Fentura Financial leads group business efforts

Fentura Financial leads group business efforts

Dullum, Justin

Fentura Financial Inc. has completed its acquisition of Hudsonville-based West Michigan Financial Corp., the parent company of West Michigan Community Bank. The acquisition shines the spotlight on a bank holding company that is locking arms with a number of community banks in order to remain competitive in Michigan.

“We’ve been a well capitalized company for several years,” said Fentura President Donald Grill. “We decided a few years ago to begin redeploying some of the capital.”

The acquisition gives Fentura Financial, based in Fenton, Mich., an additional $133 million in assets and three full-service banking offices in Hudsonville, Jenison and Holland. West Michigan Community Bank will retain its name, products, operating systems and an independent board of directors.

“Getting acquainted with the folks at West Michigan really was a result of our attempt to create a working partnership,” said Grill. “We believe that to survive in the current banking environment, smaller banks probably need to band together to offer the services they might not be able to otherwise.”

Months before the merger occurred, Fentura was in talks with West Michigan about loan participations, and sharing mortgage and trust expertise. Grill also was considering investing in West Michigan.

While the relationship was forming, West Michigan was also in a strategic planning phase. The plan put managers in a mood willing to talk about a sale.

“Since we were already in discussions with the bank, they asked us to consider a deal,” said Grill. “We were flattered to be asked and fortunate that they chose us for the acquisition.”

Before coming to Fentura, Grill worked for First of America Bank Corporation, “a name that disappeared six years ago when National City purchased it,” he said. “So I worked on the west side of the state and was quite familiar with the area. Additionally, the senior lender in our lead bank, Bob Sewick, had spent 29 years banking out west, so he was a natural fit to fill the position of president at West Michigan.”

The merger isn’t the only recent move Fentura has made to bolster its business. In the last year, the bank has become a minority investor in three Michigan de novos: Main Street Bank, Northville; First State Bank, Saginaw; and Summit Community Bank, East Lansing.

“We support this notion that community banks can work together in various ways to help each other achieve our goals,” said Grill.

Fentura Financial is a $420 million bank holding company that also owns The State Bank, an eight-office institution based in Fenton; and Davison State Bank, with two offices serving the Davison area.

American Bank of Montana aces CRA exam, again

The Erickson family keeps the community banking spirit alive and well in Bozeman, Mont. For the fourth time in a row, the Federal Reserve has granted the bank an “outstanding” CRA examination rating. Bank Chairman Bruce Erickson talks about the designation with pride.

“We care deeply about every community we’re in,” said Erickson. “We get to know the people. We hope to get to know their needs and requirements. Being locally owned, we’re able to make commitments that mean a lot to the community. We feel lucky to be in that position and giving back is just one way to show our gratitude.”

Bank President Leon Royer said the company’s commitment to reinvestment is fed from the top of the organization. “We have an obligation to give back to the community, there’s no doubt about that,” said Royer. “We have a moral incentive to do it and we have a regulatory incentive, but what CRA expects of us is not at all inconsistent with what we expect of ourselves.”

The $300 million bank has five locations in the western half of Montana. Each bank takes a hands-on approach to working in its community, said Sally Boe, bank vice president and community reinvestment officer.

Almost every individual staff member at the bank takes a highly active role in one or more public interest group, said Boe. From Habitat for Humanity and the United Way, to a local group that fights domestic violence, to the board of an electric cooperative that provides discounted energy to low income households, Boe said the personal commitments to organizations run the gamut.

“I myself work on the Citizens Project Committee,” added Boe. “Its goal is to examine and eliminate the blight in the local downtown area.”

And, of course, the bank makes a lot of loans. “We maintain a very high loan-to-deposit ratio,” said Boe. “We also have an affiliate that generates residential loans that is quite active.”

Nebraska-Colorado merger creates new operations center

A merger between Vista Bank in Colorado Springs, CoIo., and Adams Bank & Trust in Ogallala, Neb., will result in a new operations center in Ogallala. Computer operations once outsourced by Vista Bank will be consolidated with Adams Bank’s existing system. The facility will employ 20.

Adams Bank President Todd Adams said a unique arrangement with a local technology company, Prophet Systems Inc., (PSI) made the center possible.

“PSI made an arrangement to enable our bank to lease space in one of their buildings that had been physically and technologically renovated,” said Adams. “PSI also has experience in operating a customer call and service center, which Adams Bank plans on operating in the leased space in the future.”

With the merger of Vista Bank, Adams Bank will have $340 million in assets and operate 14 locations – 10 in Nebraska and four in Colorado.

“As the bank continues to grow and expand in the future, we now have a base operations center that will allow for more jobs and efficiencies here in western Nebraska,” said Adams.

Copyright NFR Communications Inc May 1-May 14, 2004

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