DIXON — It could be said First Northern Bank is where the buck stops.
The bank that was founded in Dixon 102 years ago makes a point of working to exceed customer expectations and keep much of its business in-house so that customers know who they are working with, whether it’s loans, investments or any other financial matter.
When First Northern Bank customers, the Goodman & Herbert law firm, were forced out of their offices when the office building on Empire Street in Fairfield burned, they needed a new home.
Before they even started casting about for a new location, First Northern Bank called to offer the century-old Fairfield law firm a new home. Within 10 days of the fire, Goodman & Herbert was set in their new home and back in business.
Brian Chikowski, attorney with Goodman & Herbert, said that is indicative of the up-front, get-the-problem-solved attitude that First Northern Bank has when it comes to meeting customers’ needs.
“We deal with a lot of other banks for our clients and First Northern is light-years apart when it comes to customer service. They are wonderful to deal with,” Chikowski said.
Goodman & Herbert signed on with First Northern several years ago when the banker they had been working with joined First Northern.
“They put customer service first when you go into the bank. They greet you when you come in and know who you are,” Chikowski said, adding he could not say enough good things about how First Northern has treated him and the law firm.
“They don’t have that institutional bureaucracy where people are afraid to do anything because it’s a little out of the rules,” Chikowski said of the bank’s flexibility to work out a solution to whatever Goodman & Herbert needs financially.
First Northern is a checking and savings bank with a focus also on small to medium businesses, according to Louise Walker, First Northern’s president and chief executive officer.
It serves an area that includes Solano, Yolo, Sacramento, Placer and El Dorado counties, with a standing as the fifth-largest bank in the region, as well as being one of the best small business lenders.
First Northern offers a wide variety of services beyond the traditional ones, from health savings accounts and mortgage loans to trust services and non-FDIC-insured investments.
One of its great strengths is that it is a strong and independent bank that has long set its own course to meet customers’ needs. Because the decision-making is done at the local level, it can respond quickly to customers’ needs and changing business conditions.
Another great strength is its strong core of employees, 80 percent of whom own bank stock. That means they have a vested interest in ensuring the bank is successful and making its customers happy.
“It is the whole personalized service that sets us apart,” Walker said, pointing out that customers contacting the bank will get a live person who is well-trained and well-informed to work out whatever concern and tailor the solution to the customer’s needs.
It apparently works because customer surveys have always put First Northern’s service satisfaction at 96 percent or above, according to Walker.
It was a group of Dixon residents who didn’t like the bank services they were getting who banded together in 1910 to organize the state-chartered savings bank, Northern Solano Bank.
The bank was backed entirely with local capital, a board of directors was elected and a committee was sent to San Francisco to get a safe and other banking supplies. Two days after the first organizational meeting, the bank opened with a staff of two people in a remodeled ice cream parlor.
A year later, it moved to the corner of North First and B streets, sharing space with a haberdashery, a harness maker, cigar maker, the Wells Fargo Express Office and Pacific Telephone.
For the next 43 years, Northern Solano Savings Bank and the First National Bank of Dixon operated under the same roof, sharing everything from shareholders to directors until the two merged to cut operating costs and become more efficient.
The bank has since grown to become a full-service institution, dropping its state charter for a federal charter on Jan. 1, 1980, as well as changing its name to the First Northern Bank of Dixon.
Starting in 1970, the bank also expanded to include branches in Winters, Davis, West Sacramento, Vacaville, Fairfield, El Dorado Hills, Woodland, Roseville, Folsom and Auburn.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.
Addresses: 195 N. First St., Dixon; 555 Mason St., Suite 100 Vacaville; 1455 Oliver Road, Fairfield.