It’s a standard piece of advice, handed down from parent to child, from teacher to student, from employer to employee. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Find one thing at which you can excel and do that.
Community Resource Bank, however, is the exception to that rule. For 143 years, Community Resource Bank has served the Northfield area by excelling with small business, with agriculture and with personal banking. As a lender and as an investment advisor, Community Resource Bank is part of the foundation of the community that they literally helped to form.
Founded in 1878 as Citizens Bank of Northfield, Community Resource has grown and evolved right alongside the community it serves. In 1952 Citizens Bank of Northfield was acquired by the First Bank System and then renamed the First Bank of Northfield, N.A. in 1979. Eight years later a group of local investors bought the bank, returning it to its local roots, and it was given yet another new name, Community National Bank. Over the next 12 years the bank grew by acquiring branches in Cannon Falls and Roseville. Finally, in 2006, the decision was made to reform as a state-chartered bank, and the name became Community Resource Bank.
Community Resource Bank has thrived since then because of the decision to focus locally. “We’ve always been a strong ag bank,” said CRB President Jim Loe. “And over the years we’ve been able to help individuals by showing that we care and by treating them as more than just customers. We try to make personal connections with them through honest conversation and follow-through.
“And as a small business lender,” he said, “we punch above our weight class.”
The bank philosophy honors employees, customers and community in balance. The 62 or so people who work at CRB are treated the same way the bank treats their clients; they are honored for the work that they do and are treated with respect. The bank has been loyal to the employees as well. During the Covid-19 pandemic, nobody at CRB lost their job. Even when the bank chose to temporarily close its Downtown Northfield location for social distancing concerns during the pandemic, those employees were re-assigned to other areas and kept drawing a paycheck.
“We made a commitment to our staff,” said Loe. “Everybody kept their jobs.”
That kind of loyalty is reflected in the way the employees treat the customers, and in how they engage in the community, as well. All CRB employees are encouraged to be involved with community organizations, and they are given paid time off to attend meetings or functions. Even the top management is involved. Chief Retail Officer Sue White is the Chair of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board, and Loe himself is heavily involved in the Northfield Rotary Club.
“If anything good came out of the past year,” said White, “it was the way we saw our employees consistently volunteering, engaging and investing in our community.”
All of this adds up to a bank that is deeply entrenched in the Northfield area, as well as in Cannon Falls and Roseville.
“We have to be,” said Loe. “Serving the community is the lifeblood of a good local bank.”
But even the most entrenched institutions must keep up and evolve with the times. Last year, the decision was made to rebrand the bank. A new logo was designed, and a new website was installed at crb.bank.
“It was a good year for a re-design,” Loe said. “And it gave us an opportunity to upgrade our website.” CRB offers a host of electronic banking options from virtual interactions and electronic meetings to DocuSign technology. The idea during the pandemic was that people needed to be able to bank from anywhere and moving forward all those services will be staple offerings.
In an area that seems to see a new bank or credit union popping up virtually every week, Community Resource Bank stands as the seasoned cornerstone of the community. Being Northfield’s oldest financial institution means it is the bank that has held the public trust the longest. Over 143 years, the institutional knowledge they have gained has allowed them to serve the Northfield community with a local’s wisdom and a neighbor’s understanding. It’s not so much about being all things to all people. It’s really just about knowing the people you serve.