In a Nutshell: First State Bank of St. Charles is a locally owned and independent institution founded in 1867 to serve the people of St. Charles, Missouri, and its surrounding areas. Today, the bank anticipates — and meets — evolving consumer needs through a diverse lineup of personal credit products, support for area nonprofits, and its long-standing commitment to small businesses. First State Bank is on a mission to spearhead growth and progress in its service areas through financial services and community support.
Times have changed significantly since First State Bank of St. Charles opened in 1867 on an unpaved Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri. But what hasn’t changed is people’s need for financial services and an institution that works to make communities better. Today’s First State Bank proudly continues that long tradition in its service areas.
First State Bank is locally owned, and aims to benefit its customers and communities. It has five banking centers in Missouri (two in St. Charles, and one each in O’Fallon, Lake Saint Louis, and Chesterfield) and one in Overland Park, Kansas, with five mortgage locations in Missouri (St. Charles, Chesterfield, Lee’s Summit, Gladstone, and Osage Beach) two mortgage locations in Kansas (Leawood and Tonganoxie), and one in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the bank manages a diverse asset portfolio of more than $475 million. The institution also offers an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, and its largest group of shareholders are its employees.
That results in a dedication to personalized service and a commitment that extends to everyone the bank serves. First State Bank strives to bring the benefits of credit to everyone, including area small businesses, as it works to keep communities growing and thriving.
The bank works to put all community members in a position to succeed, both financially and personally, through its many charitable and volunteer endeavors. The bank works with more than 50 local and national nonprofits to improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and its employees serve on more than 30 local nonprofit boards.
President and CEO Luanne Cundiff said First State Bank’s effectiveness in community building stems from making the most of its resources.
“As a relatively small community bank in the St. Louis area, we can’t be all things to all people,” Cundiff said. “But we can provide direction, and we can provide funding for the nonprofits that have the expertise.”
A Personalized Approach to Finding the Right Credit Fit
Its community strategy allows the team at First State Bank to focus its own expertise and provide best-in-class financial services with a personalized approach.
That commitment is critical when customers need personal credit products. First State Bank offers a wide range of credit cards, whether the priority is a balance transfer, cash back, rewards, or even building credit.
Its Platinum Card starts with a 0% APR and offers a low variable APR for paying down balances faster. The Max Cash Preferred Card earns up to 5% cash back, and its Real Rewards Card earns 1.5 points for every dollar spent.
First State Bank team members often help people make the best selection.
“Consumers can go online and find information, but, typically, they’ll call us,” Cundiff said. “You have to have a conversation with them to lead them down the right path.”
In a crowded and commercialized credit market, First State Bank’s personal touch is a bonus for customers who need products tailored to their specific financial situations.
“Everyone’s trying to sell them a card, and that can be overwhelming,” Cundiff said. “They need guidance, and that’s what a community bank is good at.”
Many credit customers come to the bank because they’re making a transition of some sort — perhaps into college or into life after graduation. Whatever the situation, the First State Bank team is always ready to combine personal consultation with financial education.
“College students are trying to figure out where they even begin,” Cundiff said. “When you can meld access with financial literacy, that teaches them the whole nine yards.”
Partnerships Enhance Community Well-Being
Many customers look to First State Bank to help them overcome challenges, including credit setbacks or lack of homebuying power. That’s why the bank offers a secured loan product called Credit Construct.
“It’s for those we identify as needing a little help and more time to heal their credit score,” Cundiff said. “It’s part of putting them on a path to financial stability.”
The Credit Construct program came about through a partnership between the bank and a local nonprofit financial counselor. That partnership exemplifies the bank’s approach to community service.
The bank provides charitable and volunteer support for organizations that help community members meet basic food and shelter needs. The bank also extends support to schools, youth programs, and housing initiatives, among others.
“We partner with a variety of different agencies and direct customers to the appropriate place,” Cundiff said. “Our goal is always to build a healthier community, not only from a financial perspective but also in terms of general well-being.”
One unique partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri and the Home Instead Senior Care organization ensures that First State Bank branches can serve those with dementia.
The program assigns trusted contacts for elderly or disabled customers who may exhibit vulnerabilities to bank personnel during branch visits.
“There’s a list of actions we can implement when we identify someone who may have an issue, including view-only online banking so people can’t make transfers, debit card limitations, and so on,” Cundiff said. “As an industry, we can’t lose sight of consumers we’re trying to protect, including the elderly and the disabled.”
Supporting Small Businesses During Challenging Times
Partnerships enable First State Bank to do more good in communities because they spread the bank’s resources much further. The same is true of the way the bank approaches supporting area small businesses.
A prime example has to do with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The nearly $1 trillion federal effort helped bridge employment gaps during COVID-19 shutdowns.
Out of necessity, PPP got up and running in a matter of weeks, and that put banks everywhere under pressure to deliver. The team at First State Bank stepped up and did what businesses needed it to.
“At the beginning, it was very clunky, but you could tell even when we were going through it that someday we’d be reading about it in the history books,” Cundiff said. “It was a heroic effort on the part of many, including financial institutions like ours partnering with the federal government to be that funnel for small businesses.”
Relationships put First State Bank business customers in line for relief and kept them in the loop as the program was revised.
“PPP was one of the reasons the economy stayed afloat during a period like none we’ve ever experienced,” Cundiff said.
Those business customers were also beneficiaries in other ways. The First State Bank team contacted many individual companies and suggested additional steps to help see them through.
“Along with many other banks, we had quite a long list of borrowers that deferred payments during that period,” Cundiff said. “PPP and those deferrals were what got us through what could have been a disastrous situation.”