When asked about his current position, Eddie Steiner smiles and sums it up in four words: “I’m an accidental banker.”
After graduating from the University of Akron as a nontraditional student with a family, he spent two years with one of the Big Four (at that time the Big Eight) accounting firms. That experience is what led Richard Smucker to recruit Steiner to join J.M. Smucker Company, where he spent four years working primarily in corporate purchasing. Next, he moved to SmithFoods, a dairy products company, and spent 17 years in senior management.
In 2001, while at SmithFoods, Steiner was named to the board of the Commercial & Savings Bank (CSB), a community bank headquartered in Millersburg, Ohio. In 2006, he was named the bank’s executive chair.
Steiner’s is not a typical path, but it’s one that reveals his willingness to take on new opportunities and challenges that come his way, whether planned or not.
“I’ve had a richness of exposure and the good fortune of working with some very remarkable people due to events that had almost nothing to do with me,” he says. “We learn to appreciate such blessings only with time.”
His foray into banking began with a phone call. Not for him, but for his boss at the dairy. Steiner just happened to be the middleman. The caller was interested in having the dairy’s CEO join a community bank board of directors, and Steiner was asked to arrange a meeting between his boss and a member of the bank’s nominating committee. His boss, though, recognized Steiner’s leadership qualities and told the caller that Steiner would be a better director than he would be.
Ultimately, it was Steiner who fielded the next call and, after a few more discussions, accepted the bank board position. When the bank’s CEO left to run another bank, the board moved Steiner into the top spot.
“There are a lot of similarities between milk and money,” he began to realize. “For example, banks are highly regulated. In the dairy, I had a regulator in the plant every day. It might have been the US Food and Drug Administration or the Ohio Department of Agriculture, among others.”
Additionally, his new and former businesses both operated in mature industries that were heavy on competition and challenged by innovations in technology and relatively low margins. Steiner found that familiarity with such conditions helped make his transition easier.
Accident or not, he loves being part of a community bank.
“We don’t have the geographic reach [that a large, regional commercial bank does], but in our primary market area, we personally know the individuals, business owners, and government officials for whom we serve as financial stewards and partners for their funding needs,” he says.
“[Our clients] are in our community. We can’t hide from them and wouldn’t want to. If we make a loan on Tuesday, Wednesday night we may be sitting at the same table working on some volunteer effort together.”
Although he fell into the banking profession, Steiner came aboard the Federal Reserve purposefully.
He was working late one night in January 2011 when he spotted a news article that reported that each of the 12 Reserve Banks would soon be forming a Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council, or CDIAC. He immediately emailed a note to his contact in bank supervision at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland to find out more about the council. It turned out the Fed was looking for local representatives of banks, thrift institutions, and credit unions across all 12 Reserve Bank Districts. He was interested in being a part of this new group that would provide input on the economy, lending conditions, and other banking and financial issues.
Later that spring, Steiner assumed his role as a member of the CDIAC for the Fourth District, the Cleveland Reserve Bank’s service region that includes all of Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.
Annually, one member from each of the Federal Reserve CDIACs is selected to represent his or her district at two meetings with the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors in Washington DC. Steiner did so from 2013 through 2015.
“A deep appreciation of the Federal Reserve organization formed through my CDIAC experience,” he says. “The talented and insightful people I learned to know—economists, analysts, policy people, and regulatory people—were very committed. It was apparent their work was purpose-driven from a public service perspective.”
In January 2019, Steiner was elected a director to another Fed body, the Cleveland Fed’s board. He will serve a three-year term through December 31, 2021.
The Cleveland Fed, just like all the other Federal Reserve Banks, is overseen operationally and informed by their board directors, whose members regularly share industry trends and geographic perspectives that help Fed leadership understand how the economy is affecting various businesses and communities. These regional insights help inform national monetary policymaking.
Every board meeting typically starts with a current economic presentation followed by a round robin with all the directors.
“Each of the directors is asked to speak on what they are seeing,” Steiner explains. “The perspectives that come from an automotive manufacturer, an information systems company, a labor representative, and on and on, it just paints a picture of what different parts of this vast economy in the Fourth District are experiencing.
“The interesting thing is that many of the our viewpoints not only resonate with each other, but sync up, while a few are unique or special for that particular person’s region or industry,” he continues. “That type of nuanced dialogue helps inform the overall [monetary policy] process.”
The Bank’s leaders, he says, listen to the directors to “understand the driving factors in any emerging situation.”
In fact, he noted, President Loretta J. Mester specifically encourages all directors to call or email her with any observation or comment that they feel she needs to know. “She is asking, inviting, and building a richness of input with those types of invitations,” he says.
“I’m humbled and honored to be part of it,” Steiner concludes.
Steiner is passionate about his banking business, team, clients, and advisory role as a Fed director, but there is another side to him that most people may not know. He is a speed demon.
His “hot-rod stage” kept him busy after high school graduation and postponed his entry into college. One day, though, he decided it was time to give up the Mopar “muscle cars” to attend the University of Akron’s Wayne College in Orrville, Ohio.
His schedule circled around the clock—working full time for the first two years of school, then part time in the third year. During the day, he would be away at school or work while his wife was at home with their two young children. When he came home, she would go to work on third shift, so the couple could save money by not hiring a babysitter. By taking summer session classes, he earned his accounting degree in three years.
“It was a partnership getting me through that,” he says, crediting his wife of more than 43 years.
Steiner hasn’t given up his penchant for speed. These days, though, his hot rods have been replaced by a road bicycle. It’s “pedal power” that fuels his passion.
“I like going fast,” he says. “I like to ride.”
He not only likes going fast, but far. He usually rides a couple thousand miles a year. One day, Steiner and his son rode to all of CSB’s banking centers—a total of 177 miles.
He enjoys riding with his son, who got him interested in cycling to begin with. But he also appreciates the solo rides.
“It helps clear my mind,” he says.
The Cleveland Fed, one of the 12 Reserve Banks of the Federal Reserve System, is overseen operationally and informed by a board of directors, whose members regularly share industry trends and geographic perspectives that help the Federal Reserve understand how various business sectors and communities are experiencing the economy. These regional insights, in turn, help inform national monetary policymaking. The Cleveland Fed’s directors come from various backgrounds and experiences and hail from the district the Bank serves, which comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, the northern panhandle of West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky.
Read all 9 directors’ professional bios here.