VP, Communications Director
Fairmount, Illinois is a small town in Vermilion County. The 2000 census listed 640 residents made up of 190 families. INB owes much to this little town and the town’s original bank.
In 1999, a group of bankers and investors wanted to bring community banking back to the Springfield area. After years of large banks buying smaller banks, things were about to go full circle with the opening of a new Illinois National Bank. To do that, the bank needed a charter, and First National Bank of Fairmount was for sale. It wasn’t long before the investors purchased the charter and moved it to Springfield. But the Fairmount bank is still very much a vital part of INB.
The Fairmount bank building still bears the “First National Bank” sign, but the INB of today is made up of both the original bank building and an adjacent structure once used to host parties and events.
Lenora Jones, a personal banker in Fairmount since 1993, remembers the day Jim Antonacci, a founding member of INB #2, walked in the door. “We were all scared. I tell him today he scares me! But he’s such a nice man, and the change was a good thing.” Lenora explains INB brought not only technology to the bank, but new services like certificates of deposit, mortgage loans and debit cards. “Our staff used to work out of drawers! We didn’t have any type of computer system.”
Physical Footprint Grows in Fairmount
One of the first actions by the INB team was remodeling and expanding the office space. The First National Bank footprint was very small, putting bankers and loan staff in a floor area right outside the teller lines. Things weren’t very private, and Lenora says privacy is very important to people who bank in a small town like Fairmount. “People will come from other nearby towns to bank because they don’t want people in their hometown knowing their business.”
Once the reconstruction was complete, INB Fairmount housed private offices allowing plenty of space for conducting business. But the bank lobby remains a favorite place for the local community to stop by for a visit. Lenora says people don’t come in just to bank . . . they come to socialize. Other than the nearby locally owned hardware store, chain gas station/general store and cement mixing company, the town doesn’t offer a lot in the way of coffee shops or general gathering spots. So people come to the bank, where the coffee is always on.
Small-town Charm Important to INB
Lenora says, “We know birthdays, graduations, and illnesses. If you ask someone, ‘Hi. How are you?’ you’ll get the story.” This helps the staff relate to customers on a very personal level. And the customers care about the staff. “When INB bought us, we got calls. ‘Are you guys okay?’” Lenora says if they had said no, the bank would have lost a lot of customers. Today, those same customers continue to look out for the staff. “If someone drives by and doesn’t recognize a car in front of the bank, they will call just to make sure nothing bad is going on.”
Branch Manager Heather McArty says the bank’s small-town charm remains. She points to the “First National Bank” sign on the building’s exterior which takes you back decades. And the dirt floor basement that amazes visitors. The beautiful, big vault that banks don’t build anymore. And clients who pull up on their motorcycles with a full-size American flag flying behind.
Fairmount, Illinois. We’re happy it’s part of our past, present and future.