A bank with local roots dating back nearly 130 years was named Waupaca’s 2013 Large Business of the Year.
First National Bank received top honors at the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the Waupaca Ale House.
The National Bank of Waupaca, as it was first called, was organized in 1885 and located on Main Street. The oldest surviving financial records indicate the bank had total assets of $210,000.
In 1906, the business would change its name to Old National Bank. Four years later, Old National Bank would acquire First National Bank, which at that time was located on the corner of Main and Fulton streets.
After taking over First National Bank, Old National Bank showed assets of $702,000 in 1910.
Today, First National Bank has total assets of more than $775 million and 11 branch offices in Wisconsin and Texas, according to Archie Overby, the bank’s president and CEO.
First National Bank employs about 140 people, with 75 employees at 111 Jefferson St. in downtown Waupaca.
“My wife recently said that banks have really nice buildings, but it’s the people working in those buildings that make banks successful,” Overby said.
He noted that most of the bank’s executive officers have been with First National for at least 30 years.
Overby said First National Bank currently serves nearly 10,000 customers.
Overby became president of First National Bank in 1979. He had worked at banks in Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana. At the time, he was with Farrar Group, which had purchased the Johnson family’s shares in First National Bank.
“When I came in, Richard E. Johnson was the chairman of the board,” Overby recalled, noting the Chamber named Johnson the 1979 Man of the Year.
In the early 1980s, Johnson and Overby repurchased First National Bank from the Farrar Group.
“The bank started performing quite a bit better after I came here,” Overby said. “The directors decided it would be a good thing if we expanded it.”
Around 1985, First National Bank acquired First State Bank of Iola, which had $20 million in assets.
“In 1989, we bought a branch of Money Corps Savings and Loan in Chetek. It had $10 million in assets,” Overby said.
By 1991, First National Bank had more than $100 million in total assets.
In the 1990s, First National Bank began looking beyond Wisconsin to expand.
“In the Midwest, banks were too expensive to buy,” Overby said.
Advances in computer technology and a banking crisis in Texas seemed like an opportunity to Overby, who is originally from the Lone Star State.
In 1995, First National Bank acquired National Bank of Commerce in Pampa, Texas, and reached another milestone when its total assets grew to more than $200 million.
In 1998, First National purchased First Bank and Trust of Shamrock, Texas, with assets of $22 million, and opened a branch in Weyauwega.
By 1999, First National Bank’s total assets had grown to more than $300 million.
In 2001, First National Bank acquired a branch in Childress, Texas, worth $32 million.
In 2007, First National purchased Dairyman’s State Bank with branches in Clintonville, Marion, Seymour and Shiocton and total assets of $100 million.
“By that time, we had grown to more than $600 million,” Overby said.
When asked about the bank’s future plans, Overby said, “We’re going to keep doing the same things we’ve been doing for a long time: safeguarding people’s money and making loans to them.”
He said First National Bank will continue to focus on providing services to people living in small communities.
“We’re kind of old fashioned. We still do business with a handshake,” Overby said. “If we say something is going to happen, it happens exactly the way we said it would. Our word is our bond.”