Continual Improvement

Kent A. Liechty
Kent A. Liechty

By Kent A. Liechty

The First Bank of Berne operates in primarily rural communities within our Indiana and Ohio market areas. We have a strong agricultural focus and have been able to attract the employee talent needed to be successful in our communities. Our employees have the opportunity to be actively involved in an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, which allows all of our team members to participate in the financial success we have been able to enjoy.

The year 2015 was interesting for our bank as we completed the transition to our recently constructed 20,000-square-foot operations building. While the building project created many distractions for our employees during the prior year, we are now realizing the benefits of operating in an up-to-date facility with adequate resources for adding workspace areas for additional employees and much-needed training areas. We were able to add staff in our retail, compliance, IT, information security and marketing areas of the bank, which is allowing us to be more effective in meeting the specific needs of these functions.

First Bank of Berne
Berne, Ind.
ROAA in 2015: 1.96 percent
ROAE in 2015: 19.72 percent
Assets: $600 million
Retail locations: Nine
Employees: 120
Founded: 1891

Adding the new staff positions and being able to attract talent for our banking locations is of utmost importance as we look for future opportunities to grow and expand our market presence. We recently have started an intensive training focus for all employees that will provide leadership, development and customer service training to allow us to maintain and enhance our performance within the banking industry. Our bank also completed an in-depth assessment of our core processing system along with ancillary products to determine both our current needs and what will be needed to accommodate growth in the future.

We rely heavily on our formalized employee engagement survey, which is completed annually, and have obtained valuable information about several key areas our employee group believes we can improve upon as an organization. A training initiative we are currently involved with is a direct result of feedback we received from the anonymous employee surveys. Our bank has now been provided with a valuable measure of where we can invest our resources with our employees in the most effective and efficient manner. We have made it our goal to enable our employees the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally within our organization.

Attracting the key talent, investing in training and advancement opportunities for employees, and operating as a bank in a continuous improvement environment will be important for any bank that desires to remain viable in the ever-changing financial services arena. We hired a continuous improvement manager in 2013, and we are really starting to see the benefits of this position for our bank as we work to become better in everything we do, whether it is exceeding the expectations of our internal or external customers.

We are optimistic about community banking for both today and in the foreseeable future. I say this with increased confidence, as we have been able to attract and retain the qualified employees needed to invest in the processes and procedures necessary to operate in a banking environment that has increasing compliance and regulatory requirements.

Kent A. Liechty ( is president and CEO of First Bank of Berne.