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Our History

It is our mission to continually reinvest in the organization our founders created in 1894 and uphold their legacy of developing meaningful relationships with those in the community while delivering superior financial solutions.

Michael Molepske, Chief Executive Officer

Early Years

Photo of original Bank First location on the southwest corner of North Eighth and York Street.Headquartered, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Bank First was founded in 1894 with a capitalization of $50,000. The bank was located on the southwest corner of York and North 8th Streets in downtown Manitowoc. The bank achieved great financial success during its first 33 years in business, and by 1927 it outgrew its original location. On August 20, 1927, Bank First moved from the southwest corner of North Eighth and York Streets to just across the street on the first floor of the Hotel Manitowoc building at the northwest corner of North Eighth and York Streets (known today as Dali’s Café). The new bank building had a state-of-the art security system and a very elaborate interior. The nameplate of the bank was centered above the entrance with a monogram in the center. The elaborate bank entrance is still visible from Eighth Street to this day.

The next 45 years of Bank First’s history saw physical as well as monetary growth. In 1971, Bank First acquired the assets of the Francis Creek bank. The bank soon needed additional space at its headquarters to support its growth, and selected a new site in the 400 block of North Eighth Street in Manitowoc. The construction of the new bank with approximately 22,000 square feet of space began in August of 1973 and was completed in September 1974.

Strategic Growth

In 1983, Bank First’s Board of Directors appointed Thomas Bare to the role of President and Chief Executive Officer. During Mr. Bare’s 25-year tenure, Bank First grew from $75 million in assets to $794 million in assets. Additionally, Bank First engaged in a number of strategic acquisitions and de novo offices, growing from two to fifteen locations in northeastern Wisconsin. In 2001, under the leadership of Thomas Bare, Bank First expanded its offerings by purchasing the Vincent Group, an independent insurance agency in Manitowoc.

In 2008, Thomas Bare retired from his role as President, and the Board of Directors appointed Michael Molepske as his successor. Bank First’s Board of Directors recognized Mr. Molepske as a proven leader with remarkable vision and the ability to successfully execute the Bank’s strategic initiatives. The Board felt he was the right fit to grow the Bank and increase its footprint in Wisconsin. With Mr. Bare’s direction, Molepske assembled a team of bankers in 2006 and was responsible for opening the bank’s Sheboygan office in 2008. The office experienced tremendous success under his leadership, and it currently leads the organization in loan growth.

Under Molepske’s leadership, Bank First opened a new office in Valders and merged its St. Nazianz office into it. Additionally, after completing extensive remodels of its Mishicot and Custer Street offices, Bank First merged its Francis Creek and Newton offices into each, respectively. In 2015, Bank First constructed a new state-of-the-art facility in Two Rivers and relocated to 1703 Lake Street, overlooking beautiful Lake Michigan. Bank First also strategically combined its insurance subsidiary with A.N. Ansay & Associates, an independent insurance agency headquartered in Port Washington, in an effort to focus solely on its core banking business. In recent years, Bank First has expanded into new markets, including Appleton and Oshkosh. In October 2017, Bank First closed on its merger with First National Bank of Waupaca. This was the largest acquisition carried out by Bank First to date, increasing its branch footprint by six and its asset size by approximately $500 million. In May 2019, Bank First closed on its merger with Partnership Bank, expanding its branch network into Tomah, Watertown, Mequon, and Cedarburg.

Bank First Today

Today, Bank First has assets of approximately $2.7 billion and operates out of 21 locations throughout Wisconsin. It has become one of the top performing financial institutions in the State of Wisconsin. Bank First attributes its success to attracting and retaining top talent who are committed to excellence and adhering to the principles of the bank’s promise: “We are a relationship-based bank focused on providing innovative products and services that are value driven to the communities we serve”.

On May 15, 2020, Bank First closed on its merger with Tomah Bancshares, Inc., solidifying Bank First's position as the third largest publicly traded bank headquartered in Wisconsin. With the addition of Tomah Bancshares, customers have access to an increased lending capacity, a wider range of products and services, an expanded branch network, and a larger team of bankers dedicated to providing superior financial solutions that are value driven. Bank First employs over 300 full-time equivalent staff and has been consistently named one of the best banks to work by American Banker.

As Bank First looks to the future, it will continue to focus on its relationship-based model of community banking and expanding its reach throughout the State of Wisconsin. The bank will continue to expand through organic growth and in the form of de novo branches and strategic acquisitions in the coming years and is excited for the opportunity to provide superior products and services to a larger base.

Bank First Timeline

Detailed Bank First Timeline

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