BILLINGS – Ed Garding is just as apt to hear from First Interstate Bank customers through email and social media these days, but he remembers a different time.

Garding, the Billings-based bank’s CEO and 44-year employee, recently announced his retirement from Montana’s largest native bank, effective in about two months. It’s been a long career marked by big changes in technology, he said.

“When I started, there was no such thing as voice mail. If someone called, and you weren’t there, and you had a secretary, they took a message,” Garding, 65, said Wednesday.

Garding is handing over the reins Sept. 23 as top executive of First Interstate Bancsystem Inc., which wholly owns and operates First Interstate Bank. Taking over will be Kevin Riley, First Interstate’s chief financial officer. Riley will be replaced by Marcy Mutch, the company’s investor relations officer.

Garding will remain with First Interstate until Jan. 29 to help with the transition.

Garding started as CEO in 2012, replacing longtime chief Lyle Knight. Garding started at First Interstate in 1971 as a management trainee just after graduating from Eastern Montana College, now known as Montana State University Billings. He is a graduate of Billings Central High School.

His base salary as CEO last year was $901,000, according to First Interstate. Including incentives, Garding made about $1.14 million in 2014, the fourth-highest-paid CEO in the state, according to labor group Montana AFL-CIO.

Riley made $459,000 in base salary as CFO last year. Mutch’s salary was not immediately available.

For Riley, a New York native, the promotion is a chance to remain in the West, an area he’s grown to love for its outdoor opportunities. He said First Interstate already enjoys a good reputation in the industry, and he’d like to keep it that way.

“We need to continue to move that forward,” Riley said Wednesday in a phone interview from New York City, where he and Mutch were attending a conference.

Riley came to First Interstate Bank in August 2013. He’s spent about three decades in the banking industry and is a certified public accountant. He worked in bank management in Massachusetts, Ohio and other areas since 1986.

“Kevin brings relevant leadership experience and a positive energy that aligns very well with the strategic direction of First Interstate. This gives him the knowledge, perspective and expertise to lead our company into the future,” Jim Scott, executive vice chair of First Interstate’s board of directors, said in a written statement.

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Riley is taking over a bank that has made big moves to expand in Montana in the past 18 months.

First Interstate announced in March it was buying Absarokee-based United Bank for $7.2 million, which adds four branches in south-central Montana.

In the fall of 2014, First Interstate closed on a $72.8 million purchase of Helena-based Mountain West Bank. First Interstate gained five new locations but closed eight others in areas that were close to existing First Interstate branches.

Riley said he plans to keep up the bank’s “strong culture and relations” with customers. This means interactions at branches and online, which is becoming the preferred method for customers to manage their money, Riley said.

“Customers are looking to do their banking through a digital channel. We’re going to have to provide that quality service that they’re going to expect,” he said.

Mutch, 56, will be the top-ranking female executive at First Interstate. She joined the company in 2006 and became its first investor relations officer in March 2010 when First Interstate began selling shares to the public.

A Billings West High School graduate, she said she enjoys working at a place she’s watched grow since she was young.

“We really are focused on serving our customers,” said Mutch, a Billings resident.

First Interstate had $8.4 billion in assets as of June 30 and has counted 27 straight years of profitability. The bank has 79 locations in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota and about 1,700 employees.

First Interstate shares traded around $27 Wednesday and have stayed in the range of $23 to $29 over the past year. 

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