Ag Career Spotlight: Kent Rasmussen
October 9, 2017
Kent Rasmussen is closing the chapter on his agricultural finance career. After 40 years working as a lender for AXA Equitable AgriFinance in western South Dakota, the Montana native is retiring, but first, he's looking back on a rewarding career of helping farming and ranching families secure loans, expand their businesses and build their legacies for future generations.
"I grew up on a farm/ranch near Antelope, Montana, in the northeast corner of the state," said Rasmussen, who serves as the director of agrifinance for AXA Equitable. "I didn't know what I wanted to do when I grew up, but attending Montana State University really helped me decide where my interests were. Production is great, but we can't all run 1,000 head of cattle. The business side of agriculture really appealed to me because it's so expansive with an abundance of opportunities."
With an agricultural business degree, Rasmussen graduated and spent his first three years out of school working as a county extension agent at Broadus. An opportunity to work for First National Bank brought him to the Black Hills area, and he worked as an agricultural lender for four years.
In 1977, an opening at AXA Equitable AgriFinance in Rapid City became available. His predecessor was Oakley Lamphere, a World War II fighter pilot veteran who had spent 25 years in the position and is a well-known industry professional within the state of South Dakota. With big shoes to fill, Rasmussen accepted the position and began his work as an agricultural real estate lender.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, but attending Montana State University really helped me decide where my interests were.”– Kent Rasmussen –
"Kent and I started at AXA Equitable about the same time, so we were both fairly new to the company in the early days," said Rick Henderson, AXA Equitable president. "We were both at Montana State at the same time, as well, but didn't know each other well until this job. Kent has always been a quick study. He's smart and intense and fun too. He got into the mix of this business early on and was always very good at it."
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In the late 1970s, Rasmussen served as the chairman for the Black Hills Stock Show (BHSS), an opportunity, he says, that served him well in his career and helped him get to know the people in the area.
"My two years spent as chairman of BHSS allowed me to meet a lot of great people and get involved in the community," said Rasmussen. "This was back in the day where we struggled to keep BHSS going, before the show was in the Civic Center. It was a great experience, and I got to meet a lot of future clients and build contacts. It's been great to see how big the stock show has grown since those days; it used to be pretty cold attending the stock show at the fair grounds!"
Looking back on four decades of making loans in a five-state territory, Rasmussen is thankful for his wife, Jeanne, who supported him and his busy travel schedule.
"My wife has been awfully supportive over the years," said Rasmussen, who works with clients from Aberdeen, South Dakota, to Laramie, Wyoming and from Miles City, Montana, to Valentine, Nebraska. "The travel schedule got to be a lot at times, and I spent a lot of time on the road over the years. It's been an honor and a privilege to be able to travel such a wide area and visit so many great operations and see the progress they've made over the years."
"Kent has always been dedicated to the job," added Henderson. "His position required a lot of nights on the road to cover a large territory. He knew just about everybody in the region, even if we didn't have a loan with them!"
Henderson credits Rasmussen's attention to detail and customer-first policy to his success.
"As a supervisor, I had a lot of confidence in the loans he would submit to me," said Henderson. "From my perspective as a credit approver, when the loans came from Kent, they came with a great deal of credibility, and it sure made my job a lot easier working with a guy like that. He knows more about farm and ranching lending than just about anybody; he's very good at what he does. He always worked hard to help his customers and assess what would be best for their business and helping them to structure financing that would meet their needs. Everybody who worked with him appreciated his expertise."
While Rasmussen's knowledge, experience and relationships with his clients will be hard to match, he will complete his final week on the job at the end of September, and Marvin Mutchler, AXA Equitable vice president, will cover his territory moving forward, along with lender Megan Crew.
"Our jobs with AXA Equitable ranges from refinancing, to purchases, to lending to help a son or daughter get started in this business," said Mutchler, who started his position with the company in July. "We also provide loans to put up grain bins, build major facilities like calving barns, in-stall center pivots or make other farm improvements. Kent has been a great guy to work with in this arena. He's very detail oriented and focused on getting people the financing they need as quickly as possible. He's an immaculate record keeper, and he can tell you who owns just about every rock and pebble from South Dakota to Montana."
Crew added, "Kent and I spend a lot of time on the road working our territory. I trained with him when I first started, and for several years, we both worked out of the office in Rapid City before we started working from home. Being on the road with Kent, I'll always remember that he never wanted to just take the interstate to get somewhere. He always wanted to take a backroad or alternative route, so he could see the countryside. He's done a great job over the years of building a large portfolio, and he's always at the top of his game when it comes to loan volumes and hitting his professional goals. More than that, he's always been very supportive of producers and has worked hard to help people succeed and set things up for families, so the next generation has a shot at it, too. He will certainly be missed by everyone in the territory."
While hunting, fishing and traveling are top priorities for the retiree, Rasmussen says he'll find ways to stay productive and busy in his retirement. Looking back on his career, he's seen highs and lows in farming and ranching, and he offered some advice to both producers and individuals pursuing careers in the agricultural business arena.
"There are so many great career opportunities in agriculture today, but there are just fewer farm and ranch kids to take advantage of these jobs," said Rasmussen. "I hope young people entering college today realize the vast employment opportunities there are available to them in agri-cultural business, technology, livestock genetics and precision agriculture."
He added, "For producers, my best advice is you've got to be in it for the long haul. You have to be able to see opportunities even when they might be pretty hard to see. Sometimes the worst decisions are made in the best of times, and the reverse of that is true; the best decisions are sometimes made in the worst of times. Doing this job for 40 years, the people who succeed work hard, stay focused, watch their pennies and make good decisions every day."
Rasmussen said he'll miss working with so many great people in the region.
"I've gotten to know some really great people through this job — people who are dedicated, smart and well-versed in a broad spectrum of abilities. There were some tough times in the 80s, but there have been some good times, too. It's been a privilege to help people finance their goals in production agriculture."