All About Family: Long Banking History Gives Peace of Mind

Article James Hanson | Photography Katie Barton

Four brothers, Robert, Paul, Marvin Eugene and Orville Buerge, worked much of their life in the world of agriculture in Jasper, Bates and Cass Counties.

In 1965, Paul decided to use his knowledge of agri-services and joined with his CPA John Coke in purchasing the First National Bank of Butler.

In 1967, Paul purchased Coke’s share of the bank, and in 1968, he began branching out and spent the next 20 years purchasing additional banks.

In 1970 he bought the First National Bank of Clinton. Other banks included: Security State Bank in Fort Scott, Kan. which was bought in 1972; First State Bank of Joplin which was bought in 1974; First National Bank of Jenks, Okla. which was bought in 1976; and First National Bank of Sarcoxie which was bought in 1978.

During this time, his three sons, Steven, Alden and Robin all had completed college and became part of the banking family. Steve bought the Fort Scott bank from his father, Alden bought the bank in Clinton, and Robin purchased the bank in Jenks, Okla.

Today, the Buerge’s are in their third generation of family banking. Alden’s sons, Aaron Buerge, Justin Buerge and Brandon Buerge are all involved with the two Missouri banks: First State Bank of Joplin and First National Bank of Clinton and Springfield. This latter was chartered in 1946, and expanded into Springfield in 2001.

Alden serves as the Chairman of the Board.

Aaron Buerge is the market president of First National Bank of Springfield and has worked in the family business for the last 14 years.

His brother Justin Buerge works in Joplin, while his brother Brandon Buerge works as a consultant for the bank in Joplin and Clinton/Springfield. Elaine Paxton is the president of the bank in Clinton.

Aaron says having all the family working together is a lot of fun.

“It is kind of a fun excuse to get together and get a little business done,” he says. “You get to catch up with everybody. I like working with my family.”

Like many financial institutions, First National Bank of Springfield has seen its share of ups-and-downs.

“We have weathered a lot of storms and had a lot of ups and downs,” Aaron says. “But we are [a] conservative little bank. Our number one objective is to protect the depositors’ money. We try to be very diligent with their money. We didn’t get out there too far on a limb during the recession. We’ve been very fortunate and lucky.”

Like many banks, First National Bank of Springfield offers services such as money market accounts, certificate of deposit, business checking, free checking, Internet banking, IRAs, commercial loans, small business loans, auto, boat, RV and ATV loans, long-term fixed rate mortgage loans, and home improvement loans.

First National Bank also offers unique products like a NOW account, Classic I checking, Internet Banking, My Best Friend’s Checking and aviation loans.Aaron says customers really enjoy the My Best Friend’s checking, which allows them to have a picture of their family, best friend, dog and more on the debit card and checks.

He says having free checking is something customers are pleased with.

“Many larger banks are adding a multitude of fees to their checking accounts, trying to increase their earnings,” Aaron says. “We are a small, little bank. We are just glad to have people’s business so of course our checking is free.”

Aaron says customers really are the focus of the bank.

“We know our customers,” he says. “We know their families, the names of their children, dogs and cats. Our goal is to know those people and where they are with their business and where they come from. We have people

whose grandparents and parents banked with us. Then, their kids come here to go to school and open an account with us.”

He says being personable, friendly and accountable are all keys to the success of the company.

“When people call us they know we are going to answer the phones and not some automated system,” Aaron says. “When you have a question or concern you want to talk to somebody. You want to talk to somebody that knows the answer or can find you the person that does know the answer. That gives us an edge on some of our competition.”

Aaron says he loves visiting with customers when they come into the bank.

“People trust us with their money and their business,” he says. “It is very rewarding. The trust is there because my grandpa was in banking and my dad was also in banking.”