FARGO, ND – Published in summer 2023, For a Better Way of Life® encapsulates the bank’s incredible legacy, which has been a century in the making.
With 100 years in the books, Gate City Bank has published and released a memoir about its amazing history, which has inspired a better way of life for customers, communities and team members for generations.
July 2023 marked a century of better banking for Gate City Bank, which has celebrated this remarkable milestone in many ways so far in 2023. From record-breaking donations to a new location to a limited-edition, crazy cookie flavor and everything in between, the bank has made a splash, culminating in its new written work titled, For a Better Way of Life®. It was officially released to the public in May with select print editions and a free digital copy in the App Store.
“These past 100 years are so important because they tell such an inspirational story, one that not only speaks of our perseverance through challenging times, but sets the stage for our continued commitment to a strong future,” said Kevin Hanson, President & CEO.
“Our story begins with innovative pioneers who had a noble dream: to create a better way of life that wouldn’t merely last for their lifetime, but for many to come. When our founders dared to imagine Gate City Bank back then, they thought of a future that could be built to last for the next 100 years – and the next 100 years after that.”
Gate City Bank set out to tell its incredible story by partnering with the best. For two years, the bank worked diligently alongside Fort Lauderdale, FL-based Write Stuff Enterprises, the world’s leading publisher of books on the evolution of industry and technology. With Write Stuff founder Jeffrey Rodengen authoring the publication himself, leaders from both organizations worked tirelessly to capture the bank’s inspiring history – one interview at a time.
Throughout the entire process of drafting For a Better Way of Life®, Gate City Bank was determined to do things right. From vetting countless interviewees to combing through regional archives to partnering with organizations like Forum Communications and North Dakota State University, Gate City Bank and Write Stuff worked meticulously to assemble a diverse set of sources, puzzle pieces of sorts that eventually revealed a clear picture of the past century.
Former and present board members spoke of the unwavering determination of the bank’s leaders. Historic journal entries revealed the bank’s forward thinking from the beginning. Old Polaroid photographs helped researchers journey through days past, granting them a front-row seat to how the bank evolved and triumphed in many ways.
Page by page, a beautiful narrative was brought to light – highlighting the better way of life that has been created for customers, communities and team members. Upon completion, a print version of the free book was distributed to all team members, and a digital version was made available to the public.
It’s amazing to think that Gate City Bank’s doors first opened as Gate City Building and Loan Association a century ago – all the way back in 1923. That’s when the bank’s founder, William D. Gillespie, assembled a small group of seven tenacious visionaries and led them on an incredible journey, one that would ultimately spark the reimagining of community banking, and a financial institution like no other.
Throughout the past 100 years, the bank has been building something – a legacy – of innovation, servant leadership, community giving, empowerment and fun. It started with the coming of the railroad in 1872, when Fargo was considered part of the “Gateway to the West.” That’s how it got the nickname, “The Gate City.” In 1923, citizens looking for a better way of life thought the name was most appropriate for the newly chartered Gate City Building and Loan Association.
The company’s eight original founders took risks, boldly embracing a new way of doing things in an industry that likely seemed unchangeable to many at the time, all so that countless individuals could prosper – enjoying a better way of life that would last for years, even a hundred of them. Gate City Bank’s founders originally offered passbook savings and conventional mortgage loans. By the end of the first year, their assets would total a mere $16,000.
“At Gate City Bank, our journey – our purpose of creating a better way of life for customers, communities and team members – has without a doubt had a lasting impact,” Hanson added. “It’s helped people’s dreams come true. It’s resulted in better communities. It’s driven us to persevere through even the hardest of times. It’s made a tremendous difference.”
History has a way of repeating itself. In some cases, the challenges the banking industry and country as a whole faced yesterday have circled back and become a reality today. Whether it’s been responding to natural disasters, inflation or anything in between, Gate City Bank has continued to persevere through tumultuous times throughout its history. John Whittlesey, a previous chairman of the board, said it well back in 1980:
“The savings and loan business has been built on promoting thrift and homeownership. When inflation and government policy drive rates too high, and when rate changes become volatile and extreme, it becomes very challenging to carry out these functions. Consequently, a conservative posture has been adopted to ensure the financial integrity of Gate City. The country has been, and still is, in a financial storm, and the first order of business must be to weather it.”
As Gate City Bank’s new book so inspiringly describes, the bank has weathered life’s storms before, and will continue to do so in the years to come – emerging stronger than ever before.
One of many snippets from the book that does a great job of painting a picture of who Gate City Bank is as a bank is when, in the face of regulatory hesitation, now-retired President & CEO Steve Swiontek and other bank leaders fought for the creation of the bank’s BetterLife™ Student Loan.
The first and only program of its kind in the nation, this offering baffled industry compliance representatives; initially, they couldn’t wrap their minds around why the bank would offer something that wouldn’t bring in a lot of money. The BetterLife™ Student Loan, like so many other Gate City Bank innovations, was simply designed to help customers consolidate debt and pay off student loans faster. By this premise, creating a better way of life came first.
In the face of temporary pushback from puzzled regulators, the commitment by the bank’s leaders never wavered. They kept their eyes on a beautiful vision, one they had faith would help so many who were burdened by student loan debt. How right they were, and how impressed the regulators became. There are countless stories like this within the book.
Gate City Bank’s founders, and those who came after them, have always put customers, communities and team members first. This has been key to making the bank’s culture so unique and profound, helping it withstand the test of time all the way up to today.
Since 1923, Gate City Bank has worked to establish itself as a bank its customers can depend on – and it remains committed to that role today. The bank remains strong, safe and secure. It has incredibly healthy finances and is considered well-capitalized with a capital ratio that significantly exceeds the required regulatory minimum level.
Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, strong leadership has also been a common thread throughout Gate City Bank’s history. Its leaders have all believed wholeheartedly in the bank’s wonderful vision and purpose, and executed it accordingly. William D. Gillespie, Gate City Bank’s first president & CEO, said it best at the very beginning:
“I trust that in the coming years, we shall all look back at these pioneer days with great satisfaction in realizing that we had a part in the inception of an institution which is growing to large proportions, and in the coming years shall contribute to the comforts and happiness of a great number of citizens of our state.”
How spot on he was.
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