Business Milestone: Illinois Bank & Trust Celebrates 25 Years

From a small outpost in the cornfields to Rockford’s market leader, this locally controlled bank has built itself on a partnership with the community.

Illinois Bank & Trust’s original location at Riverside Boulevard and Perryville Road, in Rockford, was surrounded by cornfields when it was established in 1995. Today, this bank branch sits at one of the most-traveled intersections in town.

Riverside Community Bank opened in 1995 at the southwest corner of Perryville Road and Riverside Boulevard, in Rockford. Over the past 25 years and counting, that one location has grown into what’s now Illinois Bank & Trust, a market leader with multiple locations and more than $1.6 billion in assets, mostly coming from the Rockford area.

“The bank had no assets in 1995, and the first location was surrounded by cornfields at the time,” says President and CEO Jeff Hultman. “I heard a story about how the bank almost ended up next door, where GreenFire Restaurant, Bar & Bakery is today, but one of the founders said, “You need to put a bank on a corner.” It probably costs a little more, but they made the very wise decision to put the bank on the corner of Perryville and Riverside, which is one of the busiest intersections in our region.”

In 2014, Riverside Community Bank was rebranded as Illinois Bank & Trust.

“We’re the same bank, but it came time to update our name,” Hultman explains.

Today, the bank has four locations in Rockford, one in Machesney Park, Ill., and four more in Jo Daviess County, Ill., including two in Galena.

“We’re currently in the process of taking the two banking centers in Galena – which are very close to each other – and investing to create one new banking center in the Galena market,” Hultman says.

The bank’s growth is a rarity in an era when banks are far more likely to merge or consolidate. Not that it hasn’t had acquisitions. In 2019, Illinois Bank & Trust acquired Rockford Bank & Trust, another homegrown institution.

When Riverside Community Bank opened in 1995 there were approximately 10,000 banking institutions in the U.S.

According to the FDIC, as of 2021, there are fewer than 5,000 FDIC-insured banking institutions. While larger organizations have been gobbling up smaller banks, Illinois Bank & Trust has held strong.

“I worked at one of those bigger banks,” Hultman says. “Those are good banks, and they have a purpose. But, we think customers and communities of a certain size, like ours, need a different approach to service and product delivery.”

Illinois Bank & Trust boasts a diversified line of financial services including private banking, wealth management and investment services. Staying up to date with advancements in technology and services keeps Illinois Bank & Trust competitive, as does focusing on things that matter to local customers.

“Our unique model powers our bank with technology, efficiency and strength,” Hultman says. “Products and services are delivered locally and focused on customers and relationships.”

Yet, behind those local services is an $18 billion organization that brings additional strength and expertise. Illinois Bank & Trust is a wholly owned subsidiary of Heartland Financial USA, a diversified financial services company based in Dubuque, Iowa. Heartland Financial is connected with banks across the country, including in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Illinois Bank & Trust’s local board of directors and local leadership ensure all decisions are made based on what matters to the community, the bank’s customers and its employees.

“Each of these has a different set of competitors and a different set of product offerings,” Hultman says. “Commercial customers want to make sure they can hold enough credit as they grow, so they don’t need to find a larger bank. We can take care of their credit needs because we can hold credit to any one customer up to $50 million, which isn’t typical. The beauty of that is whether you need $300,000, $3 million, or $30 million, you don’t have to find a new bank to take care of credit needs.”

Just like those bigger banks, Illinois Bank & Trust’s treasury management services include online banking, card services and fraud protection services, among others. 

“But we deliver it with a local team that knows the customers at a very intimate level,” Hultman says. 

Likewise, Illinois Bank & Trust offers retail customers the same online mobile banking, savings and lending services as other financial institutions – along with an expansive ATM network.

“Our commitment to the community and serving people we’ve known for a long time differentiates us from some of the larger banks,” Hultman says.

Wealth management is a highly competitive area where having the right lineup of products – financial planning, retirement management and investment services – is vital. 

“We have a lineup that looks like a large bank in terms of its capabilities,” Hultman says.

Thanks to its connection with Heartland Financial, Illinois Bank & Trust has the scale needed to thrive in today’s competitive market without sacrificing its community-focused mission.

Being local is a huge asset when it comes to community involvement and sponsorship opportunities – which you’ll see in places like the Illinois Bank & Trust Pavilion at Aldeen Golf Club or Rockford’s annual Stroll on State event, which the bank sponsors.

“If you’re serving a community from afar, you probably don’t understand the relevance of major events like Stroll on State. We know it matters, and that’s why we’ve invested our time, talent and treasure,” Hultman says. “It’s a major investment for us because we feel that it’s such an important civic asset and civic event.”

As a growth company, Illinois Bank & Trust aims to double its assets every 7 to 10 years, Hultman says.

“Ten years from now, we hope to go from $1.6 billion to more than $3 billion in assets,” he adds. “With that comes a lot of responsibility to our community, customers and employees. I hope that as we look forward, Illinois Bank & Trust is growing along with our customers and community, taking leadership positions to serve our community and making this the best place to grow a career and achieve personal goals and aspirations.”

The ongoing pandemic forced Illinois Bank & Trust to postpone events marking its 25th anniversary, but Hultman still wants to celebrate.

“Since many activities and events were canceled last year, we were planning to celebrate this fall, but with the resurgence of the virus, we want to keep our community, customers and employees safe, so we’ve decided to postpone it yet again,” he says.  

Although the pandemic has caused many headaches, Hultman credits it for driving the bank to adapt as employees learned how to serve customers remotely and via drive-thru banking services. 

“That was the beginning of an eye-opening journey where we learned a lot and continued to adapt,” he says.

From the bank’s start as a little trailer surrounded by cornfields to its role as a leading financial institution, Hultman is amazed at Illinois Bank & Trust’s success through the first 25 years and counting. 

“It has the No. 1 market share – by all measures – in the region,” Hultman says. “We’re growing and investing in our community. We are a great story. I want to especially thank the founders, founding leadership team, board of directors, customers, and employees that have been part of Illinois Bank & Trust throughout the first 25 years.”