Helping people for over 50 years
On June 2, John Soderberg, who turned 80 in March, celebrated 50 years with First National Community Bank.
“A lot of different factors led into me getting into banking and now I eat and sleep it,” Soderberg said. “My children are joining the board of directors and they are going to end up with a bank as well. We want to keep this a community bank and keep it locally owned. It is so important for a community to have a locally owned bank because all the decisions are made here and the ownership is here.”
Even though Soderberg, current chairman of the board at First National Community Bank, has been with the bank for the last 50 years, he didn’t always know that he wanted to be a banker. His father, Henning Soderberg, had been president of the then First National Bank of New Richmond since 1923 and worked at the bank until 1987.
“When I graduated from Hamline University, I went immediately into the service where I was in psychological warfare for two years,” Soderberg said. “After that, I came back to live in Minneapolis where I worked for an educational consulting firm, which had me traveling all over the United States. The more I did that, the more I realized that I wanted to come back to New Richmond because it was such a nice town and I felt like it was No. 1 in the country.”
During his time in the service and working with the educational consulting firm, Soderberg began to realize he wanted to find a job where he could help people in any way he could. And the world of banking gave him that opportunity.
“When I graduated, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but when I got out I had my diploma in one hand and my draft notice in the other,” Soderberg said. “When I was in the service, I had the opportunity to do a lot of things like teach sixth grade to foreign soldiers. … I really liked doing that. That is when I started to understand that I wanted to get into a job where I could really help people.”
After coming back to New Richmond, Soderberg’s father told him to work for another bank somewhere other than New Richmond for five years to make sure he really wanted to be in the banking business.
“I did that and then came back to New Richmond after those five years and started off at the bottom as a teller,” Soderberg said. “I then worked my way up to lending and up again from there.”
Twelve years into working at the bank, in 1976, it was suggested to Soderberg by one of the First National Bank of New Richmond’s correspondent banks in Minneapolis that he should try to buy the bank out because there were so many banks being bought up by larger banks, and because he seemed to love banking so much that he would stay with the bank for a long time and make it his life.
“I bought out all the stockholders with a holding company and paid them back over the years, including my dad,” Soderberg said. “And from there I went on to where I am today.”
Recently, First National Community Bank purchased a bank in Dresser. According to Soderberg, the bank currently has more than $170 million in assets.
“We are now knocking on the door of $200 million in assets,” Soderberg said. “When I first started here, we were only in the neighborhood of $3 million in 1964.”
Over his 50 years with the bank, Soderberg has seen the banking industry make many changes, especially with the start of the digital age and all the new technology that has made banking easier to do even when you aren’t anywhere near a branch of your local bank.
“Things have changed greatly since I started here, not just in the use of computers, but also in the way banking is done,” Soderberg said. “When I started, checking accounts didn’t even have a processing number on them. So it has graduated with the technology and now we have added mobile banking and are also able to make a deposit from anywhere in the world. You have to keep up with the larger banks as far as the services are concerned.”
Although Soderberg has many fond memories from his 50 years of working at First National Community Bank, he couldn’t pick out just one that was better than the others.
“There are a lot of good times and experiences that I’ve had since I started working at the bank,” Soderberg said. “Every day is something different and there is nothing mundane about it at all. There have been some tough times, but we have always been a good, solid bank. If there were problems we came face-to-face with them and solved them. We are going through some very exciting times right now and everything is great.”