With a family history that goes back 70 years in the St. Louis banking business, it’s no surprise that Scott Schmid decided to carry on the family trade and open Westbridge Bank and Trust, a locally owned, independent bank located in Chesterfield. “Twenty years ago, 80 percent of the St. Louis market was controlled by market-owned and -operated banks,” says Schmid, president and CEO of Westbridge. “Names like Boatman’s and Mercantile used to dominate the St. Louis marketplace before being bought out by big banks, which now control 90 percent of the St. Louis market,” he says.
The rise of big banking and the demise of personal service is what assured Schmid now was the time to open up a bank of his own. “I have more than 20 years of experience in the banking business, working with large and small institutions,” says Schmid. “It seemed to me the big names in banking try to get by with the least amount of service necessary in order to retain business. I think people want more from their bank.”
Schmid, along with a group of investors, raised the necessary capital and opened Westbridge Bank and Trust in 2006. “We are a real-estate oriented bank,” he explains. “We offer personal banking and products like CDs on the retail side, but on the lending side, we’re primarily commercial and some residential real estate.” This made choosing a location a breeze for Schmid and his partners. “We put our roots in Chesterfield because people were migrating west, and development and growth were steady,” he says. It’s a decision they haven’t regretted. After opening in a temporary space, the bank recently opened the doors to a brand-new facility at Boone’s Crossing and Highway 40. “We couldn’t have received better service from Chesterfield. The Chamber of Commerce is aggressive, and the city government is very pro-businesses. We have shareholders and customers that live in the area. We know we made the right decision calling this area home.”
But Westbridge’s clients can bank without ever stepping foot in their headquarters. “One of the benefits of starting a bank was that we could invest in a brand-new, state-of-the-art system,” says Schmid. “Our remote banking, which allows our clients to make deposits from their office, has been very well received. We can have clients all over the country.” New technology also has provided for stepped-up security. “We have a high-tech shield system and a very sophisticated firewall system,” he notes. “We’ve observed all the security provisions mandated for 2010, like dual authentication passwords and facial recognition. As the number of threats has risen nationwide, we haven’t had a single problem.”
The bank’s commitment to personal service has acted as a security measure of its own. “During the holidays last year, there were criminals going to banks and wiring funds out,” says Schmid. “They had signatures that were dead-on matches that they had scanned from public records. They took banks for millions of dollars. Their documents would have cleared security at some large banks because they were so sophisticated, but we know our clients personally and were able to see it for the scam it was.”
Schmid says Westbridge Bank is particularly interested in serving the needs of local small business entrepreneurs and their employees. “They are the backbone of our community, and the bar of service has been set so low for business banking,” he says. “Just making follow-up calls to our clients separates us from the rest.” He looks at each client as unique. “We don’t try to pigeon-hole our business clients into standard products or strict parameters. If they have a need, we try and meet it,” Schmid says. “We can’t offer all the products big banks do from a retail standpoint, but we can offer personal service. That makes us a better company no matter what your needs are.”