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Meeting Belfield's banking needs

Choice Financial is committed to the needs of the Belfield area, be it an ag loan, a donation for a skating rink or support of a benefit. "We're community-minded," said branch manager Bruce D. Baer. "We offer all the banking services--loans, depo...

The staff of Choice Financial at Belfield include Kristi Tessier, marketing and front-line teller; Bruce Baer, branch manager, and Diane Tift, marketing and personal banker. (Linda Sailer/The Dickinson Press)
The staff of Choice Financial at Belfield include Kristi Tessier, marketing and front-line teller; Bruce Baer, branch manager, and Diane Tift, marketing and personal banker. (Linda Sailer/The Dickinson Press)

Choice Financial is committed to the needs of the Belfield area, be it an ag loan, a donation for a skating rink or support of a benefit.

"We're community-minded," said branch manager Bruce D. Baer. "We offer all the banking services-loans, deposits, insurance, wealth management."

"People first," is the bank's motto, added Diane Tift, marketing and personal banker. Having worked in banking for 38 years, she described her co-workers as family.

"I've lived here my whole life- I spend more time with them than with our own children," she said.

Kristi Tessier, a front-line teller, agrees. As one of the bank's newer employees, she greets customers by name. She is among nine employees who have a combined 235 years of service in the Belfield office.

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While Tessier offers personal services at the counter, mobile transactions also are available.

"We offer both, but as an industry, the trend is less paper. More and more are going online," Baer said.

Beginning

A privately owned bank, Choice Financial was formed in November 2001 with the merger of four local banks on the east side of North Dakota. The company went on to open banks in Grand Forks, Comfrey, Minn., and Fargo. With the merger with Great Plains National Bank in 2013, locations were opened in Belfield, South Heart, Dickinson, LaMoure and Ellendale.

"That allowed us to expand our footprint into new areas of the state," Baer said.

Growth continued in 2015 and 2017 with expanded traditional and nontraditional banking services in Bismarck, Fargo, Dickinson and Beulah.

Rise Up

To stay in touch with other branches around the region, Belfield's Choice Financial participates in a Rise Up Program.

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"That's where fellow employees are supposed to catch each other helping somebody in a special way. We write a story on it and the top story makes it into Facebook-it's a nice way for for people to know what's going on," Baer said.

Being in the hub of agriculture and oil activity, Choice Financial is involved during the good and hard times of the economy.

"We try to be the rock, as you say, we ride with the industry as a lender," he said. "Right now we're going through tough times. We need to work with our customers to get through the rough times, or we don't have customers. The drought-cattlemen need feed and it's expensive this year."

The bank is indirectly affected by the price of oil.

"When oil prices drop, there are layoffs-we don't do a lot of business on the production side, but we do a lot of business with the service industries," Baer said.

As a community partner, Choice Financial recently made a donation to help the city park board to purchase "artificial ice" for a skating rink. Employees distribute popcorn as basketball games, apples and oranges during the Harvest Hoedown and serve an appreciation supper once a year.

Baer's experience

Baer grew up near Monango, N.D.-population 36 in the last census.

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"Back in '85 when I was looking for a job, I never dreamt I'd be in banking," he said. "I started at Belfield in 1989."

He has immersed himself into the community of Belfield-the Stark County Development Board of Directors, grand knight of Knights of Columbus, treasurer of Belfield Sportsman Club and Dollars for Scholars, the fire department, Badlands Ministries and Salvation Army. He teaches hunter safety and is active in the Southwest Ag Producers Marketing Club.

"We're the only bank in town so we take our responsibility seriously-to be the best we can be and to help out the community," he said.

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