PRINCETON — It was business as usual Monday morning ...
Receptionist Kathy Hermeyer was busy answering the phone, talking with customers and scheduling appointments.
Teller Jan Doty was waiting on customers in her teller line.
Assistant Vice President and New Directions Coordinator Beth Saal was working with a customer who was seated in front of her desk.
Vice President Business Development Officer Tracy Makransky alternated between being on the telephone and talking with customers and other staff members.
Yes, it was business as usual ... almost. The Citizens First National Bank logos on staff member’s business cards had been replaced with a Heartland Bank logo. Hermeyer answered the phone by saying, “Heartland Bank ..., formerly Citizens First National Bank.” A uniformed Illinois State trooper sat inside the door, and men with clip-on tags that said “FDIC” were engaged in a variety of activities. And Citizens First National Bank President/CEO Tom Ogaard was no longer in charge.
Instead, Heartland Bank and Trust Chairman/CEO Fred Drake milled around the lobby at 606 S. Main St., greeting customers, speaking with staff and attending to what seemed like a multitude of duties.
Late Friday afternoon, Citizens First National Bank was closed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. The FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Heartland Bank and Trust of Bloomington to assume all the deposits of Citizens.
Citizens employees first learned of the change at a company meeting called at 5 p.m. Friday, when the federal regulators and Heartland entered the bank. Drake said Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday belonged to the FDIC, which performed a detailed inventory of the bank.
“They (FDIC) turned it over to us today (Monday) with a complete inventory,” Drake told the BCR late Monday morning, noting the ISP troopers stationed at all Citizens locations were the FDIC’s “standard operating procedures.”
A third-generation Heartland CEO/chairman, Drake repeatedly spoke highly of the staff, and he understood the loss the community must feel with the demise of Citizens First National Bank.
“This has been a proud community bank,” he said. “I understand that a rural community has memories. It’s been the same name for over 100 years ... We have been impressed with the staff and many of those who have a lot of longevity with the bank. They are very attentive, friendly and community oriented ... We need these folks to help us run this bank.”
Drake said the Citizens staff became the staff of Heartland on Monday, adding staff members will still have a 401K, retain their seniority and be offered insurance and other benefits.
Drake said he understands any skepticism customers and community members might have, but he wanted to assure customers they won’t be reading about problems with Heartland in the media.
“There won’t be much news about Heartland. We’ve got good capital. We just want to get back to serving this community, back to banking,” he said. “I hope (customers) can leave the skepticism behind and end a long road of concerns. Our bank is not in that situation. We are a strong, community-operated, conservative bank.”
Drake said he’ll be visiting many of the other branches this week and in the near future. Including the Citizens banks, Heartland now has 68 branches, with three banks in Missouri and the rest in the North Central Illinois.
Drake said he’s always had his eye on Citizens First National Bank.
“I’ve always liked the bank. They were basically doing the same thing we were ... It was an easy decision to proceed with ... Princeton is a strong community, and Citizens was a strong bank. Unfortunately they got caught in the economy,” he said. “Princeton is not going to be a small operation for us. It’s very significant to us.”
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