tiny ceramic pitcher, telling her that while she’s always pouring out of herself by staying positive and giving to others, to remember to do things that refill her pitcher. Thirty years later, she still keeps that symbol as a reminder that it is acceptable and necessary to take time to reenergize.

Vikki makes sure to fill her pitcher by doing things she enjoys, such as spending time with family and friends, appreciating the beauty of nature at their lake home, listening to music, reading motivational articles and books and staying connected with her faith.

In addition to serving on the board of the FM Coalition to End Homelessness, Vikki volunteers for the YWCA, MSUM Executive Mentorship program, and she’s a former co-chairwoman of the Barnesville Area Food Pantry.

“Happiness is a choice in life, but sometimes life can be challenging. I believe living with an attitude of gratitude can make the difficult times a little easier,” Vikki notes. “Sharing a smile with a friend or stranger might be the positive energy they need to find happiness in their own day – and that act of kindness just might fill your own pitcher, too.”

A Kindred, N.D., native, Vikki lives in Barnesville with her husband, Ryan, and their children, Megan, Emma and Jack.

For help figuring out your financial goals and making plans to achieve them, contact us to set up a meeting.

Vikki Nielsen

Vikki Nielsen, CTFA

VP | Wealth & Fiduciary Advisor