After graduating from the University of Arizona with degrees in finance and real estate, Mike Thorell began his career in banking in 1989 as a special assets officer at a small savings and loan in Scottsdale, Arizona. He never really dreamed of being a banker, but he needed a job after graduation! And to make things more challenging, he started his banking career in the middle of the savings and loan crisis. But even with that bumpy start, things turned out quite well.
Since 2019, Thorell has been the president of Commercial and Residential Lending for Arizona Federal Credit Union, where he provides executive oversight for commercial, Small Business Administration (SBA) and residential loan production and operations. He also works with the board of directors and chief executive officer to develop strategic profit and capital adequacy plans to position the credit union to achieve future growth goals.
Although he really wanted to be a professional baseball player (and even played in college), over the last 32 years Thorell has had a highly successful career in banking. In 2003, he helped organize Choice Bank, a small community bank located in Scottsdale, and later went on to help turn around the then-struggling Pinnacle Bank of Arizona as chairman and CEO. At Pinnacle Bank, which had a strong presence in small business banking services and residential lending, he oversaw all business functions and strategic initiatives. Thorell also served as chairman and CEO of PB Financial Holdings, the bank’s holding company.
After successfully revitalizing Pinnacle Bank, Thorell led efforts to look for a suitable merger or acquisition partner to gain the scale the organization needed to continue to grow. This eventually resulted in the successful (and historic) acquisition of Pinnacle Bank by Arizona Federal Credit Union, which included branch locations, employees and systems. This was an historic partnership because it was the first time in Arizona that a credit union and bank combined operations. But it has been a successful collaboration, with Arizona Federal providing a strong base of consumer banking services and Pinnacle Bank delivering expertise in the areas of residential loan services, small business banking, SBA financing options and commercial lending.
Regarding the acquisition, Thorell says, “It was a win-win. Shareholders of Pinnacle Bank won and members of Arizona Federal won because they get a business platform they didn’t have. And former clients of Pinnacle Bank now have access to all the systems that Arizona Federal offers under one umbrella.”
Arizona Federal employs 525 employees across the Valley, with about 100 employees reporting through the residential and commercial lending teams. Thorell believes that in pushing his employees to continually learn and grow, he brings out the best in them and strengthens the organization at the same time.
For more than 22 years, Thorell has been involved with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale, where he’s served as chairman of the board and is a Life Governor of the Club.
Banker of Excellence: Mike Thorell
Position: President of Commercial & Residential Lending
Company Name: Arizona Federal Credit Union
Main Local Office Address: 333 N. 44th St., Phoenix, AZ 85008
Phone: (602) 683-1000
Number of Offices in Metro Phoenix: 14
Year Established Locally: 1936
No. of Years with Firm: 13 (2 with Arizona Federal, 11 with Pinnacle Bank)
Industry Expertise: Commercial Lending, SBA Lending, Residential Lending, Corporate Leadership, Strategic Planning