First Merchants' History
First Merchants Bank was originally known as the Merchants National Bank of Muncie, Indiana and it was organized during the Panic of 1893 by a group of service-minded businessmen who recognized a need in their community and acted to fulfill that need. Spearheaded by Hardin Roads, a former successful wholesale grocer, the enterprising men invested capital of $100,000. This was the only time it was necessary to raise capital through outside sources. First Merchants Bank has survived panics, depressions, and wars to become the leading financial institution in East Central Indiana.
There have been four homes for the main office of First Merchants Bank. The original bank was in a room at the northeast corner of Main and Mulberry streets, then known as the Little Block. Proof that the businessmen had been right in recognizing the need for banking services in Muncie was visibly demonstrated in 1904 when space requirements dictated a move to larger quarters across the street, to the northwest corner of the same intersection, in what was known as the Neely Block. Ten years later in 1914, the bank was established in its own "new" building at Jackson and Mulberry streets. This familiar Muncie landmark, with its impressive Corinthian columns, served for 58 years, undergoing two major renovations. The 1914 building fell to the wrecker's ball in August of 1972, as a new modern structure assumed the role of providing financial service to future generations of First Merchants Bank customers.
Frank Bernard succeeded as president when Mr. Roads died in 1923. During the depression's enforced "Bank Holiday", Merchants National Bank placed no limitations on depositor withdrawals. Because of the bank's sound economic position, Muncie continued to do business as usual when money - even one's own - was not always available elsewhere.
A merger of Merchants National Bank of Muncie, Delaware County National Bank of Muncie and Merchants Trust & Savings Company was announced in 1933. First Merchants Bank and Merchants Trust & Savings Company (now American National Bank) survived the consolidation. These two banks were reorganized as independent institutions in 1946, the same year Chester Wingate was elected president of First Merchants Bank on the retirement of Frank Bernard.
Branch banking came to Delaware County in 1951 when Merchants National Bank opened the Madison Street branch. Two more branches were added with the purchase of the Muncie Banking Company in 1953.
In January of 1958, William P. Givens was elected the fourth president of the bank, and the "new era" in Delaware County banking was initiated. Record levels were achieved in all facets of banking activities including loans, investments and trusts. In the face of mounting inflation, the prospect for prosperity had never appeared greater.
During the 1960s, we opened four new branch offices - East Jackson in 1962, Northwest in 1963, Meadows in 1968 and Kilgore Avenue in 1969. Other areas were expanded with the move to automation by way of computerized accounting in 1965. In 1967 the former office of Indiana Steel & Wire Company was purchased and converted to one of the most modern Data Centers in East Central Indiana. The "Soaring Sixties" saw Merchants National Bank's total resources "soar" above $l00,000,000 -a first for any financial institution in Delaware County.
The 1970s showed great reason for financial institutions to be developed around the theme of accountability and challenge. These years saw turmoil in Washington culminating in the resignation of the President of the United States. During this time we experienced a combination of high unemployment and runaway inflation accompanied by a sluggish economy. Once again, First Merchants showed its strength and continued its growth.
Numerous changes occurred in the banking industry -electronic funds transfers, automated clearinghouses, automated deposits of checks, and many others.
Two more branches opened during this era, Albany and the Muncie Mall. A very historic moment occurred in 1972 when First Merchants Bank moved into its new building at 200 East Jackson Street. Countless hours of planning had been undertaken to make the new structure meet the demand of providing the entire spectrum of banking services in a personal, friendly manner.
A new concept in banking became a reality in 1979 when First Merchants Bank opened Muncie's first supermarket branch bank at West Jackson Street and plans were in the making for a second supermarket branch, which opened the following year.
These years gave substantial growth in deposits, loans, total resources and earnings. Assets more than doubled from $115,333,227 in 1970, to $259,476,964 in 1979. First Merchants reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to community leadership with confidence and appreciation -- confidence based on the dedicated efforts of experienced employees who affirmed their commitment for the eighties -- appreciation to the customers who had made possible the achievements of the seventies.
In February of 1979, Stefan S. Anderson was elected the new President of Merchants National Bank. Mr. Anderson became the 5th president in the bank's 86-year history. The challenge of the 80's was about to begin.
The 1980s were a decade of action for First Merchants Bank and for the financial industry generally. New economic challenges, new services, new competition, new initiatives in marketing, new ideas for meeting new objectives -- all of these factors converged into the momentum which we termed "Action Banking for the 1980s".
In 1982, the Board of Directors of Merchants National Bank approved the formation of an one-bank holding company - "First Merchants Corporation". The holding company form of organization, allowed increased flexibility under the rapidly changing conditions in the financial industry.
1986 was another record year, with assets exceeding $400,000,000. Our internal slogan "Share Our Strength" was introduced inviting everyone to share the security and extra measure of service offered by this financial institution.
We proudly welcomed the Pendleton Banking Company as a new affiliate in 1988. Pendleton was organized in 1872 and today operates five banking offices in adjacent Madison County.
First Merchants Corporation took another major step when its management team decided to have its common stock listed on the NASDAQ market services in 1989.
The 1990s continued to present more opportunities and ongoing challenges. Competing in an industry experiencing significant change, due to mergers, acquisitions and downsizing, First Merchants Corporation was positioned uniquely as a responsive successful independent community banking organization. For over one-hundred years, First Merchants Bank has continually increased its capital strength through steady growth, sound financial management and a commitment of personal service to our customers.
In mid-1991, First United Bank, with three offices in adjacent Henry County, became an affiliate. Its strong community banking philosophy, asset quality, and talented staff made First United Bank a valuable new partner.
In December 1991, Merchants National Bank became First Merchants Bank, N.A. (National Association). The name change matched that of the holding company, and most importantly, it allowed for a distinct identity within our market area and beyond. It eliminated confusion with other Merchants National Banks around the state, with which we had no affiliation.
In January 1993, First Merchants Bank opened two new branch offices in the communities of Edgewood and Daleville. First Merchants purchased the Edgewood Branch from Pendleton Banking Company. The Daleville Branch was established in facilities that had been vacated by Star Financial Bank in November 1992, which left the two without convenient access to banking services.
1993 also marked the 100 Year Anniversary of First Merchants Bank. A number of activities were held throughout the year to commemorate this milestone. “Celebrating a Century of Strength” was the slogan adopted for the 100 Year Anniversary, and a book titled ”A Century of Community Banking” was published.
In 1994, U.S. Banker magazine ranked First Merchants Corporation 12th out of 250 mid-sized banking companies in the U.S. on the basis of financial performance and strength--the highest rating of any Indiana-based company.
The installation of a new computer system to reduce processing costs was completed in 1994. Benefits in efficiency and service quality were also realized with the conversion.
First Merchants’ East Jackson Street Banking Center moved in 1995 to new facilities at the corner of Highway 32 East and Country Club Drive. EZ Check debit cards were issued to over 30,000 First Merchants Corporation customers late that same year.
In 1996, Michael L. Cox became President of First Merchants Bank, positioning him to lead First Merchants into the 21st Century. Stefan S. Anderson maintained his title as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Bank.
Also in 1996, First Merchants Corporation welcomed two new affiliate banks to the corporate family. The two banks are Union County National Bank, headquartered in Liberty, Indiana, with additional banking centers in Richmond, Connersville, and Oxford, Ohio, and The Randolph County Bank located in Winchester. Their addition brought First Merchants Corporation’s total assets to over $910,000,000.
In November 1996, First Merchants Bank opened a new banking center in the Marsh shopping complex on South Tillotson. The new facility made possible the consolidation of two smaller, older banking centers--one on Kilgore and the other on West Jackson (inside the old Marsh store). In August 1997, the Corporation announced that it had passed $1 billion in assets. Stefan S. Anderson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation noted, “One billion dollars is an important milestone for us, but we know what really counts is how we interact each day with our customers. The growth of this company is a tribute to the hard work of the employees of First Merchants Corporation.”
To diversify the financial products available to its customers, the Corporation announced in April 1998, the acquisition of the Muncie office of Insurance & Risk Management, one of the oldest and largest multi-line insurance companies in east central Indiana. The newly formed subsidiary was named First Merchants Insurance Services.
First Merchants Corporation was named one of the top 25 mid-sized banks in the nation in the June 1998, issue of US Banker, a national trade publication. More than 200 banks were included on the list, with First Merchants ranking 22nd in the nation. Criteria for selection included ratios for non-performing assets, net charge-off, efficiency, leverage, Tier One capital and return on equity. First Merchants was the only Indiana-based company to make the prestigious “Top 50" and ranked 11th in the country for bank holding companies with assets of $1 billion or more.
Michael L. Cox was named President of First Merchants Corporation in August 1998. The move was part of the plan for orderly succession of senior management in the Corporation, in anticipation of the retirement of Stefan S. Anderson as Chief Executive Officer expected in 1999.
On August 20, 1998, a definitive agreement was reached to make First National Bank of Portland, Indiana an affiliate bank of First Merchants Corporation. Located in Jay County, First National Bank has three banking centers and assets of $106.5 million.
The next day, August 21, 1998, the Corporation announced plans to merge two Madison County banks to form a new affiliate bank. Combining the resources of Pendleton Banking Company and Anderson Community Bank to better serve customers throughout the county, the new bank was named Madison Community Bank. The new “combined” bank will have assets exceeding $180 million.
As expected, Mr. Anderson retired in April 1999 and Michael L. Cox was named Chief Executive Officer and President of the Corporation completing an orderly and well-planned succession.
Early in 2000 the Corporation welcomed Decatur Bank & Trust Company to its affiliates. Decatur Bank has four offices located throughout Adams County and had assets of $128 million and was established in 1966.
With the acquisition of Frances Slocum Bank in Wabash, Indiana in July 2001, the Corporation significantly expanded its service area within East Central Indiana. Originally established in 1963, Frances Slocum Bank had assets of $162 million and banking offices in Wabash, Kokomo, Peru and North Manchester, Indiana.
Also during 2001, the Corporation completed a realignment of corporate staff. The differentiation between line and staff functions occurred. These staff functions included Audit, Compliance, Finance, Human Resources, Operations, Purchasing, and Sales & Marketing. Over 180 employees became “corporate” rather than “bank” employees in mid-2001, most from First Merchants Bank, but others, as well, from other banks within the company. In October 2001 the Corporation announced plans to merge with Lafayette Bank & Trust Company. With Lafayette Bank & Trust Company’s 19 branch locations in 3 western Indiana counties (Tippecanoe, White & Jasper) and $750 million in assets, the Corporation’s assets substantially increased to $2.7 billion once the merger completed on April 1, 2002.
Indiana Title Insurance Company was formed officially on January 1, 2002 following the acquisition of Delaware County Abstract Company and Beebe & Smith Title Company. Immediately following this, the Corporation established a partnership with Mutual First Financial, Inc. and Ameriana Bancorp to jointly own this company. Jim Smith and Jim Trulock served as co-managers of the Title Company and have been recognized leaders in title searches, insurance, and mortgage closings in their market area. They will continue to provide these services to our ever-growing market area. Combined with our other bank partners, their service footprint encompasses 1/3 of the state of Indiana and the Cincinnati, Ohio, area.
In August 2002, Roger M. Arwood was elevated from President & Chief Executive Officer of First Merchants Bank to Chief Operating Officer for the Corporation with direct responsibility for all bank and trust affiliates.
The trust departments within our affiliate banks were used to form First Merchants Trust Company, a new wholly-owned subsidiary of the Corporation, on January 1, 2003. The Trust Company united the trust and asset management services of all affiliate banks and became one of the largest trust companies in the state of Indiana with assets in excess of $1.3 billion.
A definitive acquisition agreement was reached in August 2002 between the Corporation and Commerce National Bank Bancorp (CNBC), a rapidly growing 10-year old bank in a very attractive market within Columbus, Ohio. The merger was completed on March 1, 2003 and CNB provides us the ideal base for future growth in the Columbus and Ohio market areas.
In recognition of our continued growth and our ever-expanding audit and regulatory environment within the banking industry, the Corporation successfully converted six state bank charters to national charters effective January 1, 2004. This change brings enhanced efficiency and consistency to the regulatory process for all our banks.
In April 2004, the Boards of Directors of Union County National Bank and Randolph County Bank made a strategic decision to consolidate their banks upon the retirement of UCNB’s president at the end of 2004. The continuing institution, United Communities National Bank, was headquartered in Winchester and served the combined markets of the former banks, including Randolph, Wayne, Fayette, Union and Butler (Ohio) counties.
Continuing our growth pattern within the insurance affiliates, First Merchants Insurance Services acquired the Pendleton Indiana office of Stephenson Insurance and the Winchester and Union City, Indiana offices of Mangas Insurance Agencies in October 2004.
2005 brought more changes to the corporate landscape. Roger Arwood departed and Mike Rechin joined us as Chief Operating Officer. Mike brought with him a solid sales discipline and immediately began revitalizing a sales culture within the banking affiliates. During the fourth quarter of 2005, the Corporation’s board approved merging two banking affiliates with crossover markets into one bank – First United Bank, located in Henry County, merged into First Merchants Bank. The merger was effective January 1, 2006.
Concurrent to these changes, the Data Center found a new home in Daleville, Indiana. A building amidst the Heartland Business Center was acquired in mid-2005. Build out and remodeling occurred through the remainder of 2005 with operations departments moving in shifts to the new facility throughout 2006. For the first time ever, all operations departments are now housed under one roof.
Under the leadership of Jim Meinerding, as bank president and chief executive officer, we merged the charters of First Merchants Bank, Decatur Bank and Trust Company, First National Bank of Portland, Frances Slocum Bank & Trust Company, and United Communities National Bank on April 1, 2007. The new consolidated bank, First Merchants Bank, is now the largest bank headquartered in Indiana.
The consolidation was a positive step toward higher performance that will take advantage of increased efficiencies. Each of the 5 prior banks already shared products, infrastructure and common systems. In so many ways, we were already one bank. Over the past five years, through diligent effort, we've moved to centralized departments for operations, HR, marketing, risk management and finance. Reducing the numbers of charters and names is simply the next critical step in the journey to increased efficiency and continued improvements to our performance.
Following the annual meeting of shareholders in April 2007, Michael L. Cox retired as president & CEO of First Merchants Corporation. As planned, Michael C. Rechin succeeded Mr. Cox as our new president & CEO on April 24, 2007.
Well-planned data conversions throughout 2007 demonstrated that data conversions and integrations is now one of our execution core strengths.
Joining us in February 2008, Michael Stewart became our first Chief Banking Officer. A seasoned commercial banker, Mr. Stewart’s focus on sales management and organizational development quickly became evident.
Our growth continued with the signing of a definitive agreement on September 8, 2008 to acquire Lincoln Bancorp, a community bank headquartered in Plainfield, Indiana. Once the acquisition finalized in late 2008, Lincoln Bank immediately merged with FMBCI to create a single bank with $307 million in assets under the leadership of Michael Stewart as the President & CEO of FMBCI. The merger was completed on April 17, 2009 and established an ideal base for future growth in the Indianapolis and surrounding market areas.
On December 31, 2008 Jim Smith and Jim Trulock, ITIC’s Co-Presidents, purchased the assets and liabilities of Indiana Title Insurance Company, LLC. First Merchants Corporation concluded that with the purchase of Lincoln Bancorp, our capital and focus would be better maximized in our core banking space.
First Merchants Corporation has continually increased its capital strength through steady growth, sound financial management and a commitment of personal service to our customers. Since our modest beginnings over a century ago, personal, reliable and professional customer service was exhibited when daily entries in hand written journals were made. Today, with significant improvements in our processes, via advancements in technology, the Corporation’s commitment to personalized customer service is just as important as it was the first day we opened our doors for business.
Service and strength continues to be our theme for growth since our first President, Hardin Roads, started upon his quest. It is our people that make this quest of growth a reality. Our commitment to shareholders is to continue to evolve a culture that values employees while emphasizing high performance results. We want and need our employees to strive for success because they have an ownership in the company. We want and need employees to view their time spent here as a career rather than a job. We believe strongly in hiring the right attitude first and training for skills.
Our consolidated structure supports our delivery commitment and expands the scope of our lending capabilities, allowing us to deliver service and strength … every day.