Patrick L. Ward is chairman of the board of South Side Trust & Savings Bank. He is a third generation South Side banker. A lifelong Peorian, he has two sons, Jason, who works for Sprinkmann Insulation; and Jeff, who now has become the fourth generation of Wards to be affiliated with South Side Bank.
Explain your family’s involvement with South Side Bank from its beginning. How did you get involved?
The Ward family had a grocery store on Garden Street, a block away from where the main bank is today. In the summer of 1921, 12 family-owned businessmen got together and formed a bank for the people and businesses of the South Side of Peoria. These original 12 families still have strong ties to South Side Bank, and five of the original families are currently represented on the board of directors.
Warren Sutliff was the original President from 1921 to 1939. It was after his death that H.P., or Pat Ward, became president and chairman. It was at this time that the Ward family became involved in South Side Bank full-time.
H.P. served from 1939 to 1965. In 1965, my father, William R. Ward, became president and chairman until his death in 1984. At this time, Mike Conlan became chairman, and Bob Denton president. When Mike stepped down as Chairman in 1988, I became chairman. After 40 years with South Side Bank, Bob Denton retired in 1998 and current President Dan Karpowicz took over.
Like my father, I started my banking career at a competitor bank. I was offered a job at South Side Bank after school, but was already earning twice the salary offered at another company. When I was laid off, however, I decided to accept a banking job, but not at South Side Bank. One day, I just walked into Commercial National Bank in response to an employment ad and applied.
The bank gave me the job, with one stipulation: I would have to tell my father personally I was going to work for a competitor. My father was not real pleased. But, South Side Bank wasn’t done with me yet.
I decided to return to school. Attending I.C.C. and Bradley, I finished my graduate work at the University of Wisconsin. In late 1974, I decided I would test my resume in the Chicago banking market, and asked my father’s secretary at South Side Bank to make some copies for me. She made the copies, but left the original in the copy machine, where Executive Vice President Mike Conlan picked it up.
Whiting out my name, he presented the resume to the bank board, who was looking to hire an assistant manager of the installment loan department. After the board enthusiastically expressed their desire to hire the young man, they discovered they had hired the banker’s son. I soon moved into the area of business development and marketing.
How has the bank grown through the years—acquisitions, branches, services, etc?
We adopted the American eagle as our symbol when the bank was founded in 1922. The original eagle was a majestic looking bird carved out of a three-ton stone and rested atop the bank building for many years.
Through two different remodelings, this stone eagle has maintained its prominent place on the bank building. The current symbol still portrays the eagle as a reminder of the solid structure of the bank. Added to the eagle was a traditional weather vane, showing the four points of the compass, denoting South Side Bank’s growth from a neighborhood institution to an area-wide financial center servicing customers in all parts of our community.
In 1977, we built our first branch in West Peoria, and our assets were $51 million. As banking rules changed, we were able to open additional branches. In 1984, our Northpoint Facility opened, and we had assets of $76 million. We opened our Bartonville Facility in 1988, when our assets were $110 million.
In 1990, we purchased Chillicothe Federal Savings & Loan, and our assets grew to $176 million. During the past 10 years, we have opened six additional facilities: in Willow Knolls Court, inside Cub Foods (in the Glen Hollow Shopping Center), two in downtown Peoria (Main and Adams and on Hamilton Boulevard), on Cole Street in East Peoria and in Sheridan Village. Our Cub Foods location is open seven days a week.
We also have a mobile branch, typically known as a "bank branch on wheels." The Eagle Express can be driven to any location and provides full-service banking. It can be set up to open accounts, accept teller transactions and process loan applications in a matter of minutes. It also features a 24-hour cash dispense ATM. The Eagle Express is a familiar fixture at many of the riverfront activities.
We entered the insurance market in 1998 by purchasing the James Hardesty Insurance Agency, now called Mid Illinois Insurance. In October 2001, we moved the agency across the street from the main bank at 2119 S.W. Adams Street. We bought the insurance agency when the regulators relaxed the rules on what businesses banks could be involved in. We felt insurance and the financial industry could fit hand-in-hand.
In June 1999, we decided to set up a 24-hour account information line. This telephone-based system is very easy to use.
You can get information on withdrawals, deposits, balances, get a fax, search for certain transactions, or transfer funds or make loan payments—all over the telephone—24 hours a day.
In June 1999, we decided to get into Internet banking. It’s unbelievable what you can do for free on our Web site at www.southsidebank.com. You can check balances, transfer money from one account to another, see if checks have cleared, find that ATM or check card transactions you forgot to write down, look at your statement and a lot more. There’s also a button on our home page marked "My SSB Portal." This is a free, customizable place on our Web site where you can check your stocks, the weather, news, scores—practically anything you want.
In June 2001, we introduced our Internet bill pay service, called Eagle Bill Pay. With Eagle Bill Pay, you can pay all your bills in seconds—and even set them up to be paid in the future. On December 1, we introduced the commercial services of Internet banking to our business customers. This feature offers cash management, tax payments, payrolls, payables and receivables.
This year, South Side Bank celebrates 80 years of service to Peoria and the surrounding communities.
We are locally-owned and have been for 80 years. This means local service and local decisions focused on the customer. Everything stays right here in the Peoria area—no 800 numbers, no out-of-state addresses. We’ve got an 80-year record of local service, decision-making and local ownership. We plan on another 80 years, plus.
A lot of businesses have Mission Statements. Does South Side Bank have a Mission Statement?
South Side Bank does, in fact, have a mission, vision and values statement. It was compiled by a group of employees and approved by the board of directors.
It is the mission of South Side Bank to satisfy the financial needs of our customers and be a responsible citizen in our community while earning a reasonable rate of return for our investors.
Our vision is to be the bank of choice in the communities we serve. To realize this vision, we must attract and retain the best employees for our team, utilize the most efficient technology, provide quality products and give the highest level of customer service.
Our values are the fundamental principals and beliefs that guide South Side Bank. These are the concepts that define who we are and how we work.
Our values provide us with the basis for action and communicate the expectations we hold for our behaviors and ourselves. As such, these values are the foundation of our operations and who we are.
- Quality customer service and satisfaction is our core corporate value. We will strive to help our customers achieve their financial goals while building strong, long-term professional relationships.
- We will take ownership of our customers’ problems and we will always be responsive, taking pride in delivering what we promise.
- We will treat our customers and our team members with respect and integrity.
- We will create a continuous learning atmosphere by encouraging personal and professional growth and development of all employees.
- We will promote open communication, participation and innovation among our team members.
- Our bank and employees acknowledge the support we receive from the communities we serve by contributing labor, time, knowledge and money to help those in need while adhering to the highest ethical standards.
- We are a team committed to achieving our mission and vision.
Why has the bank maintained its corporate offices in an older part of the city?
The first board of directors was composed of neighborhood and stockyard members who recognized the need to bring banking closer to the South Side of Peoria. South Side Bank has had a presence in the South Side of Peoria since it applied for a charter in 1921.
Our roots are here, and one of the bank’s objectives has always been to improve our neighborhood as well as this area of town. This is where South Side Bank started, and, to be honest, we don’t see any reason to move.
We’ve done quite a bit of expansion here in the south end. In February 2000, we began remodeling the former Disabled American Veterans building at 2120 SW Adams for our loan department.
In September, we moved our entire loan function across the street from the main building to better serve our loan customers. We’ve put our trust department back into the Main bank, and, as mentioned above, added the insurance agency in the lower level of our loan department.
Through all the remodeling, though, we’ve still got parts of the original building intact. One of the walls in the hallway by the trust department is the original brick wall that used to be outside. When you know that, you realize we’re really not far from our roots.
Your niche was small business banking. Is it still? Has it expanded?
Small business banking has always been a part of our business plan and will continue to be.
As we celebrate our 80th year, we find that besides small businesses, many of our customers are now mid-size.
With the many consolidations of financial institutions in the area, we found many new customers wanting a local, community bank that makes its decisions right here. We always listen to our peers’ advertising. So many describe themselves as local community banks. We’re very proud to say that for 80 years we have been here and we look forward to another 80 years. We pride ourselves on knowing our customers and their needs.
What a great feeling it is to walk through one of our lobbies and hear our employees greeting customers by name. When you’re 6’4" and weigh 300 pounds, it’s sometimes hard to say, "Big is not always best!"
Our type of banking is personal. We want to be your bank and provide the products and services you need to be successful. Whether you’re just getting started, new to the area, or looking for a new financial institution, we feel South Side Bank can be your bank.
How has South Side Bank maintained its position in the Peoria area as banks have been acquired by larger institutions; credit unions have expanded, etc. Do you plan to remain an independent?
Every year, our board makes a commitment to continue to be an independent bank. The board encourages us to look for opportunities that would work with our existing business.
With all of the mergers this area has seen in the financial industry, it’s comforting to know there is still at least one institution that is not giving in to the big bank syndrome, and is staying locally-owned and operated. At South Side Bank, you’re a person with a name. You’re not just an account number.
After hearing that, will we see South Side Bank expanding in the future and if so, what kind of expansion plans?
We are always looking for growth opportunities, and are continually looking for additional possible locations. Whether it’s opening a branch, purchasing another bank, or buying another insurance agency, we are always looking for ways to better serve our customers.
What are your projections for Peoria and the area economy?
I don’t think you can refer to it as "Peoria" without considering the surrounding area. There are too many turf wars going on. This market has great potential with the many positive things happening.
There’s still too much in-the-box thinking, or not looking at the whole picture. The focus seems to be on just the negative points and dwelling on them. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but I look at how much growth is still going on. Granted, many things have changed and we will never do again what we used to do, or the way we did it. But, isn’t that the way it is throughout history?
We need for some visionary people to come together and talk about what is good for the whole area and not be so worried about their own world, but look at the whole picture. As the area does well, we will all do well.
We feel the economy will come back in the first half of 2002, slowly at first, but it will grow. I think interest rates will remain close to where they are with maybe some small variations through 2002. The growth cells will continue to grow as the economy holds steady.
South Side Bank has its roots in the South Side of Peoria. How has the area changed in the last 10 years? What do you see in the future?
During the last 10 years we have seen many changes to the South Side of Peoria. From Kumpf Boulevard to Laramie we have seen more than 100 new homes built. The River West Project has been a great improvement and will continue to spur residential growth.
Commercially speaking, we have watched and witnessed many improvements from various projects. Southtown has experienced more growth. ADM continues to be a major employer. The new ballpark, although not completed yet, will spark even more developments. Many of the old established businesses have continued to grow and flourish, and as employment continues, so will the pulse of the South Side and our tri-County area.
Last, but not least, tell us why South Side Bank donated to the Riverfront and not a project in the South Side?
Our roots are in the South Side and we feel we are a long-standing part of the South Side, yet we are still a part of the tri-County market. We have always been involved in projects that include not only the South Side, but also our market area, and we will continue to practice this philosophy.
We are very fortunate to have the board of directors we have. The other members are very strong supporters of our area. When we were originally approached about a contribution to the Riverfront, we were not thinking of the Plaza, but maybe a small fountain or something similar. After several discussions with different committees, we were approached to broaden our horizons and think about the Plaza.
Several concepts were considered as to how we could get involved. We weighed our options and felt the Riverfront project, although involved with indecision, was a place South Side Bank should be involved. We approached our board about the idea of South Side Bank Plaza and why we should consider it.
Before we told the board all the pros and cons, there was a motion to proceed. The board was quick to point out the community has been very good to South Side Bank and this was a great way for us to give something back.
The riverfront development is one of the most exciting projects the Peoria area has or possibly will ever undertake, and we’re proud to be on the forefront of its development. Peoria, and its surrounding areas, are full of a rich and wonderful history.
We’re excited to be able to continue with this heritage of growth and development to be enjoyed not only by ourselves, but future generations as well.
Thinking about giving something back to the community and wanting to be involved are two of the reasons that South Side Bank will continue to help make this a better community for years to come. IBI