First Business Bank, one of the first business-focused banks in the nation, is pleased to celebrate its 30th anniversary on April 1, 2020. In spite of its April Fool’s Day launch, First Business Bank’s success includes a growth story that encompasses four banking locations and a publicly traded parent company that employs more than 300 people—157 in Madison—with more than $2 billion in assets.
Today, First Business Financial Services, Inc., the holding company of First Business Bank, encompasses three banking locations in Wisconsin—Greater Madison Area, Southeast Wisconsin (2000), and Northeast Wisconsin (2006)—in addition to expanding to the Kansas City Metro in Leawood, Kan., in 2014.
Back in 1990, before technology brought banking to your phone, the standard of convenience at banks began and ended at the drive-through window. When Jerry Smith founded First Business Bank in Madison, Wis., in 1990, he started with the client experience, reimagining convenience in relationship-based banking for businesses. First Business Bank differentiated itself from day one with a courier service that picked up deposits at the client’s business. The innovative branchless banking experience was born, and clients no longer needed to waste time driving to the bank.
“Jerry really thought business owners were better off spending more time running their businesses and less time running to and from their banks,” said Corey Chambas, President & CEO of First Business Financial Services, Inc., the publicly traded parent company of First Business Bank. “He looked at banking from the clients’ perspective. That was coupled with a focused approach, which allowed our bankers to spend more time understanding the clients’ businesses, which is still our goal today.”
Thirty years later, First Business still leverages a client-first focus on technology, service, and expertise to deliver robust financial services for businesses, executives, and high net worth individuals.
As many First Business employees arrived seeking an alternative from large corporate bank environments, First Business focused on culture long before it was in vogue, knowing engaged employees result in happy clients. “Over the years, it’s become clear that our culture is one of the most important factors in our success,” Chambas said.
Rapid growth in the early years led First Business Bank to expand outside traditional commercial lending services in 1995 to establish an asset-based lending division, which was unusual for a then-$200 million bank. Building on that success, the company began offering other specialty finance solutions over time, growing organically and holistically to support its business clients.
In 2000, after 10 years of working with business owners, First Business grew again to offer retirement plan services for businesses. After building a trusted relationship working with their 401(k) plans, executives also wanted the company to manage their personal wealth. So the team began offering private wealth solutions, such as financial planning, investment management, and private banking for individuals.
Ambitious plans for continued growth and now having over 500 local shareholders led First Business to become a publicly traded company in 2005 under the ticker symbol FBIZ on Nasdaq Stock Market.
Although First Business is a very dynamic and rapidly growing company, the one constant is its culture, which is founded on its Statement of Beliefs. This early focus on intentionally creating a supportive, proactive culture, and maintaining it through its growth has only strengthened throughout the years.
“I’ve said many times that our culture is so important to me and our senior leadership that the only other title I would want is ‘Chief Culture Officer’,” said Chambas. “We take these values very seriously – they are the foundation upon which we achieve all our accomplishments. Without fulfilled, engaged employees, you cannot be as successful with clients as we’ve been over the years.”
The combination of unmatched expertise and focus on clients has led to extremely high client satisfaction ratings for the company, outpacing industry standards, and leading to numerous accolades.
With more than $2 billion in assets with an additional $1.8 billion in trust assets under management and administration, which are not on the balance sheet, First Business continues to invest in its employees and communities as it focuses on its clients’ success.