Leadership Montana alumni in action: John Trudnowski, Butte - Class of 2018
Jake Feddes
June 30, 2023
Kristin Smith
August 31, 2023


Tom McGree, Helena, Class of 2008

Tom McGree, Helena, Class of 2008
Interview by Amy Coseo, Missoula, Class of 2017, Masters Class of 2019

Tom McGree was born and raised in Helena and attended Carroll College, with his sights initially set on a pre-med degree. After three years of studies, including successfully completing organic chemistry, Tom realized he aligned more with numbers and transitioned to an accounting major. After completing an MBA at Gonzaga, he moved back to Montana and lived in Billings, Bozeman, and Kalispell before returning to Helena in 2008. Beginning his career in risk management and insurance with Payne Financial, Tom later moved to Mountain West Bank, which was purchased by First Interstate Bank. In July 2016, he purchased Ascent Bank of Helena with Ascent Bancorp and currently serves as Chief Development Officer. Additionally, Tom has three children, ages 19, 17, and 12.

With the banking industry moving toward consolidation, Tom realized client relationships were becoming less personal. As an entrepreneur, Tom understands the importance of small business lending and making a difference in people’s lives. Cultivating personal relationships creates flexibility and allows Tom to move quickly and provide what his clients need when they need it.

Tom is a member of the Class of 2008 and admits that he wasn’t initially very excited about the more “touchy-feely” parts of Leadership Montana. However, he now recognizes the benefits of emotional intelligence and developing strong personal relationships. When he went through the class, there was always that feeling of imposter syndrome. But, as soon as he stepped into the room, there was never a feeling that you didn’t belong or that you weren’t good enough. That fear of not being good enough is not a fear in Leadership Montana because of the relationships you create.

His favorite memory was a powerful conversation between the energy company (PPL / NorthWestern Energy) and a wind farmer during the Great Falls session. Although each held strongly oppositional views, both worked through the issues in a (mostly) professional manner. This conversation demonstrated the importance and power of civil discourse. Overall, the best parts to him were the class member conversations, and while he hasn’t kept up with everyone – the folks he was able to keep up with have been his very favorite part of Leadership Montana.

In addition to being a member of the Class of 2008, Tom has served on Leadership Montana’s Board of Directors from 2012 through 2018 and served as Board Chair in 2014. One impact of surrounding himself with such high-caliber leaders is constantly cultivating a willingness and desire to find what he can do to become better. He has helped to lead the annual Men’s Leadership Forum as a planning committee member. Through this event, he has found it impactful that all of these successful men are facing very similar issues, but while they are there eager to hold each other up, they are hesitant to ask for help. The culture of the forum has opened many eyes to the fact that there are physical, mental, or relationship issues men can help each other to work through.

From being on the Board to Men’s Leadership Forum to the alumni events to the new classes – its just the people for Tom.

Tom sees Leadership Montana as an evolving organization that continuously finds ways to do more for alumni, class members, and expand its reach and influence across the State. In his address to the Class of 2016, Tom advised, “You always get more than you expect,” and encouraged class members to invest the time and effort to maximize their Leadership Montana experience. He mentioned, “you get to a point in the program, and you think, ‘What’s next’?” Fortunately, there are continued alumni engagement opportunities with annual and monthly alumni events and individual connections with alumni across the state.

Now, Tom is excited to see the next evolution of LMT, as he was on the board when Chantel Schieffer was hired. Through that time, he was able to see the impact and change that has occurred in the last 9 years. He looks forward to the lead that Kelly Heaton will take in this new role.