Banking on Strong Relationships

By Beacon Staff

For John R. King, CEO of Three Rivers Bank of Montana, banking is based on solid relationships, both with the clientele and with employees. Maintaining these connections takes work, but King says the stability is worth the effort.

“People make the business, not brick and mortar,” King said in an interview last week. “Our role in the community is just to do a good job everyday; to provide good service, do it with integrity and follow through.”

As an independent community bank, Three Rivers Bank has fared relatively well in the last several years despite the recession. King said the bank did suffer some setbacks, as did most of the financial institutions throughout the country, but there has been success as well.

King said he is cautiously optimistic about where the bank is headed. Real estate loans, which were hit hard across the country, are improving at Three Rivers Bank, and more people are paying off debt.

Consumers are more cautious, he said, and that approach sits just right with him. Three Rivers Bank has a conservative approach to loans, King said, and many of its borrowers share that value.

“They’re conservative, just like us,” King said. “They have integrity; they want to perform.”

Having an open relationship with borrowers is key, he said. It allows for quality communication, contact and customer service. Both sides benefit from this, King added.

The conservative, personal approach seems to be working for Three Rivers. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Three Rivers Bank ranked No. 1 in the valley for the Texas ratio. This ratio compares a bank’s loans 30 days or greater past due to its capital.

A one-to-one ratio, or 100 percent, is considered a warning sign. Three Rivers’ Texas ratio was 10.56 percent at the end of 2011.

Three Rivers Bank has been independently owned and operated since 1974. King started with the company in 1984, and has been the CEO since 1996. There are two banks in Kalispell and 34 employees. It has roughly $115 million in assets.

Having roots in the valley for nearly 40 years is important for the bank, King said, and its employees also recognize the value of maintaining personal connections.

One of the biggest bonds between the bank and the community lies in track and field athletics. The King family has been involved with Flathead High School track and field for multiple generations, King said, and that translates to Three Rivers Bank’s support for the Highlander Track Club.

The program offers youths ages 6 to 13 a chance to join the team for free, King said. Participants get T-shirts and everyone gets a ribbon, and those who make it to higher levels of competition get help from the bank to fund their trips.

High school athletes work as assistant coaches, who then receive scholarships from the bank when they graduate based on the number of years they participate, King said.

Bank employees also volunteer to work at the concession stands every year for the Archie Roe track meet, a major event that takes place at Legends Stadium.

“That’s their giving to the community,” King said.

King believes in communicating openly and honestly with his employees, who he refers to as “team members,” as well as the bank’s clients. Each employee knows how the bank is performing each month and what is changing, he said.

One of Three Rivers’ future goals is to become more of a top-performing institution, King said, and a way to reach this goal is through educating and promoting quality employees.

“By having those good team members in the bank, the bank will be able to sell itself better to the community,” King said.

There are some recession-related issues that the bank is still working through, King said, such as some deteriorated loans and new FDIC compliance rules. But King believes in the bank’s ultimate objective, which is to provide a stable financial institution for the valley, one that will stay rooted locally and won’t be sold.

“To maintain, to be here, safe and sound; that’s the bottom line,” King said.

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