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During the summer of 1893, The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad filed for bankruptcy and several other railroads failed soon thereafter. The bills of exchanges sold by these railroads to finance goods in transit became worthless and many banks failed, including Carmi’s only bank – The Hay and Webb Bank. A financial panic soon settled into the stock markets.
Then in the fall of 1893, a group of Carmi-area businessmen and farmers came together to form a new bank to support the financial needs of their community. The U.S. Treasury approved our charter on December 29, 1893, and we opened our doors for business on January 2, 1894.
With the recent financial crisis fresh in their memory, our board of directors and management team developed conservative banking practices. It is these practices that allowed us to survive and flourish throughout several economic downturns. From the beginning, our bank was closely aligned with the agricultural industry and later on the oil and gas industry. Both industries typically go through periods of very wild and severe economic swings during their business cycles. Unfortunately, the lows tend to be very damaging.
It’s because of our experience in managing through the dramatic highs and lows of these industries that we have gained an expertise that continues to serve us today.
We have a deep understanding of the lending process during expansions and contractions in our economy. We know how to manage risk – when to take it on and when to back away. The most recent recession of 2008 was the most severe recession we have experienced since The Great Depression. While most banks were tightening their credit standards and retreating from the market, we were growing our loan portfolio by over 50%.
Over the years, our board of directors has taken a methodical approach towards growing the bank. We have entered new markets and offered new products without taking on risk. We want to grow the bank organically. And we only want to grow as fast as we can attract quality associates capable of delivering the level of service that we demand.
Another self-imposed growth constraint has been, and continues to be, the desire to maintain a strong leverage capital ratio without using venture capital. Many banks fund their growth with venture capital and often compromise service quality to achieve a higher return on investment.
Growth at First Bank will never happen by sacrificing the commitment we have made to our culture and service. Today, we are thriving. Our capital ratios are at their highest levels in the past 30 years, earning us the superior, 5-Star Rating from BauerFinancial™ for safety and soundness.
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