Standing along Pine Street in St. Louis, watching a pop-up bike lane in action, I struck up a conversation with a 64-year-old MetroBus...
Teresa Maledy didn’t bank on a career in banking. Yet 35 years later, as the CEO and president of the Commerce Bank Central Missouri region, Maledy has a zeal for the company, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
“I’ve had so many opportunities within Commerce, whether it was working in St. Louis or Kansas City or back here in Columbia, my hometown,” Maledy says. “And I felt that this organization values the can-do attitude. They’re very customer-centric, so that fits well with what I enjoy doing. They’re very supportive of their employees as well as trying to provide really good solutions to our customers. So I am very fortunate that I matched up with Commerce, because it fits me.”
Commerce Bank began as the Kansas City Savings Association, founded with $10,000 in 1865 by Francis Long. In 1881, Dr. William S. Woods purchased the bank and changed the name to Bank of Commerce. The company was taken over by the Kemper family in the 1920s, and the Kempers still lead the company today.
“Many times, when I’m talking to people about Commerce and having been with the company so long, I say we’re unique in that we’re publicly traded, but we’re family-led,” Maledy says. “And we’re now in the sixth generation of family leadership. We’ve had incredible stability and we’re very forward thinking and we invest long-term in the company.”
Maledy remembers James Kemper Jr., who served as company president when she joined Commerce Bank.
“He had a really strong belief that we would acquire banks that were very similar in culture to Commerce and then give local managers quite a great deal of autonomy, and then we would invest in those communities,” Maledy says. “The philosophy, what we call it internally, is a ‘super community bank’ philosophy, and that’s what we still follow today. We’re all locally driven and we really try to reflect the communities we serve.”
The company is still family-led today, with David Kemper serving as chairman and CEO since 1991.
“I think they understand the banking industry, but they’re also able to pay attention to what’s on the horizon and understand how our bank might be able to leverage technology or other innovations to better serve our customers,” Maledy says. “Internally, we think about there being three tenets: strength, community and innovation. And I think financial strength comes about because we are able to take that long-term view and build lasting relationships with our customers.”
The Columbia bank reflects the community, Maledy says, with many student customers and major industries, like higher education, health care and insurance, as clients.
The company has grown to 195 branches in five states. Maledy has served as president and CEO for the Central Missouri region, which includes Columbia, Moberly, Mexico, California and Tipton, since 2002. Today, the region holds $805 million in deposits, has 11 full-service branches and 24 ATMs. The Columbia market makes up $543 million of those deposits, seven full service branches and 16 ATMs. The Central Missouri region employs 175 people; Columbia makes up 129 of that total.
To commemorate the sesquicentennial, the bank is celebrating with “150 Acts of Commerce,” ways that employees can serve organizations in the bank’s communities. In Columbia, the company has provided lunches at Douglass Park for Lunch in the Park free lunch program for children and partnered with Youth Empowerment Zone to provide vouchers for clothing and athletic shoes for 100 kids in the community.
Looking at the bank’s local achievements, Maledy is proud of the trust department established in Columbia.
“We saw our market was very significant and warranted a trust team locally,” Maledy says. “So just seeing that take hold and the strength of our team here, and the way private banking, trust services and brokerage are growing, is very gratifying. So looking forward, I’d like to see that continue.”
Looking forward, Maledy anticipates more technology developments with mobile banking, accounts payable automation and remote deposit. Maledy says one of the bank’s recent anniversary advertisements resonated with her. It read, “We’re off to a good start.”
“I think that’s so appropriate, because I can really see Commerce Bank going forward for another 150 years, easily.” CBT
1865 Kansas City Savings Association is organized with $10,000 in capital.
1881 Dr. William S. Woods buys control of the bank; name changes to Bank of Commerce.
1921 W.T. Kemper becomes chairman of Commerce Trust.
1938 W.T. Kemper dies. James Kemper Sr. becomes chairman of the board.
1966 Commerce Bank organizes bank holding company Commerce Bancshares. In 1967, it starts acquiring banks in Missouri.
1969 Commerce enters Columbia market after acquiring Columbia National Bank.
1971 Commerce Trust Company changes name to Commerce Bank NA. Commerce Bancshares begins publicly trading on NASDAQ. Assets pass $1 billion.
1979 Commerce installs its first ATM, located in Springfield, Missouri.
2015 Commerce Bank commemorates 150th anniversary, has $24 billion in assets, operates more than 190 branches and employs more than 4,800 people.