ARCHIVED  September 1, 1997

Valley Bank gets greener branch by branch

BRIGHTON – Twenty-six years ago, Jim O’Dell was looking to open a new bank in a community that had growth possibilities and was home to only one other bank. If that community was a county seat, all the better. The choice came down to Steamboat Springs and Brighton. In 1971, Platte Valley Bank in Brighton was chartered. “We decided we’d rather be along the Front Range,´ said O’Dell, president and chairman of the board. The decision has proved to be a good one. The bank is now known as Valley Bank & Trust Inc., to better reflect its eight locations throughout Northern Colorado. Those eight locations stretch from Commerce City to Lyons to Brighton and also encompass Westminster, north Denver, Longmont and Frederick. Valley Bank applied in August to open a branch in Bennett, and in the next two or so years will have on board three or four additional branches along the Front Range. It’s all part of the plan. “The one thing I didn’t know was when Colorado would approve branch banking,” O’Dell said. “The fact that we do have the right to branches makes it easier to do it. Had we not done branches, we would have ended up with additional locations by acquiring another bank or two or by starting new banks as we had done back in the 1970s.” And that’s exactly what he was doing before Colorado passed the branch-banking law five years ago. In 1975, O’Dell opened a bank in Frederick, 14 miles west of Brighton, and followed that three years later with an industrial bank in Brighton. “Back in those times, industrial banks were popular because they could pay higher rate on CDs [certificates of deposit] and savings accounts, and the loans they made were generally more high-risk than what a commercial bank would make,” he explained. Then in 1982, he acquired a bank in Lyons. When branch-banking laws were passed, all four banks were merged into one bank, “And the bank we ended up with was Valley Bank,” O’Dell said. O’Dell’s family now owns 90 percent of Valley Bank. His daughter, Donna Petrocco, is branch manager of the Brighton main bank and facilities manager for all branches as well as a bank director. Also on the board of directors is O’Dell’s wife, Jeanne O’Dell, and son, Richard O’Dell. The board is rounded out by Eugene Andersen, Susan Kieve, James D. Makowski and Donald P. Dolifka. In March 1997, the bank’s statement of condition listed total assets at $112.5 million and total deposits of $102.8 million. The success of Valley Bank, O’Dell said, rests on two things: construction and small-business loans. “On the loan side, we have been a heavy construction lender for single-family residences,” he said. “We’ve done an awful lot of that.” They work primarily with small, local builders, he noted. And with small-business owners, “We like to develop relationships with small businesses in the communities that we serve who may need loans between $50,000 and $1 million – operating loans, equipment loans, lines of credit.” Valley Bank added a full-service trust department to its services at the first of this year. “We are one of the few independent banks that have trust departments,” O’Dell said. Bruce Gustafson, a licensed attorney, has come on board to head that department. Two other new services are Valley Voice, a 24-hour telephone bank line, and “My New Home Loan,” a fixed-rate home-improvement loan for those who have purchased a new or pre-owned home. This loan allows homeowners up to $10,000 to purchase items – new carpet, appliances, window coverings, etc. – that help turn their houses into homes. Valley Bank employs 109 people, 87 full-time. Of those, O’Dell estimated that 25 percent have been with the bank 11 or more years, another 25 percent five to 11 years, the next 25 percent three to five years. The remaining 25 percent are those who concern O’Dell. “One of the things we do that may be different from other community banks is we look at employee needs and build teams,” he said. Workers are referred to as “team members” rather than “employees.” “We have some teams that have almost no turnover. Other teams, they seem to turn and turn. With a team that’s always bringing in new employees, we do the best we can to work with the team leader to make sure their team members get proper training and support so they can move into another level and be long-term employees.” Other than team-member turnover, the other obstacle O’Dell comes up against from time to time is not being able to meet every customer’s need or request. “When we run this type of bank, it’s not a popularity contest,” he said. “Some people are told ‘no,’ and they may not be happy with it. That goes along with any business.” He strives, however, to ensure that customers get their answers quickly, regardless of whether it’s “yes” or “no.” Competing against larger banks, as he does in Brighton, where Norwest (originally First Bank & Trust before being sold to United Bank, which was then sold to Norwest) is the only other bank, sometimes presents pricing problems, he said. “Other than that, it’s fun to compete with the bigger banks,” he said. “We can make decisions so much faster than they are generally able to do it. It gives an advantage over what they can do. Small independent banks cannot make as large a loan, but that’s fine with me. Most of our customer base is not interested in several-million-dollar loans. They’re interested in several-hundred thousand, and we can do that very well.”

BRIGHTON – Twenty-six years ago, Jim O’Dell was looking to open a new bank in a community that had growth possibilities and was home to only one other bank. If that community was a county seat, all the better. The choice came down to Steamboat Springs and Brighton. In 1971, Platte Valley Bank in Brighton was chartered. “We decided we’d rather be along the Front Range,´ said O’Dell, president and chairman of the board. The decision has proved to be a good one. The bank is now known as Valley Bank & Trust Inc., to better reflect its…

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