U.S. Bank CEO Andy Cecere '82

Paying It Forward: How U.S. Bank CEO Andy Cecere ’82 Leads With Compassion

When a personally addressed email from U.S. Bank CEO Andy Cecere arrived in DeAmonte Block’s inbox his second month at his new job as an internal auditor at the bank, Block couldn’t believe it.

St. Thomas alumnus DeAmonte Block '22 now works at U.S. Bank.

“I was very surprised,” Block said. “I thought it was spam.”

Although there are many CEOs who send well-crafted welcome messages to new employees, most of those emails tend to be formulaic. Cecere’s message to Block was different. It reflected one St. Thomas alumnus helping another Tommie feel seen despite the hierarchical difference in the office and the 40-year span between their graduation dates – Cecere in 1982 and Block in 2022.

The two men have more in common than their alma mater and workplace. For one, they both were first-generation college students who spent several of their youthful years assisting their entrepreneurial parents. In high school, Block did odd jobs for his dad who worked in carpentry and construction. Whereas at the end of Cecere’s school days, he’d wait tables at Vincenzo’s Italian restaurant owned by his parents, uncle and aunt.

The two Tommies also share a deep appreciation for the Dougherty Family College, the two-year degree program on St. Thomas’ Minneapolis campus that sits a half-mile from U.S. Bank’s headquarters on 8th St. and Nicollet Mall. Block received his associate degree from DFC before transitioning to the St. Paul campus for a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Cecere, who also received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from St. Thomas, along with an accounting degree, has been an ardent supporter of DFC since it opened its doors in 2017. 

“I have a real soft spot in my heart for the Dougherty Family College, which is all about first-generation students,” said Cecere, who sits on the St. Thomas Board of Trustees and is the oldest of three brothers and the first in his family to graduate high school. “I recognize how darn hard it is when you don’t have a path that’s been traveled before.”

U.S. Bank CEO Andy Cecere

I try to pay it forward; to give opportunities to individuals who are also first-generation because I’ve been down that path.”

Andy Cecere '82
St. thomas Trustee

Cecere’s dad, Joe, whose given name was Giuseppe, finished his formal education at third grade. Raised in a Catholic family near Naples, Italy, the elder Cecere courageously set off alone to join a brother in America when he was only 12 years old. Joe’s 2015 obituary in the Star Tribune reveals he made his way to Chicago in 1952 after landing at Ellis Island.

Cecere’s mom Maria, who is still living in Mounds View, the St. Paul suburb near where Cecere graduated high school, also immigrated from Italy to Chicago, where she met Joe, by then a baker’s apprentice. They married in 1959. Cecere and his siblings, Dominic and Joe, were born in Chicago.

Creating opportunities for the next generation

The family moved to Minnesota in 1976. Andy Cecere was 17 years old then.

“My parents believed in making sure we had a good education,” Cecere said. And that’s what drives his goal of supporting scholarships and internships for Dougherty Family College scholars. “I try to pay it forward; to give opportunities to individuals who are also first-generation because I’ve been down that path.” 

Dr. Buffy Smith, dean of Dougherty Family College
Dr. Buffy Smith, dean of Dougherty Family College
Brandon Woller '17 / University of St. Thomas

About 80% of DFC scholars are first-generation students, many of them the children of immigrants.

“Andy Cecere is a great friend and supporter of Dougherty Family College,” said DFC Dean Buffy Smith. “Andy and his beloved wife Kathleen personally have established endowed scholarships for Dougherty Family College scholars. On a corporate level, U.S. Bank has been a partner of our internship program since the inception of the college, and hires several DFC scholars as interns each year.”

DeAmonte Block began his U.S. Bank journey in 2018 through a DFC internship connection. He was the first of two DFC alumni to obtain full-time employment at U.S Bank. In fact, U.S. Bank is a top five employer of St. Thomas alumni; there are more than 600 alumni among its ranks.

“Every other summer, I would do an internship at U.S. Bank and that went on until I received my bachelor’s,” Block said. 

The internships were an opportunity to learn many aspects of the company. He started in appraisal services and then jumped to HR and regulatory compliance and then wealth management. He had a permanent job offer in hand from the corporate audit services division before commencement.

“Every time there was a career fair on campus, I saw U.S. Bank there,” Block said. “I applied to three different areas. I wanted to go to work at U.S. Bank because I had been there for so long; it felt like home.”

Cecere’s email to Block reinforced that feeling. The message was brief, but impactful. 

Andy Cecere, president of U.S. Bank, speaks at a First Friday event November 4, 2016 in the Anderson Student Center's Woulfe Alumni Hall.
U.S. Bank CEO and St. Thomas trustee Andy Cecere ’82 speaks at a First Friday event Nov. 4, 2016, in the Anderson Student Center’s James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall.
Mike Ekern / University of St. Thomas

Others who know Cecere can attest that he is a man of few words, but he chooses them wisely. Recruited to the Board of Trustees in 2017, he is described as smart, intentional and genuine. 

“Andy brings a laser focus to solving problems and he has always leaned in when it comes to helping push St. Thomas forward in a challenging higher ed market,” said St. Thomas President Rob Vischer. “He is a consistent source of wise counsel that is perfectly tailored to the situation at hand.”

Chance encounters and career transformations

Serendipitously, Cecere, who has spent basically his entire career – 38 years – working at U.S. Bank, may not have become its chairman and CEO, and previously its chief operating officer and chief financial officer, if it were not for St. Thomas.

“I graduated from high school and I had no plans to go to college,” he said. Then one day when he was waiting on tables at his parents’ restaurant, two priests from St. Thomas were his customers.

One of the priests said to Cecere, “Where are you going to college?” And Cecere replied, “You know, I don’t know. I hadn't thought about it.” Then, “one thing led to another; a connection occurred, and I ended up at St. Thomas. So just pure luck.”

Andy Cecere '82 talks with Father Dease
U.S. Bank CEO Andy Cecere, a St. Thomas alumnus who sits on the Board of Trustees, chats with President Emeritus Father Dennis Dease (right) during a First Friday event Nov. 4, 2016, in the Anderson Student Center’s James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall.
Mike Ekern / University of St. Thomas

Another St. Thomas alumnus who works at U.S. Bank also can chalk up his educational journey and career path to a chance encounter.

“If I had not met Andy Cecere or had early involvement with U.S. Bank, I don’t think I would have considered a career at U.S. Bank,” responded Vincent Hyde, who in 2013 received a degree from the Opus College of Business in business administration-financial management. He was first introduced to Cecere at a lecture for the strategic finance course taught by clinical faculty Jim Shovein. 

“Andy portrayed himself as a humble, disciplined, friendly and relaxed professional,” Hyde added. The two bonded that day. Cecere subsequently invited Hyde to consider applying for a job at U.S Bank. After Hyde started working at the bank, Cecere said they would get together for lunch quarterly. 

“Andy has safeguarded the most valuable assets of the bank: its employees and customers,” Hyde added. “I appreciate his frequent messages to all employees discussing his thoughts and perspective of external events shaping the bank.”

Andy Cecere '82, St. Thomas yearbook photo

Beyond banking

Cecere, who played intramural sports at St. Thomas and was a member of Alpha Lambda Phi, a social fraternity with a business focus, constantly advises students and employees about the importance of connections, including with one’s alma mater.

U.S. Bank has a strong, longtime connection with St. Thomas. He pointed out that several U.S. Bank CFOs have been Tommies. They include his successor, Terry Dolan, and current CFO John Stern, a St. Thomas MBA graduate who took the reins in September 2023. “I think it’s quite interesting that three CFOs of U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest bank in the country, are St. Thomas graduates,” Cecere said.

When Cecere started at the bank in 1985 after a few years post-graduation as a financial analyst at Control Data Corp, the bank, then named First Bank System, had $20 billion in assets. Today, it has $650 billion in assets and $24 billion in annual revenue, sitting at No. 150 on the Fortune 500. There are 2,000 U.S. Bank branches in 26 states and more than 70,000 employees in 13 countries. 

U.S. Bank has received numerous accolades, including being named one of Forbes’ World’s Best Employers, one of LinkedIn’s 50 best workplaces to grow your career, and a Diversity Inc.’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity. The bank also received the highest score in California in the J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study.

Cecere and the bank are committed to helping consumers understand and grow their financial wealth.

In 2023, U.S. Bank and St. Thomas partnered to provide financial services and education support for students, faculty, staff and alumni. In addition to scholarships, U.S. Bank has provided an in-resident goals coach to help the Tommie community reach their goals, whether it’s financial planning, career outlook or growing their family.

U.S. Bank - St. Thomas partnership launch week in ASC
Students, faculty and staff share a goal and grab a treat during the U.S. Bank-St. Thomas partnership launch week in the Center for Student Achievement on Feb. 12, 2024, in St. Paul.
Brandon Woller / University of St. Thomas

“If you think about anything that you want to do as an individual or as a business or as a large company, typically, there’s something financially oriented around it that helps you meet those objectives,” Cecere said. “So, to the extent we can help facilitate, educate, make real the dreams that you have because of the financial processes, resources or financial education, it helps people achieve their objectives and goals.” 

He added, “I have a lot of friends who are doctors and it’s interesting how important financial education is to them. They’re tremendously smart people; super successful, but all of them have a need from a financial education standpoint, so they often get expertise from their accountants or financial advisors. But having that understanding, I think, it’s tremendously valuable.”

US Bank St. Thomas Partnership Launch Week
U.S. Bank employees provide services to St. Thomas students during a week of partnership launch activities between the bank and the university, in St. Paul. Below, CEO Andy Cecere stops by the displays on Feb. 15, 2024.

Several faculty and staff at St. Thomas have lauded the value of the educational and career opportunities U.S. Bank has provided for students through the years. One aspect that stands out, however, is the servant leadership and the element of care Cecere brings to the table.  

“One moment I will never forget is when Andy asked me for the phone number of another DFC U.S. Bank intern who won the prestigious DFC Excellence Scholarship,” Dean Buffy Smith said. “Andy wanted to personally congratulate the scholar on this major academic achievement. It was at that moment that I witnessed what it means to be a CEO who leads with care and compassion. Andy is in a league of his own.”