LCCC critical to bank president’s success

Matt PopeCheyenne native Matthew Pope didn’t know for sure what he wanted his future to look like when he first came to Laramie County Community College in Fall 1983. But by the time he transferred to a university, he was on a trajectory that would make him a leader in the financial sector and a pillar of the community.

Today, Pope is president of First Interstate Bank, a $7.3 billion bank headquartered in Billings Montana. Founded in Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1968, the bank serves communities in Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and the Cowboy State. In addition to sitting at the helm of an institution providing crucial financial services to individuals, families and businesses, Pope has served on various boards, with missions ranging from economic development to civic service to promoting higher education.

The work Pope puts in at the bank and the community service he embraces are part of his commitment to contributing to Cheyenne, a place he said has given him a remarkable life.

“It’s fulfilling because you have the opportunity to give something back, which is very meaningful to me,” Pope said.

Growing up in a family of five kids, Pope’s older sister was the first in the family to attend college. After graduating from East High School, Pope said he was weighing his options. He waited until the last minute to register for classes at LCCC, which meant he spent his first semester attending classes at F.E. Warren Air Force Base rather than at the college’s main campus. Although they aren’t offered anymore, classes at the base tended to fill up last when they were.

“It was kind of a rough first semester,” Pope said with a laugh. “It was pretty cold, and I’m driving out on base taking classes. I remember thinking, ‘What am I doing?’”

But before too long, Pope was getting into a rhythm at LCCC. He’d joined the golf team, started taking classes on campus and developed an interest in accounting and finance. Eventually, he transferred to the University of Wyoming, graduating in December 1987 with an accounting degree.

By this point, Pope said he had the momentum necessary to continue developing professionally and personally with help from higher education.

“Once I figured it out, I just decided not to stop learning,” he said. “I think the habit of constantly learning is a good one. Even though I didn’t have college graduates in my family, I saw the behavior of successful people, and they always had a curiosity for how things work or a passion for learning.”

After college, Pope worked one year in accounting before taking on a career at First Interstate Bank. He became a Certified Public Accountant and earned an MBA from Regis University.

Over the years, Pope has been active on various boards, including Cheyenne LEADS, the LCCC Foundation, Cheyenne-Laramie County Economic Development, Joint Powers Board and the Downtown Development Authority Board.

Cheyenne and Laramie County are remarkable communities to be a part of for a variety of reasons, Pope said. The area has grown and developed, he said, but not in ways that diminish its character.

“We’ve had some economic growth and I know people see Cheyenne changing, but the quality of life here is still very high,” Pope said. “There’s economic opportunity and good careers. And the education system is fantastic.”

Looking back, Pope said his time at LCCC was critical to his success. The small class sizes and ability to work one-on-one with instructors gave him the leg up he needed at the time. Whatever challenge he faced throughout his education and career, Pope said he learned to approach things with the right attitude.

“You can feel overwhelmed when you’re managing multiple things, but you just have to think about what you have to do right now,” he said. “What’s the next thing you can get off your plate and move forward?”