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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
First National Bank of Layton has seven branches, about 20,000 customers.

Nine founding board members, 25 shareholders and $25,000.

One hundred years ago, the founders of First National Bank of Layton wanted to establish a true community bank for folks in their neighborhood — a place where regular people could do their banking in person, instead of relying on the post. So, they pooled $25,000 and set out to see if their vision could be made real.

Today, as the bank celebrates its centennial, First National Bank retains much of the founders' original vision. It remains, proudly, a small, independent bank. It is a place where tellers know their customers' names, and there is no talk of mergers or buyouts, market domination or Manhattan headquarters.

"The fact that we've stayed locally owned is really vital to the mission of the bank," said Dawn Brandvold, assistant vice president at First National. "At the time the bank was formed, (the founders') major concern was that they serve the people of Layton. They wanted to serve the community, its business and farmers. It's stayed mostly family-owned since then, and I think that same mission of being a community bank is one that's lasting."

That's not to say the bank hasn't grown. From one branch and one employee, First National has grown to seven branches serving about 20,000 customers. It employs nearly 90 and claims $258 million in assets.

"Our growth, I think, is attributable to a couple of things," said John Jones, chief operating officer at the bank. "One is a commitment to the communities we operate in. We know if we take care of our customers, we'll be fine.

"This bank isn't built on the notion of build-and-sell. We'll never be a big bank. We'll always be small, and we're structured to stay small because we can do things here we couldn't do as a regional or national bank. Here, our customers know they can pick up the phone and talk to the president of the bank, which isn't something you can do at a bigger bank."

According to the Utah Bankers Association, there are six locally owned banks that have reached the 100-year milestone. The five others are Zions First National Bank, Barnes Banking Co., Central Bank, First National Bank of Morgan and Lewiston State Bank.

"When you consider the incredibly challenging events of the past 100 years, including world wars, the Depression and times of tremendous economic instability, not to mention today's highly regulated, highly competitive environment, you begin to understand what an amazing accomplishment this truly is," Howard Headlee, president of the UBA, told the Morning News. "More impressive is the fact that every step of the way the bank and its board members have played a generous and critical role in the historical development of their local community. It is just a great story."

Currently, First National's footprint stretches from Clearfield and Layton in Davis County to Draper. Its plan going forward, according to Jones, is to add "a couple more branches" in the next five to eight years.

"We don't want to grow faster than we can profitably grow," he said.

Nor will the bank sell or merge anytime soon, Jones said.

"Our board has no desire to sell the bank or to be merged," he said. "Our whole effort right now is to succeed for another hundred years."

First National Bank will hold centennial celebration activities throughout the year. Information about specific events may be obtained at any First National Bank branch.

E-mail: [email protected]