By RITA DUCKWORTH
Ken Ziebart joined First Bank this past August. He is settling into his role as senior vice president and group manager for Commercial Banking at the O’Fallon location. As group manager for the Metro East and Southern Illinois region, he directs another commercial banker and a commercial banking representative.
Although new to First Bank, Ziebart has 17 years of experience in the financial services industry. After graduating from Illinois State University in Normal with a degree in finance, he began his career as a municipal bond trader. A few years later he entered commercial banking as a credit analyst. He transitioned to a portfolio manager, then relationship manager, and finally group manager.
First Bank’s reputation and history was something that appealed to Ziebart. As a 100-year-old, family-owned bank, it connects with commercial clients that share common goals.
“We work with many long-standing companies who, like the bank, are interested in passing their businesses on to future generations,” he says.
“We are a large bank, but we maintain the feeling of a smaller community bank,” says Ziebart. “I serve commercial clients in the $1 million to $100 million revenue range. As a $5 billion to $6 billion bank, we can provide financing on a large scale. At the same time, all the decision makers are local and available to meet with clients. This allows clients to know everyone that impacts the relationship, just like at smaller banks. We have the best of both worlds and it’s definitely an advantage.”
Ziebart is noticing changes in the local economy that are leading to growth in commercial lending.
“There’s a general sense of improved optimism,” he says. In recent years, he notes that companies were deferring capital expenditures, so most lending was in the form of refinancing. “Now, business owners are more comfortable about the outlook for the next three to five years and are willing to make investments. Revenues are improving so they’re building new plants, acquiring more land, and buying additional equipment. We’re seeing actual growth.”
Ziebart lives in Shiloh but is originally from the small town of Benton, Ill. He finds working for First Bank in the Metro East strikes a good balance between small town and big city banking. He calls on clients in both Illinois and Missouri but finds himself spending most of his time cultivating clients east of the river. “Bringing in new clients is about building relationships. The commonalities I share with people in this area help me do that. Getting to do business with companies close to the community where I live is my favorite part of the job.”