Bank of Holland marks 10th year

October 29, 2008
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Its assets reached $500 million last year

The Bank of Holland will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with investors, customers and friends of the bank at a special tonight that will feature a panel discussion titled “Not Your Father’s Economy.”

The West Michigan economy is going through a fundamental shift, moving away from an over-reliance on manufacturing, said Richard M. Lievense, president and CEO of Lake Michigan Financial Corp., the holding company for the Bank of Holland and Northern Bank of Michigan. Lievense said he’s sure there will always be some manufacturing in this region because this region does it so well.

“But we’re going to have a much more diversified business segment in West Michigan, and you’re already seeing it in Grand Rapids with the build-up of the medical corridor, the continuing development in the service industry, and with some of the high-tech industries that have been attracted to this region.” 

That’s the message Lievense wants to drive home to investors and customers at the bank’s anniversary celebration tonight. Mike Jandernoa, principal of Bridge Street Capital Fund, and Randy Thelen, president of the economic development organization known as Lakeshore Advantage, will join Lievense in the discussion.

Lievense cooked up the idea for a new community bank in Holland a decade ago and worked with an investor group to raise the necessary capital to establish the Bank of Holland. He was the bank’s No. 1 employee when it opened in October 1998 in an old bike shop on River Avenue. At that time there was a flurry of bank consolidations taking place, including Huntington Bank’s acquisition of First Michigan Bank and Fifth Third Bank’s acquisition of Old Kent Bank.

“I’ve always believed that this as a very entrepreneurial part of the country,” said Lievense. “We just felt it was an opportunity to put together a hometown bank staffed with people who really knew the community and the business people.”

Lievense began his banking career at community banks in Ohio and Missouri and later joined Old Kent Bank as head of a large business unit. He said he had a vision of a different kind of bank — a bank that provided all the same services of a large bank but within the culture of a community bank.

Soon after starting the Bank of Holland, the same investment group started the Bank of Northern Michigan, which now has offices in Traverse City and Petoskey.

“That has been a good diversification for us and has helped us gain some critical mass,” Lievense noted.

A major milestone in the Bank of Holland’s history was just getting its doors open, he said. During the seven months from when Lievense left Old Kent and started Bank of Holland, he and his investor group had to hire the initial staff, raise $12 million in capital and get all the bank’s operating systems in place.

“In our ninth month, we made $1,243.51, and that’s a number I will never forget,” Lievense said. “It was very exciting for us; it happened quickly, and we saw it as a vote of confidence.” 

In 2000, the bank moved to its permanent home at 50 Central Ave. in downtown Holland. Assets reached $136 million that year.

Another significant milestone was opening the Grand Rapids office in 2005 at 51 Ionia Ave. SW downtown.

“We are a West Michigan bank with a West Michigan focus,” Lievense remarked. “The Grand Rapids office is growing especially rapidly, and we think this market is going to be great for us.” 

He said in the last couple of years, Bank of Holland has experienced significant growth because it’s still in the market for good deposit loan customers. Too, a number of relationships the bank has been nurturing over time are coming to fruition. Bank of Holland’s assets reached $500 million last year.

“Right now we continue to look for new clients. We’ve planted a lot of seeds in the last two years, and we’re starting to see some of the results of that,” Lievense noted.  

Like banks of all sizes, the Bank of Holland is trying to ride out the financial rollercoaster that is today’s market. It’s getting a little help in that respect, Lievense said, because four to five years ago, the bank made the decision to cut back on real estate development lending. Management believed some of the development in West Michigan was being overdone, so the bank pulled back from the market and made sure its customers within the real estate development segment were those that were going to be able to survive, according to Lievense. He said the bank also made sure that its portfolio and asset quality was such that it could get through difficult times.

Financially speaking, this is a difficult time and an unprecedented time, Lievense said. But he doesn’t want people to lose sight of the fact that there are still a lot of great things happening in the West Michigan market. 

“I can tell you success story after success story about customers that are growing right through this turmoil and adding employees. Everybody is so pessimistic right now, but we’re just not going to be pessimistic about this market.”

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