From 1943, when the Manhattan Project moved to the Pajarito Plateau, until the early 1960s, Los Alamos lacked the essential foundation that any community needs – a local bank to serve as the economic engine of the region. Residents of Los Alamos were often not able to obtain loans to finance their dreams -- from starting their own business to owning their own home. This was because many New Mexico banks viewed Los Alamos as a temporary city that was not worthy of long-term economic investments.
In 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis a group of Los Alamos residents decided to change the status quo, and joined forces to attempt to form a national bank for the community. This group was dominated by management-level employees of what was then known as the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. However, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) was initially opposed to this idea because they felt that scientists were not qualified by experience in banking to receive a charter. According to founding director George Cowan (who still serves on the Board of Directors to this day), “the naiveté of a bunch of scientists proposing to run a chartered bank” initially led to OCC opposition to the idea of LANB. However, given the four decades of resounding success the bank has enjoyed, and the resulting economic benefits for Northern New Mexico, the OCC was proven wrong.
A persistent group, the founding members did not let their idea die. They turned to their political connections and enlisted the help of the New Mexico congressional delegation to try to convince the OCC that they were worthy of starting Los Alamos’ very own bank. Just a few months after President John F. Kennedy visited Los Alamos in December, 1962, the OCC finally relented and agreed to give this group of scientists a charter to found Los Alamos National Bank. At this time, the population of Los Alamos was 15,000.
In order to finance the founding of the Bank, 241 initial investors purchased all 17,500 shares of the new Bank’s stock within the first week of its offering, providing $313,000 in capital. [If you had purchased one share of stock when it was initially offered, at $17.89, this investment would now be worth $9,795, a return on investment of a whopping 54,651%.] On June 1, 1963, LANB’s first advertisement was published in the Monitor, and on June 12, LANB first opened for business with two officers and six employees, at its first location on 20th and Deacon. In the first month, 283 checking accounts and 94 savings accounts were opened. From the outset, the Bank offered services such as a drive-up window, a night depository and service for direct salary deposits and utility payments.
In 1965, LANB moved to the location it occupied until 1995, at Central and 15th. This land was purchased from the Atomic Energy Commission. 1965 is also interesting because that year bank posted a net loss of $186. LANB has been profitable every other year in its history.
As the city grew, the bank grew along with it. Before 1968, private citizens were unable to buy Los Alamos property, but this changed that year, and the development of Barranca Mesa commenced. In 1973, North Mesa also began to be developed. LANB was at the forefront in financing these developments. Also during this time period, the Bank introduced many services that were innovative for the time. In 1968, the Bank began offering no-service-charge checking for accounts with a $300 minimum balance, and credit cards were also first offered. In 1971, the White Rock branch debuted, as well as LANB’s Mortgage Loan Department. By 1973, when America was plagued by record high inflation and interest rates, as well as the tumult of the Vietnam War, LANB was already offering financial stability for the community – that year, LANB’s 19 employees (including seven officers), began offering FNMA loans for the first time.
The Bank was growing so quickly throughout the seventies that the management decided to establish a new method to more effectively raise capital to keep up with its growth rates. Consequently, in 1977, Trinity Capital Corporation was formed, and all LANB stockholders became owners of the new holding company. This was an exciting time for the Bank, as in 1978 it celebrated its 15th anniversary in grand style, offering tethered hot-air balloon rides above Los Alamos to its customers. The Motor Bank also began operating during this time. Additionally, in 1978, Bill Enloe, who had been an employee for only seven years (his first job right out of college), became President of LANB.
From 1965 through 1979, the Bank’s assets grew from $4.3 million to $36.9 million, which is an average annual growth rate of 18%, and a total growth rate of 758%. Annual net income also grew from -$186 to $255,192 during this period.
By the early 1980s, the banking industry had evolved. Congress had committed to deregulate the financial industry, which presented new challenges and opportunities for management. In 1981, LANB for the first time offered IRAs, Money Market CDs, and 24-hour ATMs (nicknamed “ATOMs”). As a result, two years later LANB experienced the highest rate of deposit growth since its founding. Also in 1981, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory changed its name to its current designation, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The national economy was also facing huge challenges, as the federal funds rate reached a high of 19.1% in 1981, signifying rampant inflation (contrast this with the current climate, in which the federal funds rate is 1.25% and economists are concerned about the prospect of deflation, when prices actually fall). Nonetheless, LANB continued its high performance, as in 1985 the Bank made a major addition by expanding to the second floor of its building. In 1987, DataBank was introduced, there was a ten-for-one stock split, and the number of shareholders grew to over 300 people. To finish out the decade, in 1989 LANB became the sixth largest bank in New Mexico, and one of the most valuable of employee benefits, the Employee Stock Ownership Program, was introduced. By this time, the Bank had 96 employees, eight drive-up lanes, and four “ATOMs.”
During the eighties, LANB’s assets grew from $40.9 million to $224 million, which is an average annual growth rate of 20%, and a total growth rate of 447%. Annual net income accelerated in this decade from $271,819 to $2.1 million.
The nineties were a decade of growth and prosperity both for the Bank and the nation as a whole. To reflect its focus on the customer, the Customer Service department was established in 1990, as well as the Credit Card department. Many new features were introduced to begin the decade: automated mortgage loan processing, Campus Accounts, no-service charge checking for Direct Deposit customers, a toll-free number statewide for DataBank, and “Scenes of Los Alamos” checks. Lobby hours expanded to 9 a.m.-5 p.m., a drive-up ATOM was built, and to accommodate the Bank’s tremendous growth the Mortgage Loan department instituted two shifts. The Bank also introduced something that would be completely inconceivable not to work with today – a local area network to enable the sharing of files and email.
Though LANB had always served Santa Fe customers, 1994 marked a milestone as the first bank services outside of Los Alamos County opened – ATOMs in Tesuque and on St. Francis Dr.
During this time period, LANB also got into the habit of receiving national attention. In 1992, Bill Enloe was recognized as the 1992 Financial Services Advocate by the U.S. Small Business Administration at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., and he also served as President of the New Mexico Bankers Association for the 1992-93 term. Additionally, Money Magazine named LANB as “Best Bank in New Mexico" in 1995, the same year that LANB became the second largest community bank in the state.
Major managerial modifications were put into effect in 1994. In order for Bill Enloe to focus on strategic planning and product development, he was named Chief Executive Officer. Steve Wells was named President and Chief Administrative Officer, to be responsible for the day-to-day operational authority of the Bank. The benefits of this boost in strategic planning talent were made apparent immediately, as later that year the Trust Department was established in order to provide the ability for LANB to cultivate and protect the financial foundation of many of its customers through comprehensive financial planning and asset management. Also, in July of 1996, LANB moved into its sparkling new 71,000 square-foot headquarters that would carry it into the new millennium. It this point it had grown to be the second largest community bank in New Mexico.
In 1997, the corporate slogan, “Smart Banking,” was selected. The strategic direction and performance that the Bank demonstrated from this point to the present was embodied this new philosophy. In March 1998, LANB opened its first Santa Fe Branch, and it expanded the financial services offered to its customers by opening a branch of the brokerage firm Salomon Smith Barney in the branch’s main office. In 1999, Access Banking debuted, and the Bank became one of only four organizations to win Quality New Mexico’s Zia Award. In addition, the following year, LANB became the only Bank and the only New Mexico organization to win the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Bill Enloe and Steve Wells were consequently treated to a meeting at the White House’s Oval Office with President Bill Clinton, and the next year, over 50 employees journeyed to Washington, D.C. to be honored by President George W. Bush at a banquet for receiving the award.
To diversify and position TCC for future success, the company purchased Title Guaranty & Insurance Co. in 2000, which became the only title company in New Mexico to be owned by a holding company of a financial institution. Also, in 2004 the Bank opened its second Santa Fe branch, a beautiful building located at Paseo de Peralta and Griffin. LANB is now the fastest-growing bank and is the largest depositor in the Santa Fe market.
From 1980 until 2001, the total assets of the Bank grew from $244 million to $809 million, an annual growth rate of 11%, and a total growth rate of 231%. Annual net income grew from $2.2 million to $9.2 million.
The most notable feature of LANB’s Los Alamos headquarters is the “Tri-Scension” sculpture, located outside of the south entrance. This sculpture was chosen by, and dedicated to, longtime Board member George Cowan, who explained, “it reminds me of an anchor, and it represents the sort of bank we are -- sturdy and strong.” For four decades, the Bank has experienced tremendous financial success and has served as the financial anchor of Northern New Mexico. Los Alamos National Bank’s past history suggests that the organization will continue to prosper and experience continued achievement throughout its fifth decade and beyond. LANB will continue to help make possible the dreams of the people of the Land of Enchantment.