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ND independent banks 'doing well'

Dave Thompson

A past president of the North Dakota Independent Community Bankers said banks in North Dakota are in very good shape.

"They're strong, well-run, well-capitalized," said David Mason of First International Bank and Trust in Bismarck. "We've been fortunate for a highly supportive community base in North Dakota."

Mason said North Dakotans like doing business with other North Dakotans.

"That's where the community bank model really thrives for us," Mason said.

Mason also said the biggest issue facing banks this year is inflation, and continued efforts by the Federal Reserve to tamper down inflation through raising interest rates.

"Increasing or decreasing isn't as big of a deal as how fast they change," Mason said. "And we've seen a dramatically fast-paced move by the Fed in increasing rates this time around. And that just changes the dynamic."

Mason said it takes a little bit of a different management style, to help customers deal with the rates.

Meanwhile, ag lenders are reporting a more positive outlook in farm country. A banker from southeast North Dakota said farmers are doing very well this year, compared with the past few years.

"The crops that got put in look very good," said Darwin Bitz of Heartland State Bank of Edgeley and Kulm. "The prices are excellent, and even on the livestock end, prices are very good."

Bitz said farmers are in a very good financial position, because of the current prices, and also because of disaster payments, crop insurance and COVID relief. And he said his bank hasn't been making loans to farmers this year.

"I can tell you that right now, of operating loans at our bank, there have been some that haven't been touched," Bitz said. "The farmers haven't needed it."

Bitz said he has sen a lot of pay-down on existing loans.

"It's actually a great time to be farming," Bitz said.

The independent bankers' group had their annual meeting in Bismarck this week.

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