GREELEY – As the Northern Colorado Business Report staff was preparing for the very first Bravo! Entrepreneur Awards in 1998, Larry Seastrom was preparing an application for a brand-new bank in Greeley.
It was to be called Rocky Mountain Bank, but when the charter came before the Colorado Division of Banking, that had been changed to New Frontier Bank. Bankers at some of the 22 other Greeley institutions predicted Seastrom, his 180 investors and seven employees would have a hard time attracting customers, even with $6 million capitalization.
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Then the market boomed along with the state economy, national banks bought up a number of local competitors, and New Frontier appeared for the first time on the ‘s Mercury 100 list of the region’s fastest growing companies in 2001. Its revenues grew 242 percent between 1999 and 2000 and its employees to 49.
Now the latest figures from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. show that, as of June 30, New Frontier’s three branches held the largest share of the deposit market in Larimer and Weld counties – $1.36 billion – up 75 percent over 2006.
For presiding over this phenomenal growth, Seastrom has been named the Bravo! Entrepreneur for Greeley this year. How did he do it?
“It’s no secret,” Seastrom said. “Hire great people who work hard and are dedicated to great customer service.”
It helps to bring experience to the table. Seastrom was a 17-year veteran of the banking industry when he started New Frontier. He moved to Colorado from Kansas in 1981 to work at the Bank of Colorado (then Bank of Windsor), then Union Colony Bank, followed by the Bank of Greeley and finally Eaton Bank, where he helped establish the branch on 47th Avenue.
It also helps to have a diverse loan portfolio, Seastrom said. With 45 percent of its loans in agriculture, 30 percent in real estate, 20 percent in construction and only 5 percent in commercial lending, the bank has recently benefited from high commodity prices while avoiding mortgage-lending turmoil.
But the philosophy that people bank with people, not brands, is the core of New Frontier’s success, in Seastrom’s view.
“We have a full-time receptionist in the lobby who greets and welcomes every customer,” he said. “There are 12 full-time people answering the phones, and we have no plans to add an automated system. People want to talk to real people.”
New Frontier also has no plans for adding branches beyond those in Greeley, Windsor and Longmont. Its work force of 195 has been remarkably stable, and Seastrom is proud of maintaining an environment where “everyone is treated exactly the same.”
“We take our jobs seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously,” he said.