May 12, 2010

First International celebrates 100 years of banking

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

For most members of McKenzie County, First International Bank & Trust is an establishment that has always been on the corner of Main Street. But for some residents of the county, their memory is a little different.
As the bank approaches its 100th Anniversary, a few residents in the county remember the days way back when First International Bank & Trust got its start in Arnegard, North Dakota as the Farmers State Bank of Arnegard.
In 1910, the need for a bank in the small town of Arnegard was realized by the Stenehjem brothers, Gerhart and Odin, along with their cousin, Hogan Stenehjem. The bank first opened its doors on May 1, 1910. Since its inception, a lot has changed, with the exception of the Stenehjem family’s involvement in the bank.
“As we celebrate 100 years, the bank is proud to be going on its fourth generation of Stenehjems,” says Steve Stenehjem, First International Bank & Trust CEO. “In addition to keeping the bank in the family, we are proud to still share the same small town values with our customers that they expected 100 years ago.”
In 1934, the bank moved from Arnegard to its current location in Watford City, but the growth didn’t stop there.
Not only has the bank made it through the ’30s and other tough financial times, it’s done it without a single loss to a depositor.
“Throughout the years, the bank has kept ahead of times, serving its customers with never a loss of a depositor’s dollar,” adds Steve. “That’s something that only a few banks our age can say. Back in the ’30s, many banks closed permanently, and most of the ones that did re-open didn’t pay their customers back 100 percent on the dollar. But First International Bank & Trust did. That’s something that we are proud of. The business world is full of cycles, and I think our secret has always been our conservativeness. In addition to being a community leader, we have always prided ourselves on being a good financial counselor to our customers.”
“I have to give my dad credit for the bank’s growth,” says Steve. “When I moved back to Watford City in 1982, there were only two offices, and I pushed my dad to begin expanding, and it’s his willingness to back me that helped the bank grow from two offices to 21. He was 64 years old, but still willing to give it a try, and because of that, today we have banks in North Dakota, Arizona and Minnesota.”
Like his dad, Stenehjem is excited that his children are getting their chance to emerge in the banking business, and he’s excited to watch the bank grow and change under their direction.
“It’s time for us to listen to our kids’ ideas and back them just like my dad did for me,” comments Steve. “I’m ready to listen so the next generation can see some of their ideas come to be during the next 100 years.”
Before they are ready to jump into the next 100 years, the Stenehjem family is excited to celebrate the last 100 years on Friday, May 14, during their all day anniversary celebration.
“It’s going to be a great day,” says Gretchen Stenehjem, First International Bank & Trust marketing manager. “We have celebrations planned for each of our branches, with Watford City’s being the biggest celebration.”
The 100th Anniversary Celebration kicks off at the Watford City bank with a cake and coffee reception from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Following the reception will be dinner in the Gallery Area from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. with music by the Taylor Boys from 7 to 10 p.m.
The celebration is open to the public, and if a free meal and entertainment aren’t enough, someone is going to walk away with a wonderful anniversary gift courtesy of the bank.
“During the dinner, we will be doing a gold ticket car giveaway,” says Gretchen. “Everyone who attends the celebrations, while supplies last, will receive a free candy bar. Some of the candy bars will have special tickets inside, with one lucky ticket holder getting a new car.”
Whether you’ve been around long enough to watch First International Bank & Trust grow from Farmers State Bank to what it is today, or you’re still too young to make your first deposit, the 100th Anniversary Celebration is something you won’t want to miss.