Archive for Thursday, October 27, 2005

De Soto’s oldest bank changing ownership

October 27, 2005

After more than 50 years in the Gabriel family, the De Soto State Bank is changing hands.

Arlen Gabriel, the bank's CEO, said he has sold the bank to Great American Bank. Great American operates a bank in Claycomo, Mo.

Gabriel said the timing was right for the sale.

"There comes a point that you have to make a decision," he said. "There's no one in my family active in banking. I thought it was best to make a move now rather than force a decision on my family if something were to happen to me."

Under the sale agreement, Gabriel will stay on for five years as vice president.

"Honestly, I won't have near the duties I have now," he said. "I'll be kind of a transitional guy."

Gabriel said he approached a broker about the sale of the bank more than three years ago. During that time, he had more than 40 offers from large national institutions to family banks.

"As I looked over the list, I was interested in a community-oriented bank," he said. "They're community oriented. I thought they would be a good fit for De Soto."

Great American Bank president and CEO Jeff Kieffer, who with Mike Balbaugh owns the controlling interest in the bank, thought so, too, having done business in a similar small-town atmosphere in Claycomo.

The bank was attracted to De Soto because of the growth opportunities coming with the completion of a new sewer treatment plant in early 2007 and developed five or seven years down the road sparked by the recent transfer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant to Sunflower Redevelopment, Kieffer said.

That meant home mortgages, of course, but Kieffer said in a departure from current practice the bank would also be active in commercial and small business loans, too.

Although De Soto State Bank will be changing its name, it is the real survivor of the merger with Great American Bank and two branches being built in Raymore, Mo., and the Northland section of Kansas City, Mo., Kieffer said.

"We are merging into this charter," he said. "We will be regulated by Kansas regulators and Federal Reserve."

Great American plans to retain the bank's current employees, but customers will see changes among familiar faces.

The bank's technology system is undergoing a complete upgrade that will allow Internet banking, free direct deposit and 24-hour phone banking, Kieffer said. For the first time, the bank will issue debit cards, he said.

Hours will be expanded from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, Kieffer said. Drive-in hours will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

In addition, the bank's interior and exterior will get a makeover in the coming months.

De Soto State Bank was founded in 1901 when about 20 residents invested $5,000 in the newly chartered institution. It survived a 1912 fire that destroyed its first home, the Great Depression, and a 1934 armed robbery.

The Gabriel family traces its association with the bank to 1933 when Arlen's father, Arthur, started working as a bookkeeper. One of the first actions Franklin Roosevelt took after taking office that year was to declare a bank holiday to stop a severe run on banks.

Arthur Gabriel purchased control of the bank and Arlen came on board in 1967.

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