Akiptan is happy to introduce our team of people who are helping make a change in Indian Ag Finance. This month, we are highlighting our Loan Officer, Whitney O’Rourke from the Great Plains Region. Whitney has been a part of the Akiptan since November 2022 and has been involved in ranching her entire life. Akiptan currently has a team of 5 loan officers, who work as a together to oversee the loan portfolio, from initial intake to underwriting and loan follow up, our team is here to support the Native Agriculture community.
Whitney is a fourth generation rancher who grew up on her family ranch near Interior, South Dakoa on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Whitney is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and holds a Bachelors in Business Economics from South Dakota State University.
Whitney has worked for Lakota Funds; a Native CDFI located in Kyle, South Dakota. During her time there, she and Tawney Brunsch, the Executive Director of Lakota Funds worked closely to create the Lakota Federal Credit Union located in Kyle, SD which launched in 2012 where Whitney became the Branch Manager until 2016. Whitney then went on to work for Thunder Valley as the Chief Financial Officer and also worked at the Indian Health Services as a Billing Technician. Whitney currently serves on the board of directors for Makoce Agriculture, the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce and the Oglala Sioux Livestock and Landowners Association. She enjoys working on her family ranch, and spending quality time with her family, and friends.
How did you begin in the Native Ag Lending Industry?
My life has always revolved around ranching. I grew up on a ranch and because I started my ranch as well, I went through the FSA process, so I am familiar with the many moving parts of ranching. Previous to joining the team at Akiptan, I was also a lender at Lakota Federal Credit Union in Kyle, SD. Basically everything that I have learned about ranching and ag lending was through my personal experience with my cattle business. I’m thankful to be a part of a great team in supporting the Native Agriculture community through technical assistance and lending.
What is your favorite part of working at Akiptan?
There are so many parts that I am proud of here at Akiptan and if I were to have to name one, I would say that my favorite part is being able to work with producers all across the nation, while seeing the differences of areas in regards to climate and cattle prices. I also enjoy being able to work with different types of ag industries like fisheries.
What do you think makes Akiptan important/unique?
Besides our lending models and youth programs,I think that we are unique because we are very involved with our producers; we support and guide them, we help them with financial decisions, and we do our best to have conversations with them about their financial decisions so they can have a healthy cash flow.
How has your passion for assisting those in Native Agriculture financing developed?
Because my background is in cattle ranching, I am working with the producers not just as their lender but as a partner to help guide them with their financialsl. I have first hand experience of the challenges and feats of cattle ranching and I have clients who message me updating me on their operations, or simply checking in to say hey I had a new calf today. My passion for Native Agriculture increases more and more as I see our producers succeed in their operations.
What are some of the successes that have happened while in your role at Akiptan?
A few successes for me were:1) being able to get a fishery financed, and seeing how the process works in a different area of the county, 2) helping young producers get their applications in to help them get their feet on the ground 3)If clients reach out and are struggling, I like to help them and guide them to reach their operational goals. I am thankful for the Akiptan loan team in helping our clients.
What are your goals for the next few months or years in your role as senior loan officer?
A few of my goals include getting more loans approved and funded and to be able to better assist the producers that I work with.. I would also like to share any government programs that have come out.
What would you say about the Akiptan team you work with?
I feel that we have a very connected team here at Akiptan, we work well together, and there is not one person who knows more than the other. If we have any issues, we work together and find the solution together.
What is one thing you would like people to know about your job?
I enjoy working with the producers and I enjoy getting more people familiar with Akiptan and seeing the Native Food Economy thrive. I enjoy promoting Akiptan when I am out in the community or at an event.
To learn more about our Programs and Financing please visit our website or click here: https://www.akiptan.org/loanproducts