Creating a lasting legacy

woman driving farm equipment

Photo by Marin Olson

Points West Community Bank’s 115 Years of Grit campaign aims to recognize the family-owned bank’s deep roots in its community.

By Margaret Littman


At Points West Community Bank, “grit” is not a four-letter word. It’s the foundation the family-owned community bank is built on.

“The communities we get to bank in are small towns. In many cases, we were the only bank in these towns,” says Marin Olson, one of the fourth generation of Olsons to work at the community bank and its first marketing director. “Because we were so involved, our relationships became friendships.”

Olson grew up at Points West Community Bank. Based in Windsor, Colo., the bank operates 20 branches in Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado. She remembers tagging along with her father and grandfather to 4-H livestock sales that the bank sponsored. Her grandfather, Tom Olson Sr., kept cattle, she says, just so he could relate to his ag customers and make decisions in their best interests.

Bank management, including the Olson family and current CEO Bruce Batt, understand how a hurricane in Louisiana can affect a farmer in Nebraska, because they have lived in these conditions. Batt grew up in Lisco, Neb., where the $772 million-asset community bank was founded in 1909. His family owned the grocery store across the street from the bank in Lisco.

Today, Points West is expanding into cities where it has more competition and where chatting at a 4-H auction won’t necessarily be the best way to meet prospective customers. So, Olson spearheaded the 115 Years of Grit marketing campaign, telling customer histories and underscoring long relationships. The customer stories, which Olson researched, are featured on the community bank’s website and social media accounts. “We would not have made it to 115 years without our customers and our lifelong friendships with customers,” she says.

 

Bringing grit to all customers

Olson began her research at home—literally. “My grandparents did not throw away anything,” she says. Going through years of newspapers, brochures and photos got her started, and then she went out in the field—again, literally—to get the testimonials. She spent two full days in Holyoke, Colo., with customer Brinkema Farms.

“I was honored she wanted to work with me,” says Ross Brinkema, noting that Olson climbed into a grain bin to get the photos she needed. He adds that he appreciates the bank’s proactive approach to banking and its understanding of the agricultural economy.

Olson acknowledges that the return on investment of a campaign like this can be hard to measure. “When I started marketing here, I said, ‘I do not want to follow a bank on social media,’” she says. “I wanted to be more personal with our audience, to be an advocate for our customers.” She hopes that 115 Years of Grit will bring more social media engagement to the bank.

The marketing campaign’s focus on grit was not just to celebrate the achievement of a community bank that’s made it through more than a century in business. It was also to honor its customers, many of which, like Brinkema, are also third- and fourth-generation business owners who made it through a difficult 2020.

“There is no job that [Points West Community Bank staff] are hesitant to do. Countless times, I have run into the branch, and the president of the bank is there, and he has filled out my deposit slip for me.”
—Ross Brinkema, Brinkema Farms

Cindy Williams and her husband Tom are co-owners of Chappell Feedlot in Chappell, Neb., a town of 850. Williams has been banking in the same building for 40 years, having been a customer of a bank that Points West Community Bank acquired.

“I like working with my local bank, and that’s why we stayed with Points West,” Williams says. “We borrow $2 [million] to $4 million a year, and they stick with us through bad seasons and good seasons. I like that I can go talk to a loan officer personally.”

Points West Community Bank offers both personal and business accounts and has invested in apps and websites like its competitors, but it’s the personalized attention that stands out to customers. “There is no job that they are hesitant to do,” Brinkema says. “Countless times, I have run into the branch, and the president of the bank is there, and he has filled out my deposit slip for me.”

This proactivity and attentiveness extends beyond filling out deposit slips. During 2020, Points West made more than $57 million in loans in the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and it didn’t wait until customers approached them with questions. For example, the bank reached out to Williams and Jeff Hasbrouck of Double J Lamb Feeders in Ault, Colo., and helped them sort through the confusing process.

This close relationship goes both ways for the bank and its customers. “Small towns have always known this,” Olson says. “You either use it or you lose it. If you do not eat at the restaurant, you will not have it when [the pandemic] is over.”


Margaret Littman is a writer in Tennessee.

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