For the week of January 13, 1999   thru January 19, 1999  

First Bank of Idaho adds Hailey branch

Express Staff Writer

bank.jpg (12944 bytes)Ceiling tiles scribed with the latest talley of assets hover over the heads of Greg Lovell and Jeff Bates at First Bank of Idaho in Ketchum. (Express photos by Willy Cook)

The First Bank of Idaho has applied to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to establish a new branch in Hailey, bank founder Greg Lovell has announced.

Subject to FDIC approval and lease negotiations, the branch would be located at 314 North Main Street, at the intersection of Silver and Main streets.

Currently, First Bank of Idaho has branches operating on Second Street in Ketchum and inside the Valley Market in Bellevue. To date, about 2,000 accounts have been opened with the bank.

First Bank is currently the only locally owned and operated bank here.

Selling that homespun management and service has proven rewarding for the less than two-year-old bank, judging by the fact that its assets have climbed to a reported $40 million.

Its assets are tallied on the ceiling for all customers to see. Handwritten in magic marker on the tiles hanging just above the service counter, the figures are meant to generate excitement among customers, said employee Jeff Bates.

The bank’s slogan, "We live here too," was apparently popular in this community.

"We offer a level of service that sets us apart from the competition," Bates said. "All our energies go toward our customers in the Wood River Valley. This is our lifeblood."

Employees of First Bank of Idaho, including its founder, do not carry titles. The bank emphasizes a collaborative work environment.

"We all do everything," Bates said. "It’s another way we differentiate from our competition in order to benefit customers."

Its Ketchum branch members know the bank is remarkable for the weekly ritual called Cookie Monday, when the branch provides cookies from Perry’s. In addition there is a never-ending supply of red licorice and coffee available.

As another sign of its determination to remain viable in the Wood River Valley, First Bank of Idaho is in the process of applying to regulators to form a holding company.

Bates said the holding company, to be named Sun Valley Bancorp, would allow the bank to offer expanded services and products, but would not affect the lending philosophy, management, headquarters, FDIC insurance or daily operations.

Shareholders of the bank will become shareholders of Sun Valley Bancorp.

"The First Bank of Idaho is creating this holding company to better position itself to remain independent and to enhance shareholder value," said Lovell in a statement.


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