First American Bank is determined to be an active part of the community

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Looking for a homegrown bank to treat you more like a neighbor and less like a number?

Ungelbah Daniel-Davila-News-Bulletin photo: First American Bank President Geoffrey Wagner and Branch Manager Connie Erwin are two of the faces at the new bank in Los Lunas.

Looking for a homegrown bank to treat you more like a neighbor and less like a number?

Only a few weeks young, the First American Bank in Los Lunas, originally chartered in Artesia, N.M., in 1903, could be your solution to local banking.

Employing more than 280 New Mexicans statewide, First American was founded by ranchers, farmers and towns folk, says Bank President Geoffrey Wagner.

After its humble beginnings in Artesia, the bank branched out to Hobbs, Roswell and all over south eastern New Mexico.

“That’s where we were born and bred,” Wagner said.

Then, in 2010, when High Desert State Bank in Albuquerque began to struggle, Wagner said, First American was “convinced” by the FDIC to put an offer to buy High Desert.

At first, Wagner says First American viewed the Duke City as “kind of a scary prospect,” since it was so far out of their regional comfort zone, but then “low and behold, they accepted the offer.”

Wagner says after acquiring First American, they were able to retain 85 percent of its employees. After finding success in Albuquerque, using 2011 to “define who we are,” and essentially “building a bank from scratch,” they decided to open a branch in Valencia County.

“The Los Lunas, Belen market just makes so much sense to us,” says Wagner, citing its similarities to their hometown, including the local “agricultural proponent.”

The First American bank, located at 3457 N.M. 47, Suite A, has found its new home in the former Rancher’s Bank building, which they’ve completely remodeled with state-of-the-art technology.

“We were able to come in here and bring it back to life,” says Wagner. “It has all the bells and whistles.”

He says he hopes the bank is able to fill a niche as a local, community bank, with the “ability and flexibility to make local decisions in the state of New Mexico.”

He says their employees are all locals, including Connie Erwin, branch manager, who has 20 years of experience banking in Valencia County, as well as two local tellers and a customer service representative.

Wagner said First American is special because there are no 1-800 numbers there, nobody is calling Minnesota or San Francisco he says.

“The farthest we’re calling is Artesia,” he said.

There will be a commercial lender on site, at least two days a week from Albuquerque, or as needed, with the hope of hiring a lender for the Los Lunas branch eventually.

Wagner says being an active part of the community is essential to them and they plan to participate in any way they can, through charitable donations and other ways.

To contact the First American Bank in Los Lunas, call 565-3300.


-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.