Who made ICBA’s 2021 list of Top Lenders?

First Western Bank & Trust’s team includes (left to right) senior vice president of ag and commercial lending Tom Larson; ag lending officer Jacob Fannik; chairman, president and CEO Brenda Foster; and credit analyst Matt Flom.

First Western Bank & Trust’s team includes (left to right) senior vice president of ag and commercial lending Tom Larson; ag lending officer Jacob Fannik; chairman, president and CEO Brenda Foster; and credit analyst Matt Flom. Photo by Kassie George Photography

The dust from 2020 is finally beginning to settle, and that gives us an opportunity to look back at the hard work community banks put in to serve their customers. Our top lenders made the most of one of the toughest years in recent memory through personal connection, ingenuity and dedication to their communities. Read on to meet the year’s most successful loan producers in the areas of agriculture, commercial and consumer/mortgage lending.

By Ed Avis


Methodology

Using FDIC data for 2020, we calculated a lender score out of 100 for each community bank. The score combines the average of the bank’s percentile rank for lending concentration and for loan growth over the past year in each lending category. We then adjusted each score for loan charge offs in each category at certain percentile thresholds.


AGRICULTURE

How First Western Bank weathered 2020

Success in agricultural lending depends on many factors, and one of them—the weather—cannot be controlled by the farmer or their community banker. In 2020, the weather was good for the farmers and ranchers who count on First Western Bank & Trust for credit, and in turn, it was a strong year for the community bank.

First Western Bank & Trust

Minot, N.D.
Asset size: $1.85 billion
Ag lender score: 76.44
Rank in category: 17

“We had some timely rainfall, so we ended up having some very good yields in our area,” says Tom Larson, senior vice president, commercial and agricultural lending. “And with the increase of some prices and the government support payments, it ended up being a good year overall.”

The successful farm yields of 2020 were a pleasant change from the previous few years, says Larson, whose customers include cattle ranchers and wheat, soybean, corn and canola farmers. In 2018, crop prices were lower. In 2019, excessive rain fell during the harvest, which reduced quality of the crops and created problems for farmers getting their crops in.

In 2020, in contrast, farmers and ranchers in some other parts of the world had reduced inventory, which pumped up crop prices overall.

“And then there were some very good government support payments in 2020, some from the COVID stimulus and some from tariff relief,” Larson says.

 

The community bank way

But there’s more to First Western Bank & Trust’s success than just good yields and good weather.

“[Our lenders] have worked with our borrowers through many peaks and valleys. The borrowers know we will present them with a solution that works for everyone.”
—Brenda Foster, First Western Bank & Trust

“It’s all about building the relationships with the customers,” says president and CEO Brenda Foster. “[Larson] has been in the industry for many years. He and our other lenders have worked with our borrowers through many peaks and valleys. The borrowers know we will present them with a solution that works for everyone.”

Regular visits to farms and ranches help the lending team understand their clients’ businesses and their needs, Larson says. On the customers’ end, those visits help farmers and ranchers feel at ease working with the community bank.

“Sometimes, they feel more comfortable being on their own turf than always coming into our office,” Larson says. “And then when they do come in to talk about a specific piece of equipment or parcel land that they need, we know what they’re talking about, because we’ve seen it.”


First Western Team

First Western Bank & Trust’s lending team regularly visits clients’ businesses, farms and ranches, where they gain insights about how they operate.


Foster also credits the bank’s board of directors—several are local business owners—for being understanding when a borrower hits a rough patch and can’t make payments as anticipated. They observe the same conditions as local farmers and ranchers, so they know what’s going on and allow Foster and her team to continue working with the borrower.

A prominent indicator of First Western Bank & Trust’s ag customer relationships can be found at the entrance to its headquarters in Minot, N.D. There, you can find a collection of local ranchers’ brands imprinted in stone.

“Most of the brands were placed there by farmers in our area starting when the bank was founded in 1964,” Foster says. “They connected them to the bank. They really gave them a sense of ownership. When they came in with family or their children, they would show them the brand.”


Agriculture: Less than $500 million
Rank Bank Name City State Ag Lender Score
Chambers State Bank Chambers NE 96.36 
The Union Bank Beulah ND 96.35 
Community State Bank Colon NE 96.28
4 Nebraska State Bank Oshkosh NE 96.07
5 State Bank of Scotia Scotia NE 95.25
6 Riverstone Bank Talmage NE 95.07
7 KodaBank Drayton ND 94.63
8 State Bank of Taunton Taunton MN 94.54
9 First Community Bank of the Heartland, Inc. Clinton KY 94.35
10 State Bank of Easton Easton MN 94.13
11 Anchor State Bank Anchor IL 93.29
12 AllNations Bank Calumet OK 93.27
13 Security State Bank of Wanamingo Wanamingo MN 93.26
14 Buckley State Bank Buckley IL 92.86
15 Community State Bank of Canton Canton OK 92.56
16 The Jefferson Bank Greenville MS 92.51
17 Farmers National Bank of Griggsville Griggsville IL 92.36
18 First Capital Bank Quanah TX 92.31
19 The First National Bank of Hereford Hereford TX 92.19
20 State Bank of Table Rock Table Rock NE 92.1
Agriculture: $500 million to $1 billion
Rank Bank Name City State Ag Lender Score
Points West Community Bank Windsor CO 92.91
First Bank of Berne Berne IN 90.87
Profinium, Inc. Truman MN 90.79
4 United Prairie Bank Mountain Lake MN 90.65
5 The First National Bank of Carmi Carmi IL 90.06
6 Legacy National Bank Springdale AR 89.89
7 BTC Bank Bethany MO 88.88
8 Diamond Bank Murfreesboro AR 88.84
9 Border Bank Fargo ND 88.34
10 Wheatland Bank Spokane WA 88.24
11 The First State Bank Louise TX 88.16
12 CUSB Bank Cresco IA 87.59
13 Forward Bank Marshfield WI 86.87
14 Legence Bank Eldorado IL 85.73
15 CCB Community Bank Andalusia AL 85.59
16 Bank of Eastern Oregon Heppner OR 85.53
17 Independence Bank Havre MT 84.87
18 Midwest Bank Monmouth IL 84.63
19 Elkhorn Valley Bank & Trust Norfolk NE 84.32
20 Dakota Community Bank & Trust, National Association Hebron ND 84.11
Agriculture: More than $1 billion
Rank Bank Name City State Ag Lender Score
United Bank of Iowa Ida Grove IA 85.58
The First National Bank In Sioux Falls Sioux Falls SD 82.46
Dieterich Bank, N.A. Effingham IL 82.10
4 Opportunity Bank of Montana Helena MT 81.71
5 Bank of Springfield Springfield IL 81.26
6 Oak Valley Community Bank Oakdale CA 80.97
7 American Bank & Trust Wessington Springs SD 80.41
8 First State Bank Mendota IL 80.01
9 American Bank Center Dickinson ND 79.65
10 Southern Bancorp Bank Little Rock AR 79.22
11 OakStar Bank Springfield MO 79.21
12 State Bank of Cross Plains Cross Plains WI 78.43
13 BankPlus Belzoni MS 78.27
14 Heartland Bank and Trust Co. Bloomington IL 77.99
15 Dacotah Bank Aberdeen SD 76.89
16 Live Oak Banking Co. Wilmington NC 76.48
17 First Western Bank & Trust Minot ND 76.44
18 The Bank of Missouri Perryville MO 76.18
19 Central Bank Storm Lake IA 76.02
20 Pinnacle Bank  Cody WY 75.66

Austin Capital Bank’s team includes (from left to right) fintech marketing director Alejandra Rodriguez; branch manager Vanessa Smith; CEO and founder Erik Beguin; mortgage loan officer Vicente Galvan; and fintech product owner Crystal Huang.

Austin Capital Bank’s team includes (from left to right) fintech marketing director Alejandra Rodriguez; branch manager Vanessa Smith; CEO and founder Erik Beguin; mortgage loan officer Vicente Galvan; and fintech product owner Crystal Huang. Photo by Dennis Burnett


CONSUMER AND MORTGAGE

Austin Capital Bank finds success in unlikely places

Austin Capital Bank’s strength comes from the fact that it’s a nontraditional bank—and that its founder and CEO, Erik Beguin, is a nontraditional banker. Beguin likens himself to a brand manager and the community bank to a fintech.

Austin Capital Bank

Austin, Texas
Asset size: $292 million
Consumer lender score: 99.30
Rank in category: 1

“When I go to banking conferences, I feel like the odd duck out,” says Beguin, whose background is in brand and product management, including a short stint branding antiperspirant at Procter & Gamble. “A lot of community banks are running the same business model, but I read the OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] list of permissible bank activities, and I figure out which ones no one else is doing and do those.”

Austin Capital Bank’s innovative character is evident on its website. There, the community bank prominently features its financial technology services, including various consumer fintech products. The bank describes itself as “like ridesharing for banking” because as an organization it’s technology-enabled and community-driven.

That clear focus on technology and innovation, plus the strength of its mortgage business, are the reasons 2020 was a successful year for Austin Capital Bank, Beguin says.

“I’m passionate about the community bank model. The reason I started the bank is that a community bank is one of the only entities that multiplies the wealth in the community it serves.”
—Erik Beguin, Austin Capital Bank

“We’re really a digital-first bank, so 2020 lent itself nicely to us,” he says. “And we have a mortgage division, and 2020 was a banner year for that.”

Austin Capital Bank wasn’t always on the list of successful banks. When Beguin and a partner launched the community bank in 2006—right before the Great Recession—they hired other people to run it. But the bank’s first two years were so rough that Beguin took the reins himself.

“When I took over in Q1 of 2008, we were the worst-performing bank in the state of Texas,” he says, “but I was too stubborn to let us fail.”

 

Taking the reins

Soon after taking charge, Beguin decided to stop traditional consumer and mortgage lending and focus on other markets, such as lending to investors.

“Lending to investors in Austin from 2008 to 2014 was fantastic,” he recalls. “Since I’m not a banker, I created products for people who didn’t fit the typical bank customer model. The success of those years got us over the hump and created a stable platform that has allowed us to build the technology platform and add the mortgage division.”


Erik Beguin

Founder and CEO Erik Beguin and a partner launched Austin Capital Bank in 2006.


The community bank launched its mortgage division in 2018 and now has 14 loan production offices around the country. Its proprietary Trident technology platform, which Beguin may license to other banks in the future, allows Austin Capital Bank to offer financial services securely online.

Despite saying he’s not a banker, Beguin has served on various bank advisory boards, such as the Federal Reserve’s Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council and the CFPB’s Community Bank Advisory Council.

“I’m passionate about the community bank model,” he says. “The reason I started the bank is that a community bank is one of the only entities that multiplies the wealth in the community it serves.”


Consumer and mortgage: Less than $500 million
Rank Bank Name City State Consumer Lender Score
Austin Capital Bank SSB Austin TX 99.3
Paramount Bank Saint Louis MO 99.2
The National Iron Bank Salisbury CT 97.21
4 First Federal Bank, A FSB Tuscaloosa AL 97.19
5 Second Federal Savings and Loan Association of Philadelphia Philadelphia PA 97.1
6 Fidelity Bank West Des Moines IA 96.13
7 Liberty Bank, Inc. Salt Lake City UT 95.79
8 First State Bank Elmore City OK 95.68
9 Citizens Federal Savings and Loan Association Bellefontaine OH 94.63
10 Gateway Bank, F.S.B. Oakland CA 94.25
11 The First National Bank of Gilbert Gilbert MN 93.88
12 The Miners National Bank of Eveleth Eveleth MN 93.32
13 Allied First Bank, sb Oswego IL 93.16
14 Schuyler Savings Bank Kearny NJ 93.1
15 Willamette Valley Bank Salem OR 92.69
16 Systematic Savings Bank Springfield MO 92.66
17 The City National Bank of Colorado City Colorado City TX 92.61
18 Citizens Guaranty Bank Irvine KY 92.35
19 Community Savings Caldwell OH 92.24
20 Citizens Bank of Morgantown, Inc. Morgantown WV 92.23
Consumer and mortgage: $500 million to $1 billion
Rank Bank Name City State Consumer Lender Score
Georgia Banking Company Sandy Springs GA 97.87
Apex Bank Camden TN 97.03
One American Bank Sioux Falls SD 96.54
4 First Community Bank of Tennessee Shelbyville TN 96.37
5 Lead Bank Lee’s Summit MO 95.77
6 William Penn Bank (MHC) Bristol PA 95.63
7 Evolve Bank & Trust Memphis TN 94.93
8 Magnolia Bank, Inc. Hodgenville KY 94.33
9 University Bank Ann Arbor MI 94.17
10 BankSouth Greensboro GA 92.10
11 Community First Bank Walhalla SC 92.07
12 Bank of England England AR 91.78
13 Presidential Bank, FSB Bethesda MD 91.32
14 Fidelity Bank Metairie LA 91.18
15 Cross County Savings Bank Middle Village NY 89.66
16 FirstBank Antlers OK 89.56
17 The Dart Bank Mason MI 89.41
18 Mechanics Bank Mansfield OH 89.23
19 Partners Bank Sanford ME 87.53
20 First Central Savings Bank Glen Cove NY 87.36
Consumer and mortgage: More than $1 billion
Rank Bank Name City State Consumer Lender Score
Gateway First Bank Jenks OK 97.19
Northpointe Bank Grand Rapids MI 96.88
MidFirst Bank Oklahoma City OK 96.51
4 Metro City Bank Doraville GA 94.59
5 1st Security Bank of Washington Mountlake Terrace WA 92.01
6 Bluestone Bank Raynham MA 91.73
7 Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank Edgartown MA 91.27
8 Leader Bank, National Association Arlington MA 90.52
9 Plains Commerce Bank Hoven SD 89.73
10 First Savings Bank Jeffersonville IN 89.21
11 Cornerstone Bank Southbridge MA 89.07
12 Southern First Bank Greenville SC 88.74
13 BNC National Bank Glendale AZ 88.52
14 Evergreen Bank Group Oak Brook IL 87.75
15 Meridian Bank Malvern PA 87.43
16 The Lyons National Bank Geneva NY 87.30
17 Blue Ridge Bank, National Association Luray VA 87.26
18 First Premier Bank Sioux Falls SD 86.77
19 Think Mutual Bank Rochester MN 86.70
20 Chelsea Groton Bank Norwich CT 86.55

Wendy Ross and Ed Obuchowski of Bank of San Francisco

CEO Ed Obuchowski and president Wendy Ross of the Bank of San Francisco are veterans of the Bay Area banking industry.


COMMERCIAL

Showing community banking’s true colors

COVID-19 challenged community banks, but when they rose to that challenge, they showed why their model is different. Wendy Ross, president of Bank of San Francisco, says the pandemic showed the positive difference a community bank can make.

Bank of San Francisco

San Francisco
Asset size: $276 million
Commercial lender score: 94.61
Rank in category: 8

“We felt we owed it to our clients and the community to be as active in the PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] as possible,” Ross says. “For several weeks, we took no weekends off, and I was getting emails at 2 or 3 in the morning. I think that intense period really brought home the meaning of community banking.”

That effort by Ross and other Bank of San Francisco staff powered the bank to “an extraordinary level of growth” last year, Ross says. Among the clients served by the community bank’s PPP lending was a restaurant owner who had failed to get a PPP loan from her—now former—much larger bank, Ross says.

“We found that a lot of the larger banks were slower than we were getting themselves ready to do these PPP loans,” she says. “In the first round of lending in March, the funding ran out and there was this sense of panic. This client realized that her relationship manager at Bank of San Francisco had worked through the night to get her loan done, and when she got it, she cried.”

 

Winning new business

The bank’s success at securing PPP money for its clients—mostly small to mid-sized businesses and nonprofits in the greater Bay Area—not only generated revenue but also resulted in a number of new permanent clients for the bank, Ross says. Many were referred by current clients.

“Typically, our new clients come to us through referrals, and they’re typically not getting the level of service they deserve through their existing banks,” Ross says. “The PPP gave us some wonderful opportunities with clients whose existing banks weren’t there when they needed them. They heard about us, saw us perform and now are moving their entire relationships to us.”

Lending at Bank of San Francisco is a team effort, Ross says. Relationship managers initiate loans, and underwriters handle the credit work behind the scenes. A commercial banking associate also gets involved in most business customer relationships. And it’s not uncommon for borrowers to meet senior management.

During the pandemic, the community bank’s relationship managers regularly connected with clients over the phone or virtually to see how they were doing. They reviewed their portfolios with senior management quarterly, often giving updates client by client, Ross says.

“I think our clients really appreciated the fact that they were hearing from their banker regularly, and not in an adversarial way,” Ross says. “Everyone was working collaboratively to get through this period. All in all, it’s been heartening to see how our clients plowed through this period.”

The Bank of San Francisco’s work to help local businesses survive 2020 made true its slogan: “With You When It Matters.”

“Boy, did last year really bring that slogan home,” Ross says. “We are entrepreneurs serving entrepreneurs. And we have an undying commitment to our community.”


Commercial: Less than $500 million
Rank Bank Name City State Commercial Lender Score
Canyon Community Bank, National Association Tucson AZ 98.83
FinWise Bank Murray UT 98.54
VisionBank St. Louis Park MN 98.14
4 BankVista Sartell MN 97.53
5 Metro Phoenix Bank Phoenix AZ 97.38
6 Flagship Bank Clearwater FL 97.20
7 Capitol National Bank Lansing MI 96.51
8 The Mint National Bank Kingwood TX 96.44
9 One World Bank Dallas TX 96.29
10 Farmers & Stockmens Bank Clayton NM 96.29
11 CapTex Bank, National Association Trenton TX 96.17
12 Quaint Oak Bank Southampton PA 96.07
13 Maple Bank Champlin MN 95.76
14 West Valley National Bank Goodyear AZ 95.53
15 Spring Bank Bronx NY 95.21
16 Tioga Franklin Savings Bank Philadelphia PA 95.08
17 Barwick Banking Co. Barwick GA 95.07
18 Georgia Primary Bank Atlanta GA 94.84
19 Blue Sky Bank Pawhuska OK 94.82
20 M1 Bank Macks Creek MO 94.38
Commercial: $500 million to $1 billion
Rank Bank Name City State Commercial Lender Score
First Bank of the Lake Osage Beach MO 99.88
The First National Bank of Ottawa Ottawa IL 98.48
Cogent Bank Orange City FL 97.66
4 Old Dominion National Bank Charlottesville VA 96.75
5 Oxford Bank Oxford MI 96.71
6 The Freedom Bank of Virginia Fairfax VA 95.64
7 Hiawatha National Bank Hager City WI 95.17
8 Bank of San Francisco San Francisco CA 94.61
9 Pilot Bank Tampa FL 94.30
10 Village Bank Midlothian VA 94.07
11 First Utah Bank Salt Lake City UT 93.77
12 Timberline Bank Grand Junction CO 93.76
13 Summit State Bank Santa Rosa CA 93.40
14 First Citrus Bank Tampa FL 93.14
15 Commencement Bank Tacoma WA 93.00
16 Oregon Pacific Banking Co. Florence OR 92.66
17 Bank of Idaho Idaho Falls ID 92.54
18 Regent Bank Tulsa OK 91.58
19 People’s Bank of Commerce Medford OR 91.33
20 Vinings Bank Smyrna GA 91.27
Commercial: More than $1 billion
Rank Bank Name City State Commercial Lender Score
Cross River Bank Fort Lee NJ 99.86
Quontic Bank New York NY 99.30
First Home Bank St. Petersburg FL 98.52
4 Live Oak Banking Co. Wilmington NC 98.33
5 Congressional Bank Chevy Chase MD 97.94
6 Wallis Bank Wallis TX 97.92
7 Santa Cruz County Bank Santa Cruz CA 97.91
8 Coastal Community Bank Everett WA 97.35
9 Cache Valley Bank Logan UT 95.25
10 Waterford Bank, N.A. Toledo OH 94.53
11 Citizens Bank Elizabethton TN 94.47
12 Riverview Bank Marysville PA 94.46
13 Sandy Spring Bank Olney MD 94.17
14 One Community Bank Oregon WI 93.39
15 Central Bank Storm Lake IA 92.75
16 CFG Community Bank Baltimore MD 92.53
17 The State Bank Fenton MI 92.36
18 Valley Republic Bank Bakersfield CA 91.53
19 b1BANK Baton Rouge LA 91.45
20 Blue Ridge Bank, National Association Luray VA 91.40

Ed Avis is a writer in Illinois.

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