Tom Brouster

It’s often noted that only the strongest businesses thrive during tough economic times. While it’s no secret that many financial institutions were hit hard by the economic downturn that began in 2008, Reliance Bank is among those that seem to have come out from the recession stronger.

The personal and business banking institution recently released its first-quarter financial results, and the story they tell is decidedly upbeat. “Our turnaround began over two years ago, and we’ve made significant progress in those two years,” says Reliance Bank chairman of the board and majority owner Tom Brouster. Compared to the first quarter of 2013, Reliance Bank’s loan portfolio grew 14.9 percent, with an increase in total deposits of 4.6 percent. The bank’s nonperforming assets, which include loans that cannot be collected on and foreclosed real estate, have reduced to 25.6 percent, and March was the 25th consecutive month that the bank had no loans past due 30 days or more. As of the end of April, the bank also had zero nonperforming loans.

All of these factors have added up to a net income of $1.72 million for the first quarter, according to the report. That number has steadily increased since 2012, when commercial real estate losses were still battering the economy, Brouster notes.

This growth has allowed Reliance Bank to announce an expansion, including the upcoming opening of two new branches in the St. Louis area, Brouster says. The first will be located at the corner of Lindbergh Boulevard and Clayton Road, at the entrance to the City of Frontenac. “It’s an incredible location and really, we think, one of the best intersections in St. Louis County,” he says. The building will be newly constructed in a Williamsburg Colonial style, but with a contemporary interior designed to meet the needs of today’s customers.

With many customers migrating toward electronic and mobile banking, the traditional branch experience is becoming increasingly irrelevant, says Kevin Blair, president and CEO of NewGround, the design and implementation firm that is working with Reliance Bank to develop the interior of the new branch. “We’re looking to create an experience that draws the customer in and helps them become more engaged with staff to build relationships,” he says. “The branch at Clayton and Lindbergh will bring new features that are unique in combination to the St. Louis market.”

Among them, traditional teller lines will be replaced by a more intimate meeting setting where full-service bankers can conduct all types of transactions in a concierge-banker style, Blair says. A technology center will display technology where staff can explain mobile banking options to customers. Additionally, a hospitality center will provide flexible space that the bank can open up to customers for seminars and conferences. New Smart ATM technology, which is still rare in the Midwest, will allow customers to have a full-service experience even after hours. “We’re one of the few community banks nationwide putting these technologies together to take care of folks in the community and be a good community partner,” notes Reliance Bank president and CEO Rick Sems.

“This branch is setting the standard for the bank going forward,” Blair says. “It shows commitment to the St. Louis community, in an ideal location serving Ladue, Clayton, Frontenac and surrounding areas. There’s nothing like it in that area.”

A second new branch is set to open later this year in The Grove neighborhood, says Reliance BancShares president Allan Ivie. The location, on the corner of Manchester Road and Tower Grove Ave., is a historically significant building in need of a renovation, Ivie notes, and will also showcase some of the technologies being launched at the Frontenac branch.

“We’re joining right in that effort of helping the area grow and prosper,” Brouster says. “It needs a bank and we’re going to be there.”

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