The old adage, “time flies when you’re having fun,” is certainly true. I can’t believe I have been with Stockman Bank for 25 years now. People often ask me about comparing Stockman Bank, and banking in general, back to when I started so many years ago. My answer is simple, “the whole world has changed.” Most people believe technology is the answer. While that is true to a large extent, it is only one part of the story.
A Big Step
In 1994, I decided to put everything on the line and left a promising career in law to help start a new bank on the budding west end of Billings. At Stockman Bank, we were preparing to begin serving Billings with a new, full service bank. This was a big step for our small family company which had been focused on eastern Montana for 41 years.
For decades, Stockman had customers in Billings but no bank building or direct local service. Starting in the late 1980’s, our Billings area customers and others in the community, requested Stockman expand into Billings and enhance the bank-by-mail and telephone services that were the only available options. During that time in Billings, the larger “chain banks” were beginning to centralize their services (many to out-of-state locations), removing authority from their officers and staff, and generally limiting their services. The smaller banks at the time were either unwilling or unable to deliver the financial services customers in Billings needed.
After visiting with several Billings businesses, ag producers and consumers about the condition of financial services in Billings, it was apparent that Stockman’s full-service, community banking model had been lost in Billings. So, my grandfather, Bill Nefsy, coined the phrase “coming soon, a fresh approach to banking”. We used this as our slogan as we worked to open the new bank on King Avenue and for several years after.
Change and Customer Expectations
Banking in general has changed, but again, not only in the usual terms of more regulation or complaints about the younger generation “not doing things the way we used to.” Many of the new banking regulations are positive for the industry, for Stockman and for our customers. Similarly, most of the new ways are more efficient for Stockman and more convenient for our customers. Rightfully so, our customers’ expectations have changed along with these advancements.
Now customers expect 24/7 service from whatever device or delivery channel they choose and to have a full-service branch nearby, staffed with friendly, knowledgeable, local professionals. Additionally, the greater expectation of many customers today is their financial institution shares their general values, creates local jobs, places their deposits back to work in the community to expand local businesses, allows family farms to successfully transition to the next generation, and to fund new homes in their communities for growing families. Customers also expect their financial institution to give back and support the community in a number of ways, including financially, volunteering and in leadership. At Stockman, we continue to meet and exceed these higher expectations, and use these opportunities to show why we are very different from most of our competitors. Stockman is truly neighbors serving neighbors.
Future Growth and Opportunity
Lastly, I have changed over the last 25 years and so has my outlook on Billings and our great state. Today, I am even more optimistic about the future of Billings and the future of Montana. Our unique way of life here is becoming increasingly rare in the world every day. Our western values and Montana lifestyle are envied and sought after. Plus, technology has greatly diminished the challenges that have historically faced Montana as a vast and sparsely populated state. The future here is very bright with growth and opportunity. That’s why we remain focused on Montana, and only Montana. We don’t want to be anywhere else!
On Friday September 27, we are celebrating Good Neighbor Day at all of our branches. Please stop by and say hello. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for the privilege of being your neighbor in the Montana communities we call home.