By ROBERT PIERCE
On July 13, 1900, Paul Woods, J.W. Berryman and J.E. George teamed up to establish the Liberal State Bank.
Three years later, that bank would become the First National Bank, and this year, Liberal’s first banking center is celebrating 110 years in the community.
When the bank began, its capital stock was $5,000 with a surplus of another $5,000. By the end of 1900, the deposits had reached a total of nearly $42,000, with total loans of nearly $41,000.
FNB’s first location was in a small building in the 200 block of North Kansas. After succeeding moves, in 1960, the bank moved to a location at 324 N. Kansas. This location would include Liberal’s first drive-up banking facility.
In 2008, the bank would once again find a new home at its present location at 1700 N. Lincoln.
Tina Call, who came on board with FNB in 2002 as a chief financial officer, became president in 2006, and she contributes the bank’s staying power to what she called its greatest assets – its employees.
“We have several that have been here 25 to 30 years,” she said. “I’d say half a dozen have been here that long. Our employees have always been our greatest assets. When you know the people you’re dealing with, especially these days in a bank, and when you’re familiar with those people and you’re comfortable with those people, it helps tremendously.”
The Winger family, including former FNB president Melvin Winger, purchased the bank in 1975 and have been in place as the owners since. Call said this has likewise contributed greatly to the success of the bank.
“The philosophies and the standards that are owners have set haven’t changed,” she said. “The goals have always been to serve our community and to serve our customers, and we’ve been able to do that with our employees and with our ownership.”
Call illustrated the help the Winger family, who bought interest in the bank from the heirs of J.E. George, the bank’s first president, has provided by showing that since 1975, the bank has expanded throughout Liberal as well as into other area communities.
“Right now, we have a branch on the south side,” she said. “We have a branch downtown, our main branch, the Wal-Mart location and Hugoton.”
Call said, however, at the moment there are no plans to expand outside of the bank’s immediate territory.
“We’re part of a holding company,” she said. “We cover the southwest corner of Kansas. Our holding company has Johnson, Syracuse, Elkhart, Rolla and Garden City. That was the goal of our holding company to cover this territory.”
In addition to its employees, Call said FNB said the customer service they provide is also its strongest asset.
“We have a high standard for the way we operate,” she said. “We don’t fall into trends. We maintain that high standard, and I think that’s given us the stability that we’ve needed over the years to be able to continue to grow.”
Call noted the growth of FNB since 1900 from that original $10,000 investment to today’s numbers of $20 million in capital and assets of nearly $235 million. She said when the Winger family purchased the bank in 1975, the assets were around $25 million.
“They’ve just maintained the stability and have been a stable part and the reason behind our ability to continue to grow,” she said. “We’ve had about 25 to 30 percent growth just over the last four years. We’re very pleased.”
Call said she is looking forward to the future of FNB.
“We’ve been here for two years,” she said of the location on North Lincoln. “We’ve settled in now, and we’re here for the next 110 years. Hopefully, the building will last another 110 years.”