Commerce turns 150, reflects on banking then, now and in future
Special to the Illinois Business Journal
In 2015, Commerce Bank celebrated its 150th anniversary. Commerce has grown from a single bank in 1865 to more than 190 branches in five states with a payments system that operates nationally.
The world, of course, is a much different place now than it was in 1865 or 1972. Even a service as simple as a drive-up window was utterly inconceivable on the automobile-free prairies of the undeveloped Midwest.
The bank has reinvented itself many times to serve the ever-changing needs of people and businesses in our fast-moving economy. And, it says, it’s not finished yet.
With the addition of drive-up lanes, automated teller machines and online account management, branch banking has changed significantly over the past 50 years and it continues to evolve. Commerce recently opened a high-tech innovation center on Vandeventer Avenue in St. Louis. The new concept branch offers business clients and consumers an array of banking choices. For example, customers can complete a transaction at a video kiosk or with a personal banker. A technology bar allows customers to bank using web and mobile applications. And, video conferencing makes it possible to connect with Commerce specialists in other locations.
Up until the 1960s when credit cards came into popular use, people had two ways to pay a bill: cash or check. Today, a broad variety of digital and card payment systems are available, some of which have been tailored to address the special needs of specific industries, such as health care and energy.
Commerce Bank’s Health Services Financing program, for example, includes a line of credit that enables patients to pay medical bills over time while also helping health-care providers improve their cash flow. Commerce’s toggle (a trademarked payment feature) lets users specify which purchases they’d like paid immediately from their checking account and which to treat like credit card purchases. Floor plan financing, tax-advantaged lending and commercial cash management are just a few of the many other banking services that have been developed to serve complex, ever-changing business needs.
Of course, not everything about Commerce has changed over its long history.
“After 150 years, Commerce remains a bank that understands what businesses need and consistently meets those needs with innovative products and services,” said Harlan Ferry, president of Commerce Bank’s metro region. “Commerce provides the assurance that it will be there as a financial partner for the long term. That is the key to its lasting success.”