The story of Community Bank is a story of family. It starts with the Beadell family, who founded the bank and continue to run it to this day. But it also includes the extended family of Community Bank employees, customers and the people in the Southern Minnesota communities it calls home.
“Community is in our name, and it’s a big part of our culture. So, it’s our task to make the communities where we live, work and play a little bit better every day,” Bob Beadell said.
Bob is the grandson of Community Bank founder and president Quentin Beadell. He’s also a vice president of commercial lending, part of the bank’s management team and a member of the board of directors.
Community Bank was born when Quentin and his wife Carolyn Beadell purchased the State Bank of Vernon Center in 1974. It will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year and now includes three generations of the Beadell family. Though its beginnings were humble, the bank has grown into a force to be reckoned with in the region, with five branches in Blue Earth County.
“When Quent and Carolyn bought the bank in the early ’70s, we had about $4 million in total assets. Fast forward 50 years to 2023, and we’re up to $470 million in total assets, and we service about $600 million in total loans,” Bob said.
Today Community Bank is headquartered in Mankato where it has two branches. It also has branches in Amboy, Eagle Lake and Vernon Center. Customers include families, local and family owned businesses, farm operations, non-profit organizations and municipalities.
The bank is here to help through all of life’s milestones. Wide-eyed children make their first trip to the bank to open a savings account. As the years go by, many of these early customers visit the bank to finance their first home or bankroll a new business. Later they may return as professionals, closing a business deal that will contribute to their community with new jobs, services or amenities. By the time Community Bank customers are ready for retirement, the bank is an old friend, ready to support them in their golden years.
The Community Bank’s mission statement summarizes its philosophy: “We are dedicated to satisfying the needs of our customers and employees in a warm and friendly hometown fashion.”
Or, as Quentin would say: “We think of customers more as friends than as customers.”
50 years of growth
Quentin has been in the banking business for just a little shy of 70 years. He started his career in 1956 at American State Bank in Mankato. From there, he moved to Security State Bank in Rapidan in 1964, then back to Mankato when Security State Bank opened a new branch there in 1970.
“We moved that Rapidan branch to Mankato and built a building on Madison Avenue which eventually became what is now First National Bank (Minnesota) across the street from where we are now,” Quentin said. “At that time, branching wasn’t legal, so we had to go up to the Capitol and testify for three or four days about why we should do that. Of course, the banks in Mankato didn’t want us in here. But eventually, we got permission and opened the Mankato branch.”
It was a different era, and the Mankato area and the banking industry were very different from what they are today. In 1970 Mankato had a population of about 28,000 while neighboring North Mankato weighed in at about a quarter that size with a little over 7,000 for a combined total of 35,000. Today the Greater Mankato area has tripled in size, with a population of about 103,000. The area’s banking sector has experienced similar growth.
“There weren’t that many banks in Mankato at that time. I think there were four total. Now there are seven to eight just on top of the hill,” Quentin said. “There are many more banks, credit unions and investment banks like Edward Jones today. Back then, Piper Jaffray was about the only one around. Now there are many of them, just like there are many banks and credit unions.”
Then in 1973, Quentin was approached by the owners of a bank in Vernon Center. They wanted to know if he was interested in becoming a bank owner.
“There’s quite a bit of difference between working for someone and owning your own business. That was my motivation,” Quentin said. “I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been interesting.”
Quentin and Carolyn closed the deal on January 1, 1974, and Community Bank was born. It was a bold move, but not without risks.
“When Quentin and Carolyn bought the bank, they took a chance. During those early years, to make the loan payment he started selling insurance. He worked two other jobs — he was a bookkeeper for an overhead door company and sold clothing in downtown Mankato. He hustled to make this work until we could grow,” Bob said. “To see where he started, the risk that he took, the work that he put in — I’m sure there were sleepless nights. I’m just so proud of him.”
All the sleepless nights and hard work paid off. Community Bank grew, then grew some more. In 1990, Quentin opened the first Mankato location at 951 Madison Avenue, about a block from the house where Carolyn was born. Next came the Amboy branch in 1995. The bank’s second Mankato location on St. Andrews Drive opened in 2008, followed by the Eagle Lake branch in 2019.
It’s been a heck of a ride, and although Quentin will tell you that he’s partially retired, you can still find him at the bank daily.
“This is his baby. Quent has been in banking for nearly 70 years. He still comes in every day for a few hours, so he’s very hands-on and very active, which is good,” Bob said. “He’s seen so many different things in the banking industry that he’s just a good mentor for everyone. In my opinion, he’s a pioneer in banking. He’s been at the forefront of it all, and he continues to learn, contribute and push the envelope. Our customers and our staff enjoy seeing him here every day.”
As for Quentin, he’s confident his team is more than capable of running the ship without him. The business he started a half century ago has grown into a family business that spans three generations. Some of Quentin and Carolyn’s children and grandchildren work as bank employees on a day-to-day basis. The bank’s management team includes Quentin, COO Mike Ogaard, EVP Mike King, SVP Julie Vetter and Bob. The Board of Directors is chaired by Quentin and includes Carolyn, Mike Ogaard, Bob, daughter Cheryl Beadell-Kietzer, her husband, Jon Kietzer, and community members Jeff Thom and Scott Jameson.
Ogaard in particular brings an enormous amount of experience to the team. He joined the bank as COO in 2006 and has been in the banking industry for 43 years.
“Mike runs the bank on a day-by-day basis, Bob is very much involved, and we’ve got a bunch of other good people,” Quentin said. “If I didn’t come in, it would run just as well.”
Standing Out in a Competitive Environment
Community Bank has always prided itself on the simple things: great staff, excellent service and a warm, friendly atmosphere that feels as comfortable as home. Its goal is to build warm and lasting relationships with its customers and the communities it supports.
“When people walk into our bank, we want them to feel very welcome,” Bob said. “Taking the time to get to know our clients is a big part of our success. You can spend all the money you want on marketing — and our marketing team does a great job telling our story — but what has helped us grow the most is referrals from our clients. People have seen us perform for them, so they tell their friends, colleagues, and other prospective business owners: ‘Community Bank served us really well. Maybe you should give them a shot.’ That’s where we’ve seen our greatest growth. It’s been organic, based on positive feedback and referrals.”
Customers notice the difference immediately. They are greeted by name when they walk in the door. Little details like coffee and cookies make a trip to the bank that much sweeter. On Friday, there’s popcorn to brighten their day.
“We had a new customer come in this week to buy a CD; our CD special is very competitive. They came back yesterday and said they’re bringing all their business over to us. When we asked why, they said, ‘Well, we sat over there while other customers were being waited on, and you seemed to know everybody.’ Our customers feel welcome and are comfortable coming into the bank. Quent has always fostered that,” Mike Ogaard said.
Another thing that sets Community Bank apart from its competitors is its veteran staff. It has 70 employees across its five locations, 35 percent of whom have been with the bank for over 10 years. Another 20 percent have been on staff for more than five years.
“Part of our success is due to the longevity of our staff,” Bob said. “That starts with Quent and senior management. We’re fortunate to have our team here for 10 to 15 years. So we have a lot of longevity, which can be rare in banking, especially when there are 30 other branches in town. It creates quite a competition for good key staff. We’ve been so fortunate to retain our staff.”
According to Bob, bank staff are some of the business’ biggest cheerleaders and strongest advocates, and the bank, in turn, considers each employee to be part of the Community Bank family.
“We have the best staff; loyal, committed to our bank. We’re so fortunate to have them. I truly believe that, “Bob said. “We hope we’ve created a culture where people want to come to work every day, and they want to go the extra mile to take care of our clients.”
Employees are less likely to look for greener pastures when work feels like home and working relationships run deep. This, in turn, pays off for bank customers, who benefit from the wealth of experience long-term employees bring to their jobs.
“Julie Vetter is an SVP and our chief retail banking officer and has been with us for 17 years. She’s been in community banking in Mankato for 45 years. EVP Mike King is our chief lending officer and has been with the bank for 15 years. Mike has been serving the borrowing needs of commercial customers in the area for 35 to 40 years.” Mike Ogaard said. “As Quent said: you get good people, then you get good customers, and they refer more customers. We’re just growing organically.”
Another key to Community Bank’s success is its responsiveness and speed to market on loan decisions. It separates itself from its competitors by providing the shortest possible time to market.
“If I meet with a client who needs something, I can walk up the stairs to Quent or over to Mike, who runs the bank day-to-day, and get an answer,” Bob said. “Within a day or two, we know whether we want to proceed with a potential loan, finance a project, or bring in a new relationship. It allows us to get back to our clients that much faster. We do it well.”
The ability to weigh in quickly on loan requests and make rapid decisions helps Community Bank differentiate itself from its larger corporate competitors. It may be a relatively smaller player, but it is nimble and fast on its feet, a qualities that score big points with its customers.
“Our customers tell us we get stuff done faster than a corporate bank. Quent’s here, and we can get answers faster,” Mike said.
The bank’s team tries to apply that same level of responsiveness to communications with its clients.
“There’re so many little things that you can do to set yourself apart that make a difference,” Bob said. “Just getting back to people is so important. If someone calls me or emails me with a loan question, my goal is to get back to that person within 24 hours. Of course, I don’t always achieve that, but that’s my goal.”
Increase in Commercial Banking
As Community Bank’s footprint has grown, so has its customer base and portfolio. Over time, it’s evolved from an ag-focused bank into a formidable presence in the commercial banking sector.
When Bob appeared in a Community Bank commercial at the end of 2022, many viewers were surprised to discover the size of some of the commercial clients the bank highlighted in the ad.
“We got a lot of comments like, ‘Really? You can do loans that big?’ It surprised people,” Mike said. “We kind of fly under the radar and do our thing. But we’ve grown. If you look at (the level of) deposits, we used to be fifth or sixth in the area. Now we’ve got the second highest level of deposits in town. We’ve passed by US Bank. Only Wells Fargo is ahead of us in first place. We’re the second largest bank in Mankato.”
The bank’s commercial lending group has participated in a number of interesting commercial projects, both new and repurposing existing commercial buildings into viable new businesses. One current example is the reimagining of the old Shopko building in Mankato. The building is being renovated and repurposed for new businesses.
“This is a project I’m excited about for our community, “Bob said. “It’s going to provide so much entertainment, so many more things to do in our community, especially during the cooler months. I was just talking with the developers on that project. You can tell that that’s their passion. They’re doing this because they want to make a meaningful contribution to our community and region. We’re proud to partner with them to make their dream a reality.”
The bank’s success has been paralleled by its customers’ success. Helping clients realize their dreams- whether buying their first home or launching a business- provides tremendous gratification to the Community Bank team.
“We have some customers we started with when they started their business, and it’s fun to see how they’ve grown and developed,” Mike said. “The community knows we are here to provide growth for the community.”
Community support isn’t limited to banking services. The entire Community Bank team strives to get involved and provide service to the broader community. Service projects include helping supply local food shelfs, volunteering at non-profits, building homes with Habitat for Humanity and ringing bells for the Salvation Army.
“We encourage our staff to be involved in the community. Donating our time is a big part of that,” Bob said.
While this support is important in all Community Bank locations, it is crucial for smaller towns which rely on their local branches.
“We’ve helped communities grow over the years and also, in the case of small towns, helped keep them alive,” Mike said. “In Vernon Center and Amboy, our two branches are the only banks out there. That’s important to those communities.”
The community has responded enthusiastically to the bank’s efforts, voting for Community Bank as one of the Top 3 banks in the Best of Mankato rankings from 2015 – 2021. It has also been welcomed into the Greater Mankato Hall of Fame.
Like other businesses, Community Bank is feeling the pressure from rising inflation and project costs. Some clients’ projects are on hold due to increased materials costs and higher interest rates. It’s a tricky financial environment.
“That’s our biggest challenge right now,” Bob said. “The cost of money has increased substantially over the last 12 months. It’s made the financial landscape a little bit more challenging to navigate. So, you try to work with your customers and make sure they’re in a position to be successful. From a lender standpoint, that has been unique.”
The community could be forgiven for feeling like it’s experiencing economic déjà vu: the last serious downturn ended a little more than a decade ago. Then the pandemic sent the economy on a white-knuckled roller-coaster ride. So, it’s hard to get too excited about the doom and gloom forecasts that are circulating right now. We’ve been down this road before.
Over his long career, Quentin has witnessed numerous economic cycles and he always comes out standing. He feels many of Community Bank’s customers are experienced in weathering financial storms and is confident the bank can help them do so again.
“A good share of our customers have been through it before. You just ride them out,” Quentin said.
Sometimes hard times bring opportunities as other lending institutions take a cautious approach that can leave some customers out in the cold. When that happens, Community Bank has found success (and new customers) by sticking with its own customers and opening doors when other institutions are slamming them shut.
“Economically, 2008, 2009 and 2010 were challenging years,” Mike said. “We took a little different approach. We stuck with customers, while a number of banks were kicking customers out. That created an opportunity. Our philosophy was, if you see a good potential customer and you talk to them and build a relationship with them; eventually, they’ll come to you. It may take six months, a year, or a year and a half, but eventually, they’re your customers. That happened in the previous recession, and the same thing happened recently with PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) dollars. A couple of the large banks weren’t very quick on the trigger to help their customers locally. So, their customers came to us and ended up becoming our customers.”
Though it’s impossible to determine how the next year will play out, Bob noted there are already some positive signs. The price of lumber is down, and some hard-to-find components are becoming more readily available as supply chain issues ease. Though economic nail-biting and talk of possible recession linger, Bob isn’t too worried. The banking sector is much stronger going into this downturn than it was a decade ago.
“Credit quality throughout the pandemic and even now is good. Banks are clean, and asset quality is good. So that hasn’t been a ripple effect yet,” Bob said. “For the most part, everyone shares the same sentiment: Southern Minnesota is resilient and pretty well insulated from economic downturns.”
In good times and bad, the bank’s focus has been to serve and collaborate with the communities it serves. Over the years, Quentin’s vision hasn’t changed: “We truly appreciate and are grateful for the trust our clients have placed in us.” Quentin said. “We look forward to continuing to serve our communities.”
Sidebar: Too many banks? Heck no!
A quick Google search reveals that the greater Mankato area is full of banks and credit unions. Construction crews are building more even as I write this story. So if you’re a banker, it might be starting to feel a little, well, crowded.
Is this a case of too much of a good thing? Are there too many banks?
Nope. At least not from Bob Beadell’s perspective. He’s been keeping an eye on the numbers, and the numbers look good. Area banks are all healthy and performing well.
“There are 28-30 branches in Mankato/North Mankato. Banks’ numbers are public, so we review every bank each year, and all the banks are doing relatively well,” Bob said. “There’s a lot of things to be financed. There’s a lot of deposits to be had.”
While he doesn’t deny that there are a lot of banks, Bob has an optimistic outlook for our area and believes its robust economy and consistent growth can support the number of financial institutions in town.
“It’s a sign of the economic health of our region. Mankato and Southern Minnesota have been insulated from past recessions, and I think a lot of that is due to our diverse economy. We have a farm economy, major employers, and major universities. We’re very fortunate to be in Southern Minnesota,” Bob said.
Still, the competition is stiff if you’re in the banking business. A short drive through Mankato’s busy hilltop area and rejuvenated downtown reveals almost three dozen banking options. It keeps things competitive and that’s good for the community.
“Do I wish there weren’t as many banks? Of course. It’s a competitive market. But I think we’re all doing well,” Bob said.
Sidebar: A Trio of Businesses
The Beadell family owns three separate businesses that dovetail neatly together. In addition to Community Bank, they also own and manage Community Insurance and St. Andrews Title and Exchange.
“They complement our business well,” Bob said. “We look at it as three separate entities, but if we’re going to get a bank client, we want to try to get an insurance or title company client and make the total sale. We want to have everything under one roof, if possible. That was Quent’s vision, and I think he captured it, and it’s working well.”
Community Insurance dates back to the early days of Community Bank when Quentin was working as an agent to help jump-start the fledgling bank. It was founded in 1976 and functions as an independent agency, helping customers find the perfect fit for their insurance needs. Today it has three locations: Mankato, Vernon Center, and Amboy.
“The insurance agency has evolved into a nice sibling business for us. If we loan money to somebody to buy a house or a business or an automobile, they need to get it insured as well. So, it’s a good referral source for us. We capture more business that way. The same thing happens with the title company,” Bob said.
For Quentin, the insurance company was an obvious choice. He’s been selling insurance for almost as long as he’s been in banking.
“I’ve had the insurance agency for a long time. I started when I was out in Vernon Center as an insurance salesman. After we opened here in Mankato, we just continued. We still have agents in Vernon Center and Amboy – and we have a pretty good-sized office over in our St. Andrew’s location,” Quentin said.
The Beadells’ third company, St. Andrews Title & Exchange, is a full-service title and escrow agency. It’s the newest of the three companies and opened in 2013.
“The title company started about ten years ago. It seemed like there was a need for it. We had people that needed legal help with closing loans and one thing or another,” Quentin said. “From our standpoint, it’s served us great.”
St. Andrews Title & Exchange delivers a full array of title, closing and settlement services to facilitate real estate purchases. It’s been performing well. Recently, Randy Zellmer joined the team as its primary attorney, which has helped accelerate growth.
While St. Andrews Title & Exchange is a natural fit for Community Bank customers, the company is open to all. In fact, more than half of its customers come from other sources.
Having three separate but parallel companies has created opportunities for synergy and collaboration. For example, they share a management team and other resources such as marketing and human resources.
“All three companies have offices in our St. Andrews location in Mankato. Quentin also put together a small core group from the bank that works with those two companies as well,” Mike said. “So, they’re not sitting out on an island. They’re integrated with bank employees, even though they’re separate companies.”
Sidebar: IT and Compliance Costs Increase
Several aspects of banking are vastly different today than they were in the early days of Community Bank. Both changes impact bank’s bottom lines.
The first change is the increasing demand for technology to deliver online banking services and safeguard those same clients with cybersecurity measures. In an age when computer viruses are delivered daily via email and hackers hold digital records hostage for ransom, banks have to invest significant capital into IT services and personnel training to keep information safe.
“You want to provide all the good services, but the number one thing is to protect the customer’s information,” Mike said. “That’s an ongoing, expensive job, and we spend a lot of money on it.”
The second area is the unrelenting increase in banking regulations and mandatory compliance requirements. Since the 2008 financial crisis and the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, bank compliance costs have risen 60 percent, according to Deloitte, a tax advisory service.
“What Congress passes for laws and things of that nature have grown. Especially in compliance, it’s evolved into a lot more than it used to be,” Quentin said.
Compliance personnel must wade through a constantly changing regulatory landscape to ensure banks meet requirements. It’s a big job.
“When I started here, we didn’t even have a full-time compliance person. Now we’ve got three,” Mike said. “Government regulations are a big deal in banking. They put a lot of stress on banks.”
Some smaller banks have thrown in the towel rather than deal with the burden.
“Compliance requirements are the reason a lot of small banks have been sold in Minnesota. It’s regulations, not financial issues, that are driving them out of business,” Mike said. “They don’t want to deal with the stress of compliance or even IT because it’s such a big challenge.”
Address: 300 St. Andrews Drive, Mankato, MN 56001
Phone: (507) 385-4444
St. Andrews Title & Exchange