By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor
The Bank of Missouri turns 125 this year, but it’s a far different bank than it was even two decades ago.
Back then, it was the Bank of Perryville, the town that remains its headquarters. But that name didn’t fit with CEO David Crader’s vision for growth when he joined the bank in 1996. Cape Girardeau was the most logical place to expand, but Crader knew the bank would need a new name to succeed there and in other Southeast Missouri markets.
Today, The Bank of Missouri has 23 locations from Perryville to the sole of the Missouri Bootheel. It has banks in Columbia, Springfield and Branson as well. Assets have grown to $1.2 billion. Each branch or city has a community bank president.
“We offer small bank service with big bank resources,” said Aaron Panton, president of the Cape Girardeau bank. “We’re proud of our model,” which is “community-focused and community-minded.”
The bank has avoided expansion into metropolitan markets because it’s more difficult to connect with the community, Panton said. In most cases, the bank has acquired existing banks or set up loan production offices to gain a foothold in the community, but its goal isn’t just to buy growth.
“Our CEO says, ‘It’s not what you gather, it’s what you scatter,’” Panton said. “It’s not a matter of going out and gathering as much business as you can. It’s more about scattering resources.”
That strategy and a conservative fiscal approach stood the bank well during the financial crisis, he said. “We’ve made very sound, conservative decisions.”
Part of the bank’s strategy is getting involved with community organizations. The bank will pay dues for employees to get involved with civic organizations, and it offers to sponsor community events as appropriate. But the bank doesn’t just give money, Panton said. It also provides people power.
“We take a sponsorship and turn it into a partnership,” Panton said. Most of the organizations are chosen by an employee who already is involved or in response to a nonprofit’s request.
The Bank of Missouri has a representative on BBB’s Cape Girardeau Region Advisory Board: Benjie Ferguson, a bank vice president. Panton says being part of BBB is important: “What the BBB does is what we like to think we do well – understand how businesses operate ethically and give the consumer peace of mind when a [BBB Accredited Business or Charity] has been vetted.”
The Bank of Missouri’s service philosophy is that everything revolves around the customer, Panton said. “I always ask, when we do something, ‘How does this impact the customer?’ If we don’t have customers, we don’t have a business.”
A recent example of customer-focused service is the bank’s extended call hours. A live person answers the phone seven days a week. “We want a human interaction for customers who call in,” Panton said. “In the growing world of technology, you tend to get disconnected,” and the bank wants to avoid that.
There is no formal customer service training, but there are weekly meetings focused on customer interactions and learning from experience. “We focus on successes and share them,” Panton said. Every employee also goes through annual training for compliance with banking regulations.
The Bank of Missouri has a leg up in getting employees committed to its success: They all are owners through an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP.
“It’s a phenomenal way to get buy-in on what we preach,” Panton said. “If you’re helping the organization to be healthy, everyone has a piece of that pie.”
Profiles of BBB Accredited Businesses and BBB Accredited Charities are created as part of BBB’s TORCH Award process and are not intended as an endorsement. The Bank of Missouri has applied for the Cape Girardeau Region TORCH Awards.