Talk with almost anyone at Lake City Bank and three words pop up more than any other: relationships, commitment and community. To better understand the central role these play in the company’s operations—and its successes—one needs only to consider the story of the newest Lake City Bank branch, which opened in February in Ash Skyline Plaza.
Several years ago, Tim Ash approached his local banker about developing an office in downtown Fort Wayne. The project he proposed was complex: He hoped to obtain financing for a new building that would wrap around and sit atop a city-sponsored parking garage. Several elements had to come together for the project to work.
At the same time, Lake City Bank executives had recently begun talking about how they could establish a strong downtown presence in Fort Wayne. When they heard Ash’s proposal, they decided to make it happen.
“It was a very unique, complex deal to put together,” explains Jeff Kubly, senior vice president and commercial east region manager. “Our relationship with Ash made it feasible. We had a lot of confidence in Tim and what he was doing. That made all the difference.”
Lake City Bank then decided to take its financing commitment one step further. The company also signed on to become the building’s first tenant, agreeing to open a full-service branch in the building that would become known as Ash Skyline Plaza.
“This was the right kind of building in the right place at the right time,” says president and CEO David Findlay. “The timing couldn’t have been better.”
As the concept began to turn into reality, Lake City Bank soon found that many of the entities involved were also their customers: the developer, CBRE Sturges; the architect, MSKTD & Associates; and the builder, Weigand Construction. When it came time to choose a company to help with the interior design of the branch, Lake City Bank officials naturally looked to their existing relationships and chose local interior contractor Strahm Group.
“Every step of the way for this project, the next person we had to work with was already a client of the bank,” recalls Findlay. “And while any building project can lead to strained relationships, we’ve been pleased that in every case our relationships have only improved with this project.”
Lake City Bank’s client-partners on the project share the sentiment. “The team from Lake City Bank was knowledgeable and has been great to work with,” says Larry Weigand, CEO of Weigand Construction. “The financing process was somewhat complex, but because of our existing relationship with Lake City Bank and their knowledge of our business, it helped us navigate the loan structures and guarantees. The finished product is amazing.”
Jim Kratzat, president/treasurer of MSKTD & Associates, adds that after working together on the project, “Our relationship with Lake City Bank couldn’t be stronger.”
While the design of the new branch represents a departure from Lake City Bank’s typical standalone buildings, customers will still find the atmosphere reminiscent of the bank’s other locations. “When you walk in the door, it has the feel of a Lake City Bank office. It’s first class all the way and it’s an important statement about our commitment to Fort Wayne,” says Findlay.
As a full-service location, the Skyline branch is equipped to handle a broad spectrum of retail, commercial, wealth advisory and trust needs. Kubly notes that whatever customers’ financial goals may be, the bank stands ready to partner with them to help. “This is a vibrant, functioning office, not just a token presence,” he stresses. “We are an important part of the financial landscape of our community.”
The branch represents more than just a typical office, however. It is a physical manifestation of Lake City Bank’s commitment to its clients and to its community. It embodies an opportunity for the bank to demonstrate its belief in the future of downtown Fort Wayne in a very tangible way.
“Going into a project you’re financing and signing a lease to be part of the project on a firsthand basis is a really big statement,” says Kubly.
Bruce Wright, who is senior vice president and east region manager and runs the new branch, adds, “Anytime you have a physical presence in a geographical area, you have more invested in it. With our Skyline Plaza office, we’re voting ‘yes’ that Fort Wayne is heading in the right direction.”
Wright, who had been located at Lake City Bank’s Dupont Road office since joining the bank in 1999, hopes to build the same kinds of longstanding relationships downtown that he nurtured at his previous location. “It’s always tough to move,” says Wright, “but I’m excited about being downtown and building new business for the bank. We’ve got a great mix of products, technology and personal service.”
The Skyline branch is already poised for success. According to Findlay, this is the first location in more than 10 years that opened ahead of its target completion date. Construction finished on time and on budget. Not surprisingly, Findlay gives credit to the relationships that carried the bank and its construction partners through the process. “This project is a success because we had the right partners in getting it done,” he says.
Lake City Bank’s partners, in turn, give credit back to the bank. “Lake City Bank understands our business and our people. Their team was knowledgeable and great to work with,” says Weigand.
Kratzat, whose team at MSKTD has worked with Lake City Bank on several projects, adds, “The great thing about Lake City Bank is its accessibility and flexibility. We trust each other to provide the best advice and service.”
That kind of mutual respect is what makes relationships work. Those relationships led Lake City Bank to the project and grew stronger as the project progressed. The best thing about the project, says Findlay, is that “we’ve gotten to work with our clients every step of the way.”
Address: 818 Harrison Street Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
Phone: (260) 683-5073
Years in Business: 144
Number of Employees: 570
Products & Services: Lake City Bank is the largest bank 100 percent invested in Indiana. With more than 45 locations covering northern and central Indiana, one-on-one service and technology-driven solutions have helped business, personal and trust customers, as well as their communities, thrive for more than 140 years.