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Valley Exchange Bank and American Bank & Trust complete merger



In a significant development for the local banking industry, Valley Exchange Bank, a long-standing financial institution deeply rooted in the area since 1883, has completed a merger with American Bank & Trust.

Valley Exchange Bank holds a special place in the history of Lennox, with its origins dating back to the town’s early days. Founded by pioneer Bernard C. Jacobs in 1883 when Lennox was just four years old, the bank started in a modest structure but soon moved into a large two-story red brick building in 1893, which served as its home for nearly six decades (located where the post office now stands in Lennox).

In March of 1952, a new building was completed and occupied by the Exchange Bank of Lennox, which marks the current location in the community. An open house was held in 1952 to celebrate the completion of the new building with 1,800 people attending. The old two-story building was torn down in 1970 to make room for a new post office building.

Over the years, the bank has witnessed several changes and expansions, including the establishment of the branch in Tea in 1975. When the Tea branch opened its doors it marked the first time in about a half-century that the Community of Tea would have a bank.

In announcing the opening of the new branch, Erling Haugo, then president of Valley Banks, stated that Tea was a growing community in need of a local banking facility. As many people of that community had for years done their banking with the Valley Exchange Bank in Lennox, he thought it seemed only logical that the Lennox bank provided these branch services to Tea.

The bank began operation in Tea on August 9, 1975. An open house was held on August 25.

After Erling Haugo’s tenure at the bank, his son Roger Haugo assumed the role of bank president, guiding Valley Exchange Bank for over 30 years. However, recently the decision was made to merge with American Bank & Trust, signaling a new chapter for the financial institution. The merger became official on July 11, 2023 with Doug Tribble, the President and CEO of American Bank and Trust making the official announcement in a release.

Along with the name change, comes a few changing of faces. Long-standing employees of Valley Exchange Bank in Lennox, including Carol Wulf, Rich Andresen, Chuck Olinger, and Jill Poppenga, bid farewell to their positions on July 11th. Wulf, Olinger, Poppenga, and Andresen dedicated many years to the bank, with Wulf’s tenure spanning an impressive 59 years, Olinger’s 48, Poppenga’s 33 and Andresen’s 32. In Tea, another valued employee, Lois Hazel, retired after an extraordinary 66-year career with the bank.

Hazel, who has worked closely with Haugo over the years, said when he came in that final day he seemed okay. She also said the customers shouldn’t notice any big changes.

“The customers really won’t notice any difference,” Hazel said. “They can use the same checks as they were using.”

Hazel noted the customers will also see the offering of additional services, including online banking.

In the release sent out by American Bank & Trust they also stated that current customers can continue to use their current supplies of checks until they are ready to re-order. They will also not have to change any of the automatic payments that come directly from their account.

As part of the transition, new debit cards will be mailed out to customers this week. Furthermore, American Bank & Trust announced that they are diligently working to merge the technology systems, with completion scheduled for the weekend of July 28.

American Bank & Trust also shares a rich history like Valley Exchange Bank. Their origin story began in the town of Aplena, SD in 1988, beginning as the Bank of Alpena. The bank was officially chartered in January of 1982. They expanded with another branch in Wolsey, SD in 1964 with the parent bank moving to Wessington Springs. The name of the bank was then changed to American State Bank. In 1972 the Steele’s from Huron purchased the bank. Then in 1993 American State Bank purchased Farmers State Bank in Mellette. This became the bank’s fourth location. In June of 2000, Hank County State Bank in Miller was purchased and added to the operation. In 2002, a branch was added in Huron and the name was changed to American Bank & Trust. The bank now has locations in Aberdeen, Carthage, DeSmet, Huron, Iroquois, Mellette, Miller, Pierre, three Sioux Falls branches, Stickney, Watertown, Wessington Springs, Wolsey, Worthington, MN and most recently Lennox and Tea.

In the release, it was made clear that there will not be any branch closures with the merger.

It stated: “The branches in Lennox and Tea all fit very well into the American Bank & Trust footprint. Valley Exchange Bank along with American Bank & Trust have a long history of solid expertise in Ag & Business Lending and are pleased to bring this experience and knowledge together into one organization.”

They also stated that although the name is changing, customers in Lennox and Tea “will receive the same great service from the same great employees you are accustomed to with Valley Exchange Bank”.

It was also stated that all locations will continue to be open when the same convenient hours.

The new services that Hazel pointed out will begin in August. In the release, American Bank & Trust stated that after Aug. 6 customers will be able to go to www.abt.bank to access Online Banking. Instructions and more information will be mailed out to current customers.

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