After months of planning, Pioneer Bank officially opened its eighth location in St. Peter on Sept. 20 after merging with Nicollet County Bank earlier this year.
The grand opening event included free food, games, door prizes, inflatable bounce houses and other rides, balloon art, caricatures and other activities. It took place in the former Nicollet County Bank location, which is now Pioneer Bank.
“We wanted to have a big event to welcome the community and let them know that we’re here, and that this is now a location of Pioneer Bank,” said Nate Newhouse, president of the St. Peter location. “[It gave] us a chance to get to know them and really just thank them for the years of service they’ve given to Nicollet County Bank.”
A long process
According to Pioneer Bank CEO David Krause, Pioneer Bank acquired Nicollet County Bank in May 1 after months of work behind the scenes.
“Buying a bank can be an involved process,” he said, adding that it took about a year and a half to reach the actual purchasing phase. “But the fun really begins once the acquisition happens.”
Krause said that Pioneer Bank is very careful about how it expands and merges with other banks. It opened its most recent location in Madelia after merging with Farmer State Bank there, about six years ago. That bank was only a third of the size of the Nicollet County Bank, which is now Pioneer Bank’s largest location.
“I always love to tell people that Pioneer Bank is conglomeration of small community banks of southern Minnesota,” Krause said. “We’re not just a bank who acquires other banks. When we make an acquisition, it has to make sense for us. The culture has to fit our culture, [such as] the commitment to the community. It has to have a geographic tie to who we are. St. Peter is literally the next town for us. The balance sheets and the business end of it have to match as well. We’ve had great success building our bank and growing our loan portfolio, and we welcome the opportunity to acquire a bank that did a very good job of building strong deposit relationships.”
The banks officially merged on Aug. 26 and opened about a month later. Between those two dates, Pioneer Bank worked with its new staff (the former Nicollet County Bank employees) to train them on new services and work to transfer data from the old bank to the new one.
“There has been a lot of work leading up the January announcement, much more work leading up to the May 1 acquisition, and then a massive amount of work all summer long, preparing for the Aug. 26 merger,” Newhouse said. “The biggest piece of this thing was data conversion. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort and energy into making that happen, and making the transition as seamless as possible for our customers.”
“The staff handled it very, very well, and the customers have been patient, and we certainly appreciate that,” Krause agreed. “It can be a struggle to learn new things sometimes, but the community and the customers have been unbelievably patient in helping us get through that process. We’re going to work very, very hard to maintain that trust that they placed in the Nicollet County Bank, and we want to earn that trust for Pioneer Bank, too.”
According to Krause, there will not be many changes coming to customers at Pioneer Bank, though the merger does mean some more services will be available to them.
“We hope they’re going to see a lot of the good things that they’ve always been accustomed to receiving from the great staff and ownership of Nicollet County Bank, but we also look forward to bringing some new products and services to their banking experience as well,” he said.
“Our goal is to minimize any impact to the customer,” Newhouse added. “We have a lot of knowledgeable people here who are able to work with customers as far as sorting out their options regarding what accounts they may have available to them.”
Pioneer Bank is especially committed to working with farmers, small businesses and entrepreneurs, Krause said, and he stressed that it’s important for them to become involved in the St. Peter community.
“To provide community involvement and community leadership… it’s important that a community bank do both of those things,” he said. “But they’re not the same thing. Participating in the life of a community and doing the things like working at bake sales and pancake breakfasts are important, but providing community leadership [and] sharing the expertise that members of our staff have in leading important initiatives is important too. You’re going to see us get involved. My goal is that if something positive and something good and something important is happening in St. Peter, there are going to be Pioneer Bank employees at the table.”