Los Alamos National Bank was started by the community, for the community. Throughout our 55+ year history, our community has continued to evolve, expand, and thrive.
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, “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.
Open for Business
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. 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.
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 office 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 1979, 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.
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 percent, and a total growth rate of 758 percent. Annual net income also grew from -$186 to $255,192 during this period.
New Challenges and Opportunities
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 offered IRAs, Money Market CDs, and 24-hour ATMs (nicknamed “ATOMs”) for the first time.
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 percent in 1981, signifying rampant inflation. 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 percent, and a total growth rate of 447 percent. 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 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. Money Magazine named LANB as “Best Bank in New Mexico” in 1995, and that same year, LANB became the second largest community bank in the state.
In 1994, LANB’s focus shifted to strategic planning and product development. The benefits of this boost in strategic planning focus was 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.
The strategic direction and performance that the Bank demonstrated from this point to the present was embodied a new philosophy for banking. In March 1998, LANB opened its first Santa Fe office, and it expanded the financial services offered to its customers by opening a branch of the brokerage firm Salomon Smith Barney in the bank’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.
New Mexico’s Financial Anchor
In 2004 the Bank opened its second Santa Fe office, a beautiful building located at Paseo de Peralta and Griffin. The Bank proceeded to open a third location in 2009 on Cerrillos Road, which was built to Gold LEED standards. LANB is now the fastest-growing bank and is the largest depositor in the Santa Fe market.
In 2009, the Bank also continued its leading role in technology by introducing mobile banking to its customers. Two years later, in 2011, the Bank opened its first full-service office in Albuquerque.
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 over five 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 sixth decade and beyond. LANB will continue to help make the dreams of the people in the Land of Enchantment come true.