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Bank seeks hometown cache

John Seelmeyer

Some bank customers

in northern

Nevada bristle when

the mail from their

financial institution

so much as carries an

out-of-town address.

That’s a big part of the reason that 1st

National Bank of Nevada this summer went

through the regulatory hassle of moving its

official headquarters to Reno from

Laughlin.

And the bank isn’t about to let the marketing

opportunity pass, says Dennis

Williams, president of community banking

for 1st National Bank.

“We’re going to make a big deal out of

it,” Williams said last week.

It’s all part of 1st National Bank’s effort

to position itself as a hometown, community

bank turf that it’s getting a mite crowded

in the Reno market

With three branches in Reno, one in

Carson City and nine in the Las Vegas area,

1st National Bank isn’t exactly a mom-andpop

operation.

Still, the $284 million in assets it reported

to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on

June 30 doesn’t make First National a behemoth

of the industry, either. But numbers are

less important than attitude in Williams’

vision of a community bank.

“A bank is a bank,” he said. “We all

make deposits.We all make loans. My goal

is that we will have an earned reputation for

providing the best service.”

How to measure good service? For

Williams, it’s gauged by the experience of

his staff and its skill in providing knowledgeable

solutions. It’s gauged by the ability

of the bank’s staff to leave customers feeling

good about their encounters with their

financial institution.

“We’re different from the big boys,”

Williams said. “There is a nucleus of folks

out there who want that kind of banking.”

On the lending side of the business, 1st

National looks to work with small and

medium-sized businesses. It can handle

loans up to $8 million on its own. About 65

percent of its loan portfolio a portfolio

which totaled $178.6 million on June 30

involves some type of real estate lending.

“It’s good business,” Williams said. “Plus,

it’s secured.”

Still, 1st National looks to diversify its

loan portfolio with a wider variety of business

and commercial lending. Its “private

banking” program, meanwhile, targets the

needs of busy professionals.

It’s spending some money to help woo

those business customers.

A new digital imaging program, for

instance, will allow business customers each

month to receive a CD carrying the images

of all its checks. The data on the CD can be

sorted in a variety of ways, and users can

take a look at both the front and back of

the check.

Williams notes, too, that savvy accountants

and financial officers want the ability to

access their accounts via the Internet

checking their cash positions on a daily

basis, for instance.

The bank also plans to diversify its geographic

base in the Reno market. It has

right of first refusal to open banking centers

in Wal-Mart superstores in the region, and

Williams said the company expects to follow

Wal-Mart into northwest Reno.

The bank also believes it needs a branch

in Sparks, he said.

The strategy of 1st National has proven

profitable in recent months. In the 12

months ended June 30, the bank told the

FDIC it earned $5.66 million, compared

with earnings of $328,000 in the previous

12 months. That’s a 4.58 percent return

on assets.

Its assets of $280 million on June 30

were up more than $90 million from the

same date a year earlier. The bank was able

to grow those assets without adding much

staff. Its assets per employee were $2.19 million

on June 30, compared with $1.59 million

a year earlier.


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