15 Minutes With… Jean Ann Honneger

 

IB: How did you get involved in banking?
Honegger: In 1972, Gordon and I heard Morton Community Bank was for sale, so we decided to leave the world of academia and purchase shares in the bank. Both of our families have community entrepreneurial backgrounds, so going into banking seemed like a natural transition for us. At the time, the bank had seven employees and $7 million in assets. We now have 37 banks, almost 500 employees, and $3.3 billion in assets.

IB: What’s your approach to buying banks?
Honegger: Each time we buy a bank, we rename it for that specific community, such as Toluca Community Bank, Eureka Community Bank, Pekin Community Bank, Peoria Community bank, etc. We recently bought six Heritage Bank of Central Illinois branches, including one in Trivoli, Ill., and we renamed them for the towns they’re located in. The townspeople love seeing the new signs go up, knowing that the bank is actually their community bank.

IB: How do the existing bank’s employees respond to you as new owners?
Honegger: We want the employees at the banks to stay with us when we purchase those banks, and most of them do. In fact, we have found over the years that people want to work for us. We constantly receive applications. In addition, our employees consider us their family because of the way we treat them. Besides offering bonuses, our employees participate in our employee stock-ownership plan.

IB: What do you do in your spare time?
Honegger: My biggest hobby is photography. I started taking pictures in 1968 when Gordon and I had our first baby. Then the more we traveled, the more photos I took. I hung some of them in my office, and people liked them so much that they wanted some in their offices. As a result, all of the wall decorations in all of our banks are my photography—all different sizes and subjects. The employees get to select which ones they want. I have a decorator who helps with framing, matting, and hanging the photos in the banks.

Quick facts

  • Morton Community Bank operates under an umbrella organization, Hometown Community Bancorp, which owns 37 banks in central Illinois.
  • Jean Ann Honegger’s husband, Gordon, is chairman emeritus.
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