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First Federal completes conversion to state bank

New charter will benefit customers, says COO

July 24, 2011
By BARBARA WALLACE HUGHES, Messenger managing editor , Messenger News

Fort Dodge-based First Federal Savings Bank of Iowa has completed its conversion to an Iowa commercial bank charter.

It was previously a federally chartered stock bank.

"What prompted the change," said Tom Chalstrom, president and chief operating officer, "was that federal legislation changed the structure of bank regulation, and as a result of that, our regulators were changing. So that gave us an opportunity to identify our corporate business plan and strategy, and align it with what we feel are regulators who better understand our business plans, our practices, our markets, our economies that we're in."

As an Iowa commercial bank, First Federal is regulated by the Iowa Division of Banking. Previously, it was regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Customers won't notice changes in products, services or day-to-day operations, but the change will benefit them, Chalstrom said.

"They have the assurance that our regulators understand what we're doing probably a little bit better. Our products, our plans, our strategies are all attuned with Iowa, and that's where our customers are located," he said.

Fact Box

A First Federal timeline

Opened as First Federal Savings and Loan in October 1954. The original institution was at the corner of 11th Street and Central Avenue.

First Federal grew to more than $10.5 million in assets by 1967. It merged with Home Federal Savings and Loan Association in Fort Dodge in February 1967, with the resulting association growing to more than $20.5 million in assets.

First Federal Savings moved into its current headquarters at 825 Central Ave. in July 1973.

In September 1980, checking accounts were first offered at First Federal. During the 1980s, the institution began offering additional products including money market accounts, consumer loans and a seniors' club. By the end of the 1980s, the savings bank had grown to more than $140 million in assets and more than $100 million in deposits.

In June 1987, the corporate charter was changed to that of a mutual savings bank, First Federal Savings Bank of Fort Dodge.

In 1994 and 1996, the mutual savings bank issued stock in two public offerings. The stock is traded on NASDAQ under the symbol FFFD.

Along with the public offerings came additional growth. A branch was opened in Ames in May 1997. First Federal Savings Bank acquired three branches of Valley Savings Bank in Burlington and Mount Pleasant. Also, during 1998, the name was changed to First Federal Savings Bank of Iowa. A branch was opened in Perry in June 1999. The Ames branch moved to a new facility in July 2000. A branch was opened in Ankeny in February 2002 and a new office constructed and opened in February 2003. A temporary branch office was opened in Clive in August 2003 and in March 2003, moved to its permanent location. In August 2006, a new branch office was opened in West Des Moines, across from Jordan Creek Mall.

Subsidiaries of the bank include a real estate abstract company with two office locations, an investment product subsidiary and two low-income elderly apartment complex limited partnerships.

In March 2010, First Federal received a Community Reinvestment Act Outstanding rating from its regulators for meeting the credit needs of the communities where it operates. First Federal has been rated Outstanding on a continual basis since 1991.

In June 2010, First Federal was recognized by Gov. Chet Culver and the Iowa Finance Authority for the seventh straight year as a Million-Dollar Lender in the IFA First Home Program. The First Home Program provides affordable housing financing through low fixed rate loans to assist borrowers purchase homes.

In July 2011, First Federal completed its conversion to a state-chartered commercial bank regulated by the Iowa Division of Banking. This change permits the Bank to closely align its business strategy to the oversight provided by State of Iowa banking regulators.

The final step in the conversion was approval for membership by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. First Federal had previously received regulatory approval from the Iowa Division of Banking. In connection with the bank conversion, its parent company, North Central Bancshares Inc., had to receive approval from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to reorganize from a savings and loan holding company to a bank holding company.

"First Federal is recognizing what's important for the markets we serve, and that's what we are constantly in tune with," Chalstrom said. "We want to provide the best service and the best product in every market that we're in, and we feel this change helps us accomplish that."

North Central Bancshares Inc. has 11 full-service locations in north central and southeastern Iowa through First Federal, its wholly owned subsidiary. In addition to the headquarters in Fort Dodge, there are locations in Nevada, Ames, Perry, Ankeny, Clive, West Des Moines, Burlington and Mount Pleasant.

Contact Barbara Wallace Hughes at (515) 573-2141 or



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