Kilgore is a town with a strong link to the past, from the oil derricks downtown to the institutions and organizations which have become like trademarks for the City of Stars.
On Thursday, Citizens Bank counted itself among these historic organizations as it marked 70 years doing business in Kilgore.
Business leaders, bank staff and administrators and longtime customers gathered at the Citizens Bank building at 301 E. Main St. Thursday evening to celebrate the occasion.
The “Business After Hours” event was arranged by Citizens Bank and Kilgore’s Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.
After guests enjoyed food and beverages, Sammy York, president and CEO of Citizens Bank, said a few words.
“Thank you for being here. We appreciate you coming and sharing this anniversary with us,” York told those assembled, adding the bank was founded July 29, 1949.
According to the bank’s website, the bank became a member of Allied Bancshares, Inc., a Houston-based multi-bank holding company, in 1975 and changed its name to Allied Citizens Bank.
However, in 1986, local investors made an agreement with Allied Bancshares, Inc., to purchase the entirety of the outstanding shares of the bank. This group was motivated by the goal of having a locally owned Kilgore bank.
In 1987, the purchase was completed and the name of the bank was changed to Citizens Bank.
“This is the only one of the Allied banks that did not sell in 1987. So ownership came back to the local community and the bank is still locally owned. We’re very proud of that. We’re very proud of the 70 years that we’ve been here and we look forward to the next 70,” York said.
York said Citizens Bank has grown throughout the state over the years and now has banking centers in College Station, Carthage, Center, Gladewater, Humble, Kilgore, Kountze, Sour Lake, The Woodlands, Yorktown and a loan production office in Plano which was opened in June of last year.
York attributes the bank’s continued growth and success to its local Kilgore customers.
“We’re here because of you,” he told the audience.
“We love Kilgore. You’re our lifeblood. We appreciate the loyalty and the trust that this community puts in us and we intend to be here a long time.”
He added the bank remained successful despite an ongoing trend of bank consolidation in the Lone Star State.
“This bank is not for sale. I just read today, today it was announced that two more banks in Texas have sold and will be gone. So the trend of consolidation is continuing,” he said, attributing the consolidation trend largely to regulations and edicts from Washington, D.C. and the lengths banks have to go to in order to comply with those regulations.
“What they don’t understand is that all of our customers have a choice. If you mistreat them, or don’t do the right thing, all they have to do is go across the street.”
He closed by thanking the bank’s customers.
“It’s been a great 70 years and we’re looking forward to the next 70. We appreciate all of you being with us this afternoon to celebrate.”
By email, York restated his belief that Citizens Bank’s longevity is a direct result of their customers.
“Any success that we have had is directly related to the loyalty and trust placed in us by our community and our customers. Strong, healthy, community banks are the lifeblood of any community and that is a responsibility that Citizens Bank embraces each and every day that we open our doors. We like to think that we are as close to “banking with a handshake”, the way it used to be, as you can find in today’s highly regulated environment,” York wrote.
York wrote a commitment to the bank’s customers was the bank’s goal now and going forward.
“We are committed to serving the financial needs of our customers with an emphasis placed on lending to owner-operated small businesses because strong, successful small businesses translate into prosperous, growing communities.”
The bank’s primary goal for the future?
“To be here for our customers and our community for another seventy years!” he wrote.
Over the years, the bank has received numerous awards.
In May 2016, Citizens Bank received the Texas Bankers Association Cornerstone Award for the Kilgore Habitat for Humanity Home Build.
In September 2016, the bank received the statewide Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT) 2016 Best of Community Banking Silver Eagle Award for community service.
In September 2018, the bank received the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT) Best of Community Bronze Award for community service for the Citizens Bank Student Board.
Many of the bank’s awards stem from their involvement in community activities and projects, including the Citizens Bank Student Board and the local Relay for Life.
The bank regularly partners with a variety of local fundraisers, local church programs, Kilgore ISD, local clubs including the Rotary Club and Lions Club as well as local organizations including Kilgore Fire Department, Kilgore Police Department and the Chamber of Commerce.