Northwest Business Magazine

Success Stories: Stillman Bank

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With a 135-year history of serving the greater Rockford region, this community bank continues to pride itself on the fundamentals of good banking: relationships, service and the ability to respond to changing demands.

The Stillman Bank branch at 8492 E. State St., in Rockford, opened in 1999 and was the bank’s first location outside of Ogle County. The financial institution has six branches spread out across the region.

The Stillman Bank branch at 8492 E. State St., in Rockford, opened in 1999 and was the bank’s first location outside of Ogle County. The financial institution has six branches spread out across the region.

Ed Munguia gets one common question from people interested in doing business with Stillman Bank.
Can the bank provide the same services as the larger financial institutions in the area?

“We are a full-service bank, and we can offer you the same products and services that big banks do,” says Munguia, executive vice president at Stillman Bank’s Rockford office, 8492 E. State St. “We just have that added community banking touch where our focus is on building relationships with our customers.”

People looking for a bank likely want a place with consistency where they can feel comfortable. With a history that spans more than 135 years, Stillman Bank has served generations of customers.

It’s a community bank that has remained locally owned since its doors opened. It offers products and services you’d expect from a big-box bank, including checking and savings accounts, mortgage origination, and commercial and agricultural lending.

“All of our offices have a senior officer on staff capable of making decisions on the spot, so if you have questions or concerns, they can be addressed right away,” Munguia says. “We’re also privately held, and we cater to our customers and not Wall Street. These larger banks are trying to meet the earnings per share expectations they promise Wall Street every quarter, and we’re not concerned about quarterly estimates. We’re more concerned about developing long-term relationships with our customers.”

One service people don’t realize Stillman Bank offers, Munguia says, is trust and asset management. The bank’s trust department advises its clients on investments and personal trust matters, such as estate, retirement and financial planning.

“Our expertise has been developed by firsthand experience as community members and world-class training in the areas of estate planning, trust administration and investments,” says David Bogner, vice president and trust officer at Stillman Bank. “We have built relationships with other local professionals, such as attorneys and accountants, to help our clients achieve their goals. We are driven by a desire to see our clients succeed.”

Bogner adds that anyone can come to the bank and meet with trust officers for free.

“It’s a no-obligation consultation where people can review their portfolio and discuss their financial goals,” he says.

Stillman Bank’s history goes back to when founder James H. King opened a privately owned bank in Stillman Valley, Ill., about 15 miles south of Rockford in Ogle County. The first bank was a 20-foot, single-story frame building on the corner of Walnut and Main streets, across from the current Stillman Valley location. Thanks to the growth demand in Ogle County in the following years, the bank opened its Oregon, Ill., facility in 1982. In 1987, the company expanded again when it purchased the former United Bank in Rochelle, Ill., and in July 1993 it opened another branch in Byron, Ill.

“The bank started originally with an intent to serve the community that it was in,” Munguia says. “The thought was, ‘Let’s build a bank because we have an immediate need within the communities we’re in to serve the general populace. As the area around us grew, we grew with it. Longevity in community banking is one characteristic that sets us apart from the competition.”

The bank’s first location outside of Ogle County opened off East State Street in Rockford in 1999, and the most recent addition is in Roscoe, Ill., which opened in 2006.

“We were one of the few banks to survive the Great Depression,” Munguia says. “We never closed our bank during that time, and that allowed us to grow. Back then, institutions were closing their doors and they weren’t financially stable. Our solid foundation helped us grow in Ogle County and build our additional offices.”

The continual growth of the bank is also noticeable in its financial statements. In 1944, the assets were $1.5 million. Twenty-five years later, in 1969, the assets were $11 million, and by Dec. 31, 1999, the assets reached $210 million. Today, the bank has more than $430 million in growing assets.

One way Stillman Bank has remained successful is through its ability to build relationships with its clients.

“We are a relationship bank and our bankers build camaraderie with people, especially if they come in as part of a daily or weekly routine,” Munguia says. “Our employees have done an amazing job of being that core focus and being that voice. We may provide the same services as the banks down the road, but it’s our staff that provide the extra hometown touch.”

With the bank headquarters located in Stillman Valley, much of the staff lives within Ogle, Winnebago and Boone counties.

Trying to compete with the large number of banks in the area is a challenge, Munguia says.

“There are many financial institutions for individuals to choose from, especially in Winnebago County,” he says. “You can drive down the road and see numerous banks, and it can be overwhelming. However, as one of the few locally headquartered banks left in the area, we are built on the notion that our customers are not just an account number; they’re people with individual needs. We want customers to think of Stillman Bank as a place they can go for those big milestones in life as well as the small hurdles along the way.”

In order to stay relevant for the next century, Munguia says, the institution has to keep pace with the times and adjust to the capabilities of new technologies.

“We recognize the importance of a banking relationship with flexibility,” he says. “We offer the latest in banking technologies including online and mobile banking, 24/7 text alerts, access to thousands of MoneyPass ATMs and the ability to apply for a loan on our website.”

Munguia says the bank also interacts with its customers through social media.

“We love being able to stay connected to our customers,” he says. “It’s through our various social media platforms that we’re able to share more of the personal side of banking.”

Stillman Bank continues to build its customer relationships by interacting with clients outside the bank.

“We’re able to meet with the customers where they’re located,” he says. “All of our commercial and agricultural lenders will physically go out to meet people and discuss their needs.”

If you are in the market for a new bank, Munguia says to give Stillman Bank a try.

“People invest in us and in turn, we invest back into our communities,” he says. “As community bank ambassadors, we not only provide exceptional customer service but we also do our part to be active, contributing members in our local neighborhoods as well. We’re continuing to find more ways to interweave ourselves within the fabric of the places we work and live.”

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