Sugar Grove—It’s hard to ignore the success of a community bank surviving for 50 years, especially through recent economic times. Over the past 50 years, mergers and consolidations have turned locally owned banks into part of nationally owned chains. That’s why West Suburban Bank is particularly proud to be celebrating its 50th anniversary. After all these years, it continues to be locally owned and operated.
It all started back in 1962, when Lombard resident Ralph Acker, along with a small group of key investors, saw the need for a community bank that would primarily focus on helping and servicing the community and its residents. That philosophy has been the main reason for West Suburban Bank’s succes. Ralph’s oldest sons – twins, Keith and Kevin-have been operating the bank with the very same philosophy that their father set forth 50 years ago.
When asked how he felt about the 50th Anniversary of his startup company, Ralph Acker said, “It’s amazing that the vision we had for a community bank went on to change and support many communities. When I think of all the families that got homes, sent their children to college, saved for retirement and even started their own business because of our expertise and lending capabilities, It’s hard not to be proud. It’s been wonderful being of service to the community, and I am grateful for their support.”
Keith and Kevin were just 12 years old when their father opened the first branch in the Eastgate Shopping Center along Westmore Avenue in Lombard. They learned the trade starting as the janitorial service; cleaning floors, windows and taking out the trash. They worked their way up to the check printing department while attending college and eventually took over the business when Ralph retired in the early 1990s. Keith currently serves as president, while Kevin is a senior vice president and chairman of the parent company, West Suburban Bancorp.
West Suburban Bank is also proud of the many people within the community that they have employed over the years. Currently they have 550 employees, 400 of whom are full time. Their branch managers have been with the bank for an average of 12 years, and 30 percent of employees have worked at the bank for 10 years of more. The employees add to the personal level of service that the customer experiences when banking at West Suburban Bank.
“There will always be a niche for locally owned and operated financial institutions,” said Kevin Acker. “People like the personal touch. All of our employees, from our tellers to our key decision makers, live in the communities where the Bank conducts business. Our loans have helped secure or improve the homes and business in these communities.”
The Ackers, however, are well aware that business is not unconditional. They talk about the need to stay on the cutting edge of banking technology and the importance of meeting customer satisfaction to compete against their large counterparts.
“It’s challenging,” said Keith Acker. “You have to maintain the personal service and stay up with the technology. You have to be able to compete with the bigger banks. We are always seeking new technologies and services to bring the best of the industry to our customers. Today, we have the ability to loan up to $42 million to a single borrower, so we are highly competitive,” he stated.
When looking at the history of West Suburban Bank, it’s clear that they have always been on the cutting edge of technology. They were one of the first banks in DuPage County to have an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) and a Telephone Banking system available to their customers.
“Today more and more people are banking online and through their mobile device. We continuously upgrade these services.” said Keith. “Our main priority is to make sure our systems offer convenience for the customer while providing the most up-to-date security features in order to protect their sensitive information.”
West Suburban Bank’s first facility opened April 27, 1962, in Lombard with assets totaling $425,000. During the past 50 years, they have aggressively expanded their branch network. To date, there are 36 locations in 21 communities in DuPage, Kane and Will counties, including their recent addition of the Sugar Grove branch, located at 522 Route 47, Sugar Grove. Their current assets are in excess of 1.9 billion.
When asked about the future of West Suburban Bank, Kevin replied. “We’ve been here through the good times and bad times … without having to take a government bailout. This year we were recognized by the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and northern Illinois as the winner of the 2012 Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, so it goes to show that what we have been doing for the last 50 years works. We plan to be around for a long time.”