Executive Excellence showcases top managers of successful organizations in Arnold that have stood the test of time.
Fortune Bank Founder & CEO Dan Jones
Arnold Banker and Businessman is Faithful to His Small Town Roots
The Fortune Bank headquarters in Arnold is impossible for motorists to miss seeing at 3494 Jeffco Boulevard. The stately two-story brick structure with huge arched windows and two-story atrium is distinguished among all other buildings nearby.
Fortune Bank Founder and CEO Dan Jones opened the bank in 2005 after his holding company, Fortune Financial Corporation, raised $11.5 million from investors.
With approximately $155 million in deposits and assets of $187 million, as reported by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on September 30, 2018, Fortune Financial Corporation is one of Missouri’s largest independent banking organizations.
Fortune Financial Corporation and its subsidiary Fortune Bank provide banking services that include personal, commercial, and online banking; mortgage services; business and personal insurance services; and investment services.
Dan Jones, age 53, grew up in Centerville, Missouri, a town of fewer than 200 residents approximately 110 miles south of St. Louis in Missouri’s lead mine and timber country.
“In high school I did not know what I wanted to do in the future but I was certain what I didn’t want to do. I did not want to work underground in the mines. I did not want to cut trees or work in a saw mill for a living.”
Jones’ school guidance counselor told him to plan on attending a trade school, but Jones discovered that he excelled in high school accounting courses.
“Accounting made sense to me,” he says. “I enjoyed it and didn’t have to study it a lot. I thought, ‘This may be my subject.”‘
When Jones graduated from Mineral Area College and enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, “I knew that I wanted to be an accountant.” He graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration, with an Accounting and Finance emphasis, from Southeast Missouri State in 1987. The global accounting firm KPMG then hired Jones for its downtown St. Louis office and Jones drove from his home in Arnold to work.
“I worked in KPMG’s audit department for 4-1/2 years, but I always wanted to be an entrepreneur even though entrepreneurship was not in my family background,” he says.
Driving to work, Jones always passed an accounting firm office at 3510 Jeffco Boulevard. One day in June 1992 he simply walked into the office and asked to see the owner, Donald J. Randolph, whom Jones had never met.
“I told him, ‘I want to buy your accounting firm.’ He said to me, ‘No. I am not interested in selling.’ A month later I stopped by again and asked if he would sell the firm to me. He again said, ‘No, I am not interested.”‘
“Two months later I went there again and asked him, ‘Would you have any interest in selling this company in the future?’ Randolph replied, ‘You know, I probably need to think about that. Let’s talk.’ Six months later Mr. Randolph retired and I bought the business.”
Jones says that his persistence to buy that firm was motivated by two things:
“I am not an exceptional person, but average. Yet average people in this country succeed every day. The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is the amount of determination a person has. Determination was my driving force. When I was 27 years old I said to myself, ‘I am going to spring out on my own.”‘
Jones had a problem when buying Don Randolph’s firm: “I didn’t have any money,” Jones says. “I said to him, ‘If you sell the business to me, you must finance the purchase. That will be a favor to me. If you show me that consideration you will never need to worry about your payment.’ So we discussed it and we consummated the agreement in December 1992.
“It took me 13 years to pay off the promissory note,” Jones recalls. “On the day final payment was due, I called Don Randolph and asked him to come to my office. He asked ‘Why?’ I told him, ‘I want to say thank you. You took a chance on me. You set me in motion because you trusted me. I hope that one day I can do the same for other young people.”‘
It was 2005 – the same year that Jones raised $11.5 million to build Fortune Bank. “That was the launching pad,” he says.
The accounting firm, now named Daniel Jones & Associates, is the largest public accounting firm in Jefferson County. It offers accounting, auditing, tax, business consulting, and financial planning. Jones worked as a CPA there for nearly 20 years.
Soon after he bought the accounting business, Jones borrowed money from a community bank in St. Louis to upgrade the accounting office interior and acquire additional commercial properties.
“It’s one thing to pay rent to occupy an office every month. It’s another to make monthly payments on a loan and ultimately own that building,” he says.
As President and Managing Member of Jones Family Holdings, LLC, and also President and CEO of DU Properties, Inc., Jones today owns many rental properties and is a real estate developer when he is not working at Fortune Bank.
Recently, he developed one of the largest new retail projects in south St. Louis County, a site called “Gathering Square.” Fitz’s Root Beer’s second restaurant and the Shack’s sixth restaurant in metro St. Louis are tenants in the $7 million, 28,000 square foot development at 5228-5240 South Lindbergh Boulevard.
The project complements Jones’ work in south St. Louis County through Fortune Bank, which has offices in Oakville and Festus. Christ Memorial Lutheran Church adjoins the “Gathering Square” property.
“‘The Gathering’ theme extends to Christ Memorial Lutheran, which is based on the idea of bringing people together,” says Jones. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “We would call it a gathering square where people can gather to worship or go from the patio of The Shack to the patio of Fitz’s. It’s a place for people to spend time with each other. You can gather around a table or in a church. It brings back some old-fashioned values.”
Jones freely admits that he is a man of deep, abiding faith. A longtime member of the First Baptist Church of Arnold, he says, “My faith is woven through everything that I do, from being a young man growing up into the 53-year-old man that I am today. I am blessed to have 65 employees at the bank, employees at the accounting firm, and employees in the real estate company. I’ve never lost sight of the fact that we are all here on earth for a very short while, that we all leave the earth when the time comes, and that positive differences we make on earth can have a lasting impact.”
This outlook influenced Jones’ decision to open Fortune Bank. He explains, “When I bought the accounting firm, I got help from a community bank in St. Louis. I was able to make improvements to the accounting offices and acquire other properties. I believed that the Arnold area needed a local community bank that could serve local customers. I wanted to give back by creating a community bank in the community that has given me so much – and to create opportunities for people.”
“I believe fundamentally that you cannot be a taker without also being a giver. In a community that has given us so much, we have a responsibility to give back. My family and I do not support things so that we can take credit or get recognition for that support. For us, the satisfaction is in the doing.”
“I was raised in a household where we were taught to not brag about the good things we did. I don’t talk about the organizations that we support because that would be violating the principle of giving back.”
“We have a company requirement that all employees considered for merit raises must donate at least 40 hours of volunteer service in the previous year to the nonprofit organization of their choice – it can be anything: a school, hospital, church, whatever. Our employees are not people who want public recognition. They do it because they care. It is part of our organizational value system and it is part of my personal value system.”
Jones is active in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants. He has held board positions in the Rotary Club of Arnold, The Salvation Army of Jefferson County, The Jefferson County Growth and Development Commission of Arnold, and served as chairman of the city’s first TIF Commission.
Although he will not identify or discuss his support for various charities and institutions, Jones is considered a tough-minded businessman with a caring soul by Arnold community leaders who know him. A reporter discovered this about him:
During the economic recession, a Korean church in Chesterfield closed after 30 years of offering services. Another church, Harvest Bible Chapel, was conducting services at the Chesterfield Doubletree Inn and paying $200 an hour to rent the swimming pool for baptisms. Harvest Bible Chapel was offered the opportunity to rent the former Korean church building but could not afford the rent. Jones bought the building when it foreclosed and refurbished part of it, and then approached Harvest Bible Chapel with an extremely favorable rent proposal so the church could have a home. Pastor Michael Šust of Harvest Bible Chapel called Jones’ affordable lease agreement “a blessing from God.”
Jones and his wife Jennifer have three children: Melissa, Andrew, and Ellie. They enjoy family vacation trips to Colorado and Florida, and Jones recently bought a small farm not far from Arnold that he visits with the family when he can. “I get things done there,” he says.
Jones’ life clearly has come a long way from his boyhood home of Centerville. If you were to meet him today, shake hands, and look into his eyes, you may come away thinking that this is a man with a firm grasp on family values, his businesses, and his strong faith.
Story by Jeff Dunlap for the City of Arnold, Missouri