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Steph Madison

Steph Madison – Diversity and Engagement Manager



You could say Steph Madison was made for this work. The former (and first) First Merchants’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Team Lead grew up watching her mother help others in their community—from assisting stranded motorists on the side of the road to buying food for families who couldn’t afford it. When she entered college, Steph had her heart set on becoming a social worker – until her family stepped in, pointing out that the role would be draining for someone like her who so easily feels the pain others carry.

“They staged an intervention,” she said. Instead, they encouraged her to find ways to help others in a different career.

At the time, she was working as a teller while volunteering to help her Northwest Indiana community after-hours. When she was promoted to a banking center manager, Steph realized that the community outreach built into that role could allow her provide service to others as part of her banking career.

Steph became one of the first employees at First Merchants specifically tasked with community outreach and development. In that new role of Community Market and Client Director, she piloted some of the programs the CSR team now oversees.

“I worked hard, nurtured every relationship I could, and had a little luck,” she said. “Finding a role that directly connected banking with human services was not something I had thought was possible.”

Her team was responsible for implementing First Merchants’ Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which represents a $5 billion, five-year commitment to our communities across four states. These commitments include opening new banking centers in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods to serve those who may have been unbanked or underbanked in the past due to distance or lack of transportation.

For First Merchants, the most important part of this effort is engaging communities in a meaningful way to ensure we bring the people, services, and product delivery they need. Once a possible location is identified, teams from multiple areas of the bank partner with the community in needs-focused conversations—including surveys, focus groups, and community forums.

“Building trust is key,” Steph said. “People who have been under-served are not eager to trust a bank. So, we need to meet them where they are, listen to their needs, and do our level best to build a plan that will help their community prosper.”

That’s what corporate social responsibility is all about for Steph—elevating the communities we serve.

“The ‘R’ in CSR is intentional,” she said. “As a growing community bank, we have a responsibility to improve the lives of the people around us. There are many tools that can help us achieve that—philanthropy, financial wellness education, grants, coaching, and more. This work can be tiring, but every small win can lead to a larger shift for a whole neighborhood. My job is to make sure that First Merchants is doing all that we can to elevate people in the communities we serve, and I am so grateful to be a part of it.”

Today, Steph continues to lead the way as First Merchants’ Employee Experience Director, where she works to nurture a welcoming, inclusive environment that allows our team members to bring their full, authentic selves to the workplace.


First Merchants Bank’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility compels us to invest in our communities by finding ways to reduce inequalities, improve the quality of our neighborhoods, and promote positive economic mobility though our five community pillars: Employee Empowerment; Community Investments and Charitable Giving; Financial Wellness; Community Home Lending; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This series features First Merchants teammates who embody the spirit and impact of the company’s Vision: “to enhance the financial wellness of the diverse communities we serve.”