Bank Takes Pride in Satisfying Local Customers for 144 Years

Article excerpt

Byline: David Roeder Daily Herald Business Writer

Business profile

Name: Tom Eiden

Age: 52

Business: First Waukegan Corp., parent of Bank of Northern Illinois

Assets: $215 million, growing about 5 percent per year

Philosophy: "We look at what we do as community-based. If the people and the businesses in our region do well, then we do well."

Maybe everything moves a little more slowly in Lake County than in suburbs closer to Chicago. Or maybe Tom Eiden just has an on-target business approach.

As the chairman of First Waukegan Corp., Eiden has a "Why hurry?" philosophy about the banking business.

As other banks scurry to acquire one another and open branches or go online, Eiden tends to business at his Bank of Northern Illinois, for which First Waukegan is the parent.

The company may grow via an acquisition in the next couple of years, or maybe it won't, Eiden said. There's no rush.

And he's not overly anxious to expand the bank's network of six offices. You have to take care that you don't grow too fast, he said. "It's just like if you overeat, than you have trouble digesting."

For Eiden, the most pressing business is to keep customers happy. In a wired-up, interconnected, fast-paced world, that still counts for something, he said.

"I don't think most consumers give a hoot about the size of the bank they're dealing with, whether it's a Harris Bank or Bank of Northern Illinois," Eiden said. "The important thing is how are they handled by the people at the bank that they deal with."

He said customer service has been the hallmark sustaining Bank of Northern Illinois through 144 years in business, including about five periods classified as depressions. After the crash of 1929, the bank had enough liquidity to bail out a couple of institutions in downtown Chicago, Eiden said.

The Waukegan-based bank now ranks as the oldest financial institution in Illinois. It also has an office in Gurnee, Libertyville and Lake Bluff, and two in Glenview.

Despite the competition banks now get from mutual fund companies, credit unions and elsewhere, Eiden said there's no reason why Bank of Northern Illinois can't prosper another century or so.

"We just keep growing. I think that for a large bulk of society, if you make it easy for them to open accounts and get loans, for some reason it works," he said.

Eiden said his bank, with $215 million in assets, has two prime customer bases: affluent individuals and smaller companies, generally with annual revenues from $300,000 to $2 million. …