The company is not family owned, but it has been run by a family member since McKinney's grandfather, E. Kirk McKinney Sr., got involved in the bank -- then known as First Federal Loan and Savings Association of Indianapolis -- in 1934, nearly 20 years after it was founded.
"My family is a minority stockholder," McKinney says. "Eighty percent of the company is owned by the stockholders. I work for the shareholders."
McKinney's father, Robert H. McKinney, had led the company since 1986, and Marni McKinney grew up hearing stories about how the early days of the bank.
"My father says my grandfather wanted to help people retain their homes during the Depression," she says. "People would come over at dinner time in anguish over losing their homes. My grandfather felt this would be a way to help the community."
Continuing that tradition, McKinney's father found other ways to help the community. Robert H. McKinney was a founding partner of law firm Bose McKinney and Evans LLP, but the bank and its ability to foster the building of homes and commercial properties was " ... always near and dear to his heart," says McKinney.
It is this same community-mindedness that today motivates the third-generation McKinney.
"As a child, it was very clear to me that what drove my father was to serve the community," she says. "And that's what drives me."
McKinney is hardly new to her leadership role. She was named vice chairman of the board in 1994, CEO in 2000 and served as CEO of Somerset Financial Services, a subsidiary of First Indiana Bank Corp. from 1992 to 2000.
"The transition to chairman has been occurring as my tenure grew," McKinney says. "I've been working with the board since 2000 developing a good relationship. This is a logical extension of my past duties."
But that doesn't mean she isn't realistic about the challenges she faces.
"We are fortunate to have Bob Warrington as president and CEO of First Indiana Bank," a subsidiary of First Indiana Bank Corp., says McKinney. "He is very talented, and we both see significant opportunity here. Our greatest challenge is also the key to our growth: the ability to attract and retain talented associates."
McKinney says First Indiana's reputation for delivering high-quality service is attracting that talent.
"Our clients want to sit at the table with the decision-makers," she says. "We are more responsive and better able to do that with a talented team of associates."
McKinney says First Indiana works to retain those associates by giving them opportunities and rewards. It's all part of her strategy to strengthen First Indiana, the largest locally owned bank headquartered in Indianapolis with nearly 600 employees.
"Really strong achievers are attracted to the bank, and those who are able to perform get recognition for that performance," she says.
That McKinney drive to contribute to the community is still strong, not just in the person of Marni McKinney but also in the company's core values. In fact, McKinney says, although she and her father have personality differences, their management styles are similar and based on those shared core values.
"Our core values are based on those set by my grandfather and father," McKinney says. "Our associates know our core values are honesty, fairness and doing what's right for the client. That won't change."
For McKinney, living by those core values means spending a lot of time with First Indiana clients and being personally involved. And it is this personal touch that she feels is a differentiator for the company.
"We are out most of our week because our focus is getting out and meeting with clients," says McKinney. "We are very responsive for a bank our size. We have the same products and services as other banks but we are more responsive. I spend more time calling on clients than my father did."
And getting to know clients is her favorite part of the job.
"Business owners deserve a very high level of service," she says. "They want us to be responsive, creative and flexible. I call up prospective and current clients and learn about the businesses of both. What I love the most is the opportunity to go see what they do and listen to what their opportunities and challenges are. That's what makes a business special. I can see the entrepreneurial spirit and that is fun for me."
Besides learning about clients' businesses, these visits also give McKinney the opportunity to see how First Indiana Bank can help them succeed.
"It is important for the client to have a large degree of trust with us," McKinney says. "That trust is a great investment for the future. Like attorneys, banks can work with a business to provide them with financial advice. It's important for the client to trust you if you want them to look at you for further service."
McKinney's passion for the client inspires employees, which is all part of her strategy for the bank's success.
"Setting an example, being consistent with our message and having a real passion for our vision is how we get employee buy-in," she says. "We have endeavored to be clear about our vision and our commitment to our associates, our shareholders and our clients."
And McKinney says she lives by the old adage that actions speak louder than words.
"The leadership here demonstrates their commitment through their actions," she says, "by discovering the needs of our clients and delivering the product to meet them. Top management will meet with a client at a moment's notice, whenever a client calls."
McKinney says the company has made some difficult choices in the past year, all designed to give the bank a clearer focus on its goals and core values.
"Central Indiana is a market filled with opportunity, and we are excited to be here," McKinney says. "We made some tough decisions in 2004 so we could position ourselves in 2005 to be focused on that market."
Those decisions included selling the company's out-of-state construction lending offices, as well as Somerset Financial Services; part of the reason for relinquishing Somerset was complying with Sarbanes-Oxley.
"Sarbanes-Oxley made it difficult for us to have any synergies with Somerset, so we sold the company back to the employees," McKinney says.
The decisions were tough because they meant losing 75 valued employees -- 35 of them to the closing of the construction lending offices -- but the end result was positive.
"We are focused on being more efficient," McKinney says. "Now our operating costs are more appropriate for our size and we have a more prudent risk profile. We are focused on growing our balance sheet."
McKinney is not the only one excited about First Indiana's new focus.
"The associates are excited about delivering our message to clients," she says.
There are several goals for this new focus -- sustaining executional excellence, emphasizing revenue growth and creating the best opportunities for shareholders, says McKinney.
"We want to make it easier for our customers to do business with us through improving our operations and managing technology," she says. "And we want to experience revenue growth through growing our deposits and managing our assets."
Part of that plan includes capitalizing on First Indiana as a local player.
"Customers want to walk into the branches, and the associates there know them by name," she says. "We are training our associates to work up and provide a profile of clients and the best financial advice we can give."
Years from now, when McKinney passes on the leadership role to a new chairman, she hopes she will have achieved a legacy similar to that of her father and grandfather.
"My hope is that First Indiana is an exceedingly high-performing bank, a great value for shareholders and renown fo r its commitment to the customer and the community," she says. "I will work hard to make our shareholders and clients strong and pleased, and our associates fulfilled."
How to reach: First Indiana Bank Corp., (317) 269-1200 or www.firstindiana.com