Meet Bruce, Points West President & CEO
Bruce grew up in the town where Points West’s history began – Lisco, Nebraska. As a boy, Bruce learned to work in his family grocery store, waking up at his dad’s call to unload the semi. He remembers walking across the street to the bank as a boy where Harold Olson, the bank’s president, would greet him with a lollipop.
“When you walked into the bank, it didn’t matter if he knew you were coming, Harold would be there with a toy or a candy or something,” Bruce recalled.
When Bruce was 6 years old, his dad bought his first cows and rented ground west of town, eventually buying the place. Mr. Batt continued to buy ground and put his boys to work.
“These days Dad would probably be jailed for abusing some child-labor laws,” Bruce laughed. “We learned to work at a young age, like all young children in agriculture.”
Fast forward a few years, Bruce left his hometown to attend college at Doane, where he played football for four years. He married his high school sweetheart, Dawn, and stuck around in Crete for another year while Dawn finished her degree. Bruce later accepted a job at Farmland Foods Inc. and stayed until 1984.
Meanwhile back in Lisco, Bruce’s family was making plans to expand their ranching operation. Expanding would put them into debt, and with a small child and one more on the way, Bruce knew he’d need another job to support his family. Bruce began bugging Tom Olson Sr. for a job at the bank and months later in February, Tom was just going into his term as president of what is now Independent Bankers of America and needed some extra help while he was out of the bank. With no banking experience, Bruce started at Lisco State Bank in June of 1984, doing ag inspections and whatever else needed to be done.
In 1968, years before Bruce returned home, HOFF (Hennig, Olson, Ferguson and Fecht) Investments was formed by a Lisco farmer, a Dalton farmer, Tom Olson Sr., and Tom’s brother-in-law and fellow banker, Charlie Ferguson. HOFF was started to purchase Dalton State Bank and for 14-15 years, existed to hold the stand-alone bank.
Bruce got thrown into the middle of an ag crisis in banking when he didn’t really know much about banking to begin with, but Charlie and Tom thought they saw some talent in him, and in March of ‘85, Bruce was sent to Dalton two days a week to start working credits.
In 1984, the same year Bruce started at Lisco State Bank, a group of local investors, the Olson sons and sons-in-law, formed First Nebraska Bancs, Inc., a bank holding company headquartered in Sidney, Nebraska in which the single subsidiary of the company was First Savings Company of Sidney, which would become First National Bank of Sidney that same year.
In 1987, Charlie asked Bruce to come over to Harold and Helen Olson’s to visit with him on a Sunday morning. Charlie asked Bruce if he would consider coming to Sidney to work. A year later, Dalton State Bank was merged with First National Bank of Sidney. In 1989, Bruce became president of First Nebraska Bancs, Inc. and of First National Bank, Sidney and Dalton.
“We were one bank with two locations,” Bruce said. “We had total assets of about $16 million. Right now we have $775 million.”
In 1992, Bruce and Tom Sr. started traveling to Torrington, Wyoming to negotiate the price of the bank that came up for sale. That bank had assets of about $40 million compared to our $16 million. They had to leverage themselves considerably to have anybody even consider making a deal with them. They managed to purchase First National Bank of Torrington, and then Lingle, Wyoming three years later, and then Julesburg, Colorado three years after that.
Next came American National Bank in Kimball, Nebraska in 2000, then Deuel County State Bank in Chappell and Haxtun Community Bank in Haxtun, Colorado in 2003 and so on to the 20 locations Points West operates now.
“There is no doubt that Points West Community Bank wouldn’t be anything like it is today without Bruce’s leadership,” Tom Olson Jr., Chairman of PWCB, said. “Bruce’s signature is all over Points West… from how we treat our customers, to the people we employ, to the way we make loans. To achieve the growth we have, all while maintaining safety and soundness, is a testament to Bruce’s management. I have been fortunate to have him as a mentor since returning to the bank in 1994.”
Plenty has changed over the years, but keeping the needs of the communities we serve has stayed at the forefront. We have Bruce to thank for that.