Community banks: some things should not be left behind

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MacNeil Automotive founder and CEO David MacNei (left) talks over plans with Wintrust CEO Ed Wehmer. MacNeil said his Wintrust Community Bank, Hinsdale Bank & Trust, helped him reach his goal to open a state-of-the-art facility in Bolingbrook.

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Some things should be left in the past — bad perms, bell-bottom jeans, parachute pants. Then other things never go out of style: a great customer service experience, the kind of banking relationship where you’re treated like a person and not just an account number and a bank that actually cares about and contributes to the community it serves. For one Chicago-based company, progress means carving out a new space for something that is already here — your local community bank.

Wintrust, with its first bank founded in 1991, is committed to the preservation of traditional community banking. The company was founded on the belief that a need, and desire for a true community bank is still there: for a bank where tellers know customers by name, bankers care about local businesses because they frequent them and the bank invests in the neighborhood because it’s actually part of the neighborhood.

More than 20 years later, Wintrust is thriving. The company has more than 120 community banking locations in the Chicago area, southern Wisconsin and northwest Indiana and more than $18 billion in assets. This proves the initial theory right: people want an alternative to the big banks. Along the way, Wintrust has taken the attributes that make traditional community banking so appealing and left behind the pitfalls that make community banking outdated. Wintrust has a new formula for community banking: the power of numbers.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), in the last few years, more than 40 banks have failed in Illinois and hundreds more across the country. The market has not been conducive for community bank survival. A shaky economy, increased regulations and heightened competition have made it harder and harder, and those that remain may have a tough time moving forward. Many of the banks that have failed have been pillars of the local community.

That is where Wintrust comes in. What sets the company apart is Wintrust’s commitment to keeping those banks community institutions while giving them the resources they need to be successful and compete with the big banks. They are part of a larger Wintrust family.

Wintrust believes in going beyond basic banking solutions. Wintrust Community Banks don’t just offer checking and savings accounts; the banks host financial education courses, hold community events and throw neighborhood cookouts. Wintrust Community Banks provide a Junior Savers Club to help teach kids about saving and a Platinum Adventures travel group for customers older than 50. The banks hold free community shredding events to provide a safe way to dispose of sensitive documents and host free coin appraisals.

“We believe a bank should be a real asset to its community,” said Wintrust founder and CEO Edward J. Wehmer. “Wintrust Community Banks are reliable, contributing institutions of the communities we serve. And we think it’s our responsibility to do all we can to make our communities better places to live, work and play.”

A big part of being a Wintrust Community Bank involves investing in each bank’s communities. Employees are active in local charities, local government, school boards and community development activities. Many banks are members of local chambers of commerce and sponsor important events in the community.

Wintrust Community Banks are also dedicated to providing support for local businesses. The banks highlight small businesses through the Shop Local program and feature area businesses in testimonial ad campaigns. Wintrust has also partnered with national organizations, such as SCORE and the National Organization for Women Business Owners, to offer resources for local entrepreneurs.

In our technologically advanced, fast-paced world, Wintrust believes there is still a need for a bank that gets to know you, offers you a cup of coffee when you walk in the door, and goes above and beyond to provide more than just financial services; Wintrust is making sure community banks don’t get left behind.

Provided by Wintrust