Sullivans work for growth, longevity in local bank

THE SULLIVANS — Mike and Kate Sullivan have been banking on the success of small town communities for decades. Together, they stand at the Cedar Rapids State Bank site’s drive-thru.

By Gabby Christensen
Small town success is highly dependent on a solid support system.
Since its inception, Cedar Rapids State Bank has set out to offer that very backing.
The bank, which was chartered in 1936, is one of the few locally owned community banks in the area.
All of its board members live and/or work within a 100 mile radius of the area to ensure decisions are made locally.
Mike and Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids became majority shareholders in 1983 and have grown the bank organically through that time period.
The bank has grown from $3 million in assets at that time to over $50 million to date.
While agriculture is the bank’s strongest industry, it has also worked to meet commercial and consumer needs.
Today, the bank offers nearly everything a large bank offers, including home loans, a full range of money market accounts, checking accounts and online banking. But, according to the Sullivans, one of the best features is something that isn’t offered at all banks—a personal, small town approach.
Succession and longevity, as foreseen by the Sullivans, allowed Matt Paulsen and John Morrow to purchase 39 percent of the bank in 2015.
More recently, the bank has expanded with the first branch in its history, located in Spalding.
The Spalding branch opened two months ago, and a grand opening is set for Saturday, Sept. 29.
The decision to open a Spalding branch was easy for the Sullivans and the management team, as their vision for growth has always been to remain local.
The Sullivans, both Ord natives, have been in the small town banking industry for most of their lives.
Before purchasing CRSB, the couple operated a bank—known as the smallest in Nebraska at the time —in Mason City.
They sold this bank in the early ‘80s before purchasing CRSB from the Cox family—a decision the pair said they’ve never regretted.
Currently the Sullivans have controlling interest and own 60 percent of the bank’s stock, with bank employees owning the remainder. The couple said they plan to keep it this way.
Over the years, as all business owners, the Sullivans have seen their fair share of ups and downs. Yet one memory that is forever etched in every rural banker’s memory is the farm crisis of the 1980s.
“This was extremely difficult and we came to Cedar right in the middle of it,” Kate said. “It was a tough time for banks and ag families. Some weathered the storm, while others didn’t. We fortunately survived.”
Another challenge CRSB faces is keeping up with the rest of the banking world—technology specifically.
Despite the trials and challenges, the couple agreed that the success has outweighed any obstacles.
“We’ve recently had the opportunity to get back into mortgage lending by purchasing a loan production office in Omaha,” Mike said. “We’re excited to be back in the home loan business. It’s a big deal for rural areas, as people usually have to go to the city to find a home loan lender. But now, we can do it from here and people don’t have to leave their homes.”
The couple realizes small town banks are becoming fewer and fewer every year. Yet, they’ve made the decision to bet on rural Nebraska.

Read the complete story in the Sept. 19 Albion News & Petersburg Press, Print and E-Editions.