By EMILY RAMSEY
LOCAL EXPANSION: Bob, left, and son Tom Biolchini stand outside of the main branch of Valley National Bank, 4812 E. 81st St. In March, Valley National Bank merged with Bank of the Lakes.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
On March 7, Valley National Bank and Bank of the Lakes officially merged to become solely known as Valley National Bank (). Owner and Tulsan Bob Biolchini has owned since 1982 and Bank of the Lakes since 1976.
“We merged for greater efficiency,” says son Tom Biolchini, president and of Tulsa Valley Bancshares Corporation, the bank’s holding company. “The merger will benefit every aspect of the bank, with improved technology and loan and retail products.”
Bank executives ensured an easy transition by allowing customers of both banks to keep their current debit cards and checks, says Brad Scrivner, president and . Online banking and personal settings were automatically transferred to the combined system so customers did not have to update auto-pay or direct deposit settings.
now holds $400 million in assets.
“A lot of small banks are getting eaten up by bigger banks,” Tom says. “Regulatory oversight is becoming cumbersome to follow all of the rules, laws and regulations.”
However, as an increasing number of local banks are being bought out, “we have the desire to grow and be one of the largest family and locally-owned banks in Oklahoma,” Tom continues.
Of Robert’s six children, four are involved with the bank, including the Biolchinis’ other bank, the Bank of Jackson Hole, in Wyoming.
“As opposed to big banks that bring in money but disperse it elsewhere, out of the area,” says Bob, “the money that comes here stays here in our banks.”
The Biolchinis recognize that through community banks, individuals receive prompt assistance and a quick answer who might not otherwise find a helping hand from a bank headquartered in another state.
Bob recounts an experience of helping a customer in Wyoming who needed a loan for a small Iditarod company. “He needed money for four to six dogs and a sled,” he says. “Now, he has a thriving business.
“If we have confidence in a person’s character, we will make a judgment call.”
“That’s what a community bank can do,” adds Tom. “A bigger bank has restrictions so it wouldn’t be allowed to give a loan in a situation like that.”
Tom and Bob know that their banks have made a difference in their customers’ lives. Their 11 bank branches reach past the Tulsa region and into more rural areas, such as Bernice, Ketchum, Langley and Oologah.
Bob also is of PennWell Corporation, which has been in the family for more than a century. The Biolchinis’ two local companies employ 500 area residents.
While Bob may be striving to grow , he also realizes that its current size is a strength.
“That’s how we compete with big banks; by the time big banks go through all of their reviews (for a loan), we’ve got the customer taken care of,” says Bob.
“The two things we sell: integrity and speed. People get a quick answer, and when you hear yes, it means yes.”