In 1865, the Civil War was ending and the country was rebuilding. In Kansas City, a small bank called the Kansas City Savings Association started making loans to entrepreneurs who built businesses, railroads and a Midwest economy. Now known as Commerce Bank, that small Missouri bank would go on to build connections across the Midwest and nationally as a “super-community bank.”
Today, the ways we send and manage money have drastically changed due to new technology. More and more transactions happen through online banking or a mobile application. We can send money to loved ones through our phone.
So, how does a super-community bank continue to thrive? There are several reasons, but, overall, it’s because banking is still about relationships. The reasons we send, save and manage money remain the same over time. Banking is still about relationships, which form the basis for a strong community.
Personal service still matters. Back in the beginning, “personal service” meant a local banker who knew you and your family by name and could personally attend to your banking needs. The same holds true today. The difference is, today’s consumers don’t necessarily want or need to come inside a building to have their needs met. Newer technologies—think ATMs, online banking and mobile banking—conveniently provide the round-the-clock access consumers prefer. But technology doesn’t make that friendly, local banker obsolete. While customers handle routine transactions online, personal bankers in branches have more time to spend having quality conversations with customers. They can take even more time discussing challenging decisions or helping with financial goals.
Managing risk. Amidst industry data breaches and fraud attempts, companies and customers must work especially hard to keep information secure. Our customers can rest assured that anytime we suspect a card has been misused, we contact them directly and close down that card immediately. We take the worry out of what can be an uncertain situation by ensuring that customers are not responsible for fraudulent charges. Our staff and systems work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to fight fraud.
We continue to adapt to change. The only constant in life, it’s said, is change. Commerce has outlasted many other banks, not because we jump quickly on the latest business fads, but because we watch for unique opportunities that are a good fit, but that other financial institutions may pass up. That approach has enabled us to identify niches—such as business payment systems and credit cards—where we can build leadership positions. And once we have them, we refuse to rest on our laurels, constantly seeking better ways to improve on serving customer needs.
For instance, when chip technology was introduced for securing credit and debit cards, many banks retired their combination debit/credit card offering. But Commerce Bank reinvested in its combination debit and credit card—known as Special Connections—to make it chip-compatible and more secure.
We continue to grow. Commerce Bank was founded on $20,000 in capital. We’ve since grown from a single bank in Kansas City to 350 locations in five states, a national payments system, and tailored solutions for industries such as healthcare and insurance. By working with our customers, we’ve helped countless successful businesses grow, including our own. That growth has enabled the bank to raise its regular cash dividend every year for 46 consecutive years.
We give back. A bank’s growth is intertwined with the growth of the communities it serves. That is why Commerce has long placed high priority on charitable contributions and volunteer efforts. From our support of the United Way to the hundreds of hours our employees volunteer each year for organizations like Rebuilding Together and the Salvation Army, we remain committed to contributing wherever we can to our communities’ future health and prosperity.
We don’t know what the next 150 years will look like, but we’re confident we have a strong foundation—and even stronger relationships—to make the most of whatever the future brings. iBi
Jonathan Williams is the president for Commerce Bank’s Peoria Market. Peoria is a part of the Central Illinois Region, which also includes offices in Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana.