As a community bank, Idaho First Bank instantly adapts to rapidly changing circumstances.
Idaho First Bank was founded in 2005 by Greg Lovell, President and Chief Executive Officer, after a casual coffee shop chat with a friend (soon to become a shareholder) about why he was moving to McCall from Ketchum. Lovell had been in banking since 1981, most recently after founding First Bank of Idaho. Staring out the window over coffee on that cold December 27, 2004 morning, he made the decision to put everything on the line and bring a new local bank to that community. Lovell believed if you get the right people with the right talent, produce the right experiences, and give back to the community — and find new ways to do that each and every day — then you end up with a great bank.
He credits today’s success to all the people behind the scenes. “It’s not about me. There are sixty people behind me that make it a success,” says Lovell. He also had the unending support of a handful of visionaries who became part of Idaho First Bank, including Dan Krahn, Chris Kirk and Don Driscoll. Together they saw the need for a business-focused resort community bank. “Resort community needs are different. It’s something we understand,” says Lovell. “In a resort community there are a lot of swings in the business cycle throughout the year. There’s also a large group of people who are second homeowners. Many times, those people value the area more than that of their primary residential home. We’re able to help them tap into their desire to own a piece of the place they like to be.”
Lovell also wanted to forge a special camaraderie with customers, whose unique community ties often bond them together, something he believed is hard to find in big banks. “Customers feel welcome, as do employees. We’re all part of the same family. Everyone knows our name and we know their name. Coming into the bank is often a social event."
After its debut in McCall, Idaho First Bank added a loan production office in Boise in 2007, and then a mortgage branch in 2008. Branches in New Meadows and Eagle followed in October and November of 2016, respectively, with the Ketchum branch opening in November 2019. The newest branch opened in Nampa in October 2020, converting from a loan production office. Today’s immense growth in Idaho is undeniable, and Idaho First Bank serves businesses with local knowledge and a pledge to keep working capital and investments close to home, where community-building decisions always come first. “We want to capture as much of the local deposit dollars as possible because we use them to lend in the community.”
Idaho First Bank balances being a small-town bank with big city skills. As a community bank, they instantly adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, individual and commercial customers found comfort during a season of uncertainty when staff worked around the clock to help thousands of businesses acquire loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. While one of the smallest banks in Idaho, Idaho First became one of the largest lenders of this program in Idaho. Additionally, the bank quickly adapted to the telecommuting model since more people are performing more remote business, especially in resort areas. Idaho First Bank is also developing a complete digital channel to accommodate society’s changing needs.
First and foremost, however, Lovell focuses on the human experience. Idaho First Bank employees are given forty hours of paid community service time off a year to engage with neighbors and serve nonprofits of their choosing “to remind everyone internally that part of our culture is to serve the greater good,” says Lovell. In 2019 Idaho First Bank invested over $27,000 in charitable donations across the state. Years ago, when a young couple struggled to buy their first home—and concurrently their young son passed away—an Idaho First Bank employee helped the family navigate a snafu with an unrelated life insurance policy and other financial glitches until they were able to purchase a home. Another time an employee reached out to a woman suffering from illness who couldn’t leave her home and coordinated with staff to deliver meals to her home every day for a month. Caring is in our culture.
When describing what a community bank should look like, Lovell tells a decades old story about when Frank Sinatra’s son was kidnapped in Las Vegas. Big banks wouldn’t loan Sinatra the $250,000 to ransom his son. But a small community bank saved the day, and his son.
Flexible. Responsive. Knows its customers. Gives Back to the Community.
Idaho First Bank is constantly searching for ways to empower customers and employees to achieve their goals, viewing themselves as guide, advisor and supporting partner for friends and neighbors in their communities. They have the professional ability and responsibility to help navigate key banking decision points with assurance, putting people First, and Community First… a vision that hasn’t changed since Idaho First Bank was founded fifteen years ago.