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Little Horn State Bank sticks to community focus 100 years later

Thursday, February 28, 2019
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File photo by Jim Eshleman

The new Little Horn State Bank building opened in 2007. The design evokes the spirit of the Old West with wrought iron and wagon wheel details.

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Photo by Luella N. Brien

Roxane Renova, a teller at Little Horn State Bank, is one of the business’ newest employees. She will celebrate her one-year anniversary next month.

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Courtesy photo

Little Horn State Bank stood at the corner of 4th Street and North Custer Avenue for 41 years before it moved to Center Avenue. The bank was started in 1919 in Wyola by a group of farmers and ranchers to serve their local community.

As Little Horn State Bank celebrates a century of banking, the focus has remained on the people it serves.

“We’re here to help people,” Little Horn State Bank Executive Vice President and Chief Finance Officer Daina Green said. “Before, you could go out and start from scratch; you can’t do that now if you don’t have someone helping you, or a family member that’s already in farming and ranching. It’s almost impossible.”

The bank was formed February 1919 in Wyola to support agriculture in the area.

“I think principles are the same as far as the purpose of the bank, and serving the communities and serving the people in it,” said Green.

The bank outgrew its location in Wyola and moved to the corner of North Custer Avenue and 4th Street in 1966. It remained there until 2007, when it moved to its current location on Center Avenue. A Lockwood branch was opened in 1997 and a Billings branch was opened in 2002. Those branches were consolidated into one Billings location in 2012.

The growth of the bank has not changed the mission.

“It’s like a family,” Green said. “It’s not like a corporate world at all.”

For her, one of the most rewarding aspects of banking is seeing kids come back to take over family farms and businesses.

Green is one of those kids. She is the granddaughter of Little Horn’s first president Clarence Beck and has been working at the bank for 22 years.

“It’s a way of life around here and it’s a unique community,” Green said. “To see that sense of family and to keep the traditions alive, whether it’s on the reservation and off the reservation, everyone has family traditions.”

Throughout her years at Little Horn, Green has learned many things.

“I’ve learned to not get wound up because everything has to be done in one day – slow down, you can only do so much a day – and you learn how to deal with people,” she said. “I know there’s always two sides to every story, just like everything. To work through troubles and I’ve also learned that the hard times are where you learn more than the good times.”

For decades the bank has been serving communities in Big Horn County with a focus on small-town values and practices.

“One good thing about being a small bank… We are every lucky and blessed to understand every step,” Green said. “Some days it’s a curse, because you are overwhelmed, but to understanding something from start to finish, whether it’s a checking account and how it works to originating a loan until it’s paid off, to understand the big picture and how each piece fits into the puzzle.”

Dolly Gilbertson, senior vice president, has been working at the bank for nearly 40 years. She had just completed her business degree and was offered a job at Little Horn. She’s been there ever since.

“I like working with people and meeting new people,” Gilbertson said. “Heartwarming to see that we can help people (with finances),” Gilbertson said.

Gilbertson said throughout the summer, the bank will be holding special contests and drawings to help celebrate its centennial anniversary. An open house is scheduled in August.

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