Banking on HISTORY

Banking on HISTORY

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

First International Bank & Trust is flying high after the year-long renovation of its Airpark location.

“It was a tired-looking building and needed a fresh coat of paint, among other things,” says Airpark Branch President Scott Williams.

“We put a substantial amount into this and, at the core, we’re at around 5,000 square feet now. That’s what we really needed.”

Williams is one of the beneficiaries of the building’s improved layout, which was updated in stages to allow First International Bank & Trust to operate.

“Where we are sitting now was one of our three drive-through lanes,” he says. “This building is very welcoming now. It was a little outdated before. It breathes new life into the employees.”

First International Bank & Trust is a 109-year-old full-service community bank that’s family-owned. It opened for business on May 1, 1910, as Farmer’s State Bank in Arnegard, North Dakota. A year later, Odin Stenehjem became the first Farmer’s State Bank cashier, with Gerhard Stenehjem the first president in 1917.

It became First International Bank in 1934, followed by O. Vincent Stenehjem beginning is 50-year career as vice president and cashier. Through a series of acquisitions and moves, it became First International Bank & Trust on February 1, 1992. Its Mesa and Scottsdale offices were acquired in September 1995.

The Scottsdale Airpark office opened in January 2004. First International Bank & Trust is owned by Watford City Bancshares Inc., which is owned by the Stenehjem family.

Now it has 21 branches in North Dakota, four in Minnesota and three in Arizona. A Chandler location at Chandler Boulevard and Kyrene is slated to open soon.

It took 100 years for the company to reach its first billion dollars in assets and then less than five years to get to 2 billion. Recently, First International Bank and Trust won the Extraordinary Banker prize from the fifth annual Banky Awards, which celebrate the Best Banks in America.

“We’ve had exponential growth in that period of time,” Williams says. “Here we are today, with a little over 3 billion.”

First International Bank & Trust has a very streamlined loan approval process, Williams says. He believes that gives the financial institution a leg up on the competition.

“We’re not going to tell you what we’re going to do and then come back and say we’re going to do something else,” he says. “We’re going to sit down and tell you what we can do. We go through our process and by the time it gets to our committee, everybody has a handle on what it is and what to expect. That certainly is an advantage.

“I’ve been with probably three or four banks in my career of 36 years. This one is really hit the spot for me. They’ll talk the talk, but here, I can sincerely tell you customer service is everything here. You walk in a stranger through the front door. It’s our job to make you feel like family.”


7900 E. Raintree Drive, Scottsdale