Operating in Six States


By Morgan Larson

First Savings Bank
Beresford, S.D.
ROAA in 2015: 2.12 percent
ROAE in 2015: 13.42 percent
Assets: $600 million
Retail locations: 22
Employees: 150
Founded: 1913
Website: www.firstsavingsbanks.com

First Savings Bank, with its corporate charter in Beresford, S.D., has been in business for more than 100 years. Today we have 22 locations in six states. We operate in South Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. The distance from our Beresford bank to our banks in El Paso, Texas, is about 1,200 miles, which makes management a challenge at times.

Our bank’s footprint has always been commercial and agricultural lending. We have a credit-card operation as well. More than half of our locations are in small rural communities, mostly in South Dakota and New Mexico. The last couple of years have been a struggle for our agricultural producers, with lower commodity prices that, in turn, affect Main Street in our rural communities, which struggle just to survive.

We operate in communities with populations of less than 100 people to metro markets with populations of 500,000, such as Las Vegas, Omaha and El Paso. Ownership does not believe in a lot of brick-and-mortar in these markets and relies on relationship banking as opposed to billboards and other forms of marketing. Our philosophy is great customer service and bringing the bank to the customer. This is also made easier today with technology such as merchant capture, mobile capture, mobile banking and online banking.

We have more than 150 employees who are very loyal and knowledgeable, with numerous employees who have worked for the bank for more than 25 years. It’s all about surrounding ourselves with good people who are willing to change in an ever- changing banking environment. As spread out as we are geographically, we have to empower and trust our people as well as having detailed policies to follow.

The last several years have been good for our community bank in growing both deposits and loans as well as generating good fee income. Pricing is very competitive in all of our markets, and it has not been easy to maintain or increase earnings. We operate very lean and efficient, which is not an easy task when you have a lot of smaller branches in rural communities. You need to have so many people in the bank for security reasons and to cover vacations and sick leave. Banking in small rural communities can be very rewarding but also challenging. Our branch president has to be a jack-of-all-trades; he or she has to know how to make a commercial loan, an agricultural loan, a car loan, a home loan and everything in between, all in a community where we know everyone and there are no secrets.

There is no better feeling, though, when we help someone start a new business or expand a business, or we help a third- or fourth-generation grandson expand in the family farm. We are about a $600 million-asset community bank, and we take pride in the fact that we know all of our customers and greet them by name when they walk in the door.

Morgan Larson (morgan.larson@FirstSavingsBanks.com) is president and CEO of First Savings Bank.