This is the second in a weeklong series of stories about companies in the metro area that aren’t deterred by uncertainty over the fiscal cliff and are expanding or renovating headquarters here.
Five years ago, a trio of veteran bankers hatched an ambitious plan to open what would be only the second area bank to start from scratch in two decades.
One of the organizers kidded then that the enterprise might be called “Three Men and a Vault.”
What eventually became ACCESSbank is today, however, no joking matter.
The financial institution boasts at least 25 percent annual growth in assets the past four years. It has tripled its staff to 38 and just invested $2 million in a more visible and larger headquarters on the West Dodge corridor. Much of the growth happened during a recession.
“In hindsight, it turned out to be a great time to start a bank,” said Patrick Corrigan, president and CEO, adding that the fact the financial crisis hit after plans were laid did create some scary moments.
He attributes growth — ACCESSbank deposits have climbed to 17th-largest of 75 metro-area banks — to connections seasoned leaders brought, a personal touch that has tellers calling customers by name, and local control that allows for a “fast turnaround time on decisions.”
The bank was founded on the intention of offering a community-based bank that was not part of a national chain. About 85 shareholders are largely from the Omaha-Council Bluffs area. Three main organizers, including Corrigan and John Morris, had been executives with Commercial Federal Corp. in Omaha before San Francisco-based Bank of the West acquired Commercial Federal in 2005.
Upon leaving Bank of the West in 2007, the trio obtained approval for a state banking charter. Despite the recession, “turning back was never an option, we were all in,” Corrigan said.
In its favor, the new bank opened with $15 million in capital and no problem loans. Omaha's economy was healthy, especially relative to the rest of the country, Corrigan said.
In its second year, ACCESSbank turned a profit and opened a second location at Oak View. Today the bank counts assets of about $185 million.
With an eye toward further growth and more visibility, the bank Dec. 17 moved from a 7,400-square-foot headquarters at 210 N. 78th St. to nearly 20,000 square feet of leased office space at 8712 West Dodge Road that serves as both corporate offices and a branch.
The extensive renovation took about three months.
“We retain our midtown presence, which is important to us,” said Corrigan, adding that more than 70,000 autos drive by daily.
With the bank's capital investment of $2 million, Kiewit Building Co. gutted and rebuilt parts of the aging office building where ACCESSbank settled.
A room for community events was created. TACKarchitects designed an open lobby with internally lit, fabric ceiling “orbs” that distinguish the bank. A curvy wood lobby wall holds a flat-screen TV. Outdoor drive-through lanes are covered with a similarly curved canopy.
“They wanted something welcoming, friendly, warm and inviting,” said architect Jeff Dolezal. “We tried to use those curves in such a way that subliminally reinforces that.”
Early plans were to have up to 10 locations in five to 10 years, but Corrigan said mobile and online banking have lessened that need. He said the emphasis is to provide personalized customer service for those who walk in or call.
Business clients were the original focus, but the bank has added a mortgage division and now has an 80-20 ratio of commercial versus consumer banking business.
Corrigan looks forward to having its growth pattern continue next year. He said the bank was an unknown in some circles, but the new corporate home in the structure now renamed ACCESSbank building should help.
“We look forward to the exposure,” he said.
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