Premier Bank CEO talks Commercial merger


Garrett Kluever

Premier Banks’ location in Whitewater which was previously the local branch for Commercial Bank. Budlong is excited to get involved with the community and work with UW-W.

Garrett Kluever, Biz and Tech Editor

Commercial Bank merged with Premier Bank, and two new offices opened on Aug. 9 and Sept. 25, following the mergers.

In the acquisition, Premier Bank absorbed all of Commercial Bank’s customers, employees, financials and two locations in Janesville and Whitewater.

Both banks, centralized in southeastern Wisconsin, are now combined in six communities. Roy Budlong, CEO of Premier Bank, said he feels the community bank formula is more focused on the customers and history in their communities.

“I believe in the community bank philosophy,” Budlong said. “It’s the root.”

The initial idea for the combination began in late 2011 when Budlong sent an email to Jon Kachel, former president of Commercial Bank, signifying interest and possible talks if he wanted to reach out.

Five years later, Kachel did just that.

Budlong said the values and ideals matched up very well with each other.

“We all agreed, ‘This will fit for us’, in a community that is the size we are very comfortable with,” Budlong said.

Analysis by Premier during the customary process showed there are 17 new features former Commercial customers can expect from the new service including: a mobile app, submitting checks via taking pictures, branched out investment services, home equity lines of credit and more.

According to the Logan Wroge of the Wisconsin State Journal, Premier is set to acquire about $100 million dollars in assets from Commercial Bank.

In the 150 years of Premier Bank, however, this is only their second acquisition. The first was back in 1998 when the company was called First American Bank and Trust purchased the two locations of Jefferson County Bank and became Premier Bank.

But just because its two procurements were in the last 20 years, this is not the trajectory Budlong sees the company heading.

“I totally disagree with the grow at all cost mentality,” Budlong said. “Community banks have to grow to survive; this happened to be the perfect fit.” 

Budlong said he is no stranger to the corporate banking model where acquisitions and buyouts are far more common.

He shared an anecdote of what made him decide to leave corporate banking for community banking.

“I was working for a corporate banking group in the 90s that over the course of six years got bought out four times, and I saw the writing on the wall,” Budlong said.

Buyouts and acquisitions of various types of banks have sharply increased in recent history. According to the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) there were 566 different institutions in Wisconsin in 1986. 30 years later in 2016, that number is down to 196 different institutions. That’s nearly a 66 percent drop of variance.

Budlong said their focus now with new assets has shifted to growing with what they have.

“Right now we’re focused on internal growth. I really don’t think another acquisition is needed,” Budlong said. “I think we’ll excel with that.”

Whitewater is a new market for Premier Bank even though they have locations around Jefferson County. In order to help with that transition, Budlong is joining committees, including Discover Whitewater, and is very intrigued to work with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Premier Bank does financial literacy teachings in schools ranging from elementary to high school and wants to translate that to college.

Budlong has met with university figures including Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Grace Crickette and Chancellor Beverly Kopper.

“I’ve offered to the Chancellor to talk to us, to let us know how we can help,” Budlong said.

Overall with the new opportunities in Whitewater the acquisition provides, Budlong is hopeful for the future the bank has in the community.

“We do not survive if the community does not survive,” Budlong said. “We are hitched to this wagon together.”