Vail Valley: American National Bank keeps it simple |

Vail Valley: American National Bank keeps it simple

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

The last half of 2008 was a bad time to be in the financial business. But a regional bank with several Vail Valley branches actually earned awards for its performance during that troubled time.

American National Bank ” which has branches in Eagle, Edwards and Avon ” was honored recently by VERIBANC, an independent national bank-rating company, for its financial performance and management over the last two quarters of 2008. Bank officials say there’s a good chance it may earn a similar “Blue Ribbon” award for the first quarter of this year as well.

While some of the country’s biggest banks were seeking federal bailout money, regional banks across the Western Slope and the rest of the country have generally been in better shape.

“I think it’s because we’re not complicated,” said Kevin Brubeck, president of American National’s Eagle Valley branches. “When you get complicated, nobody understands what you’re doing.”

Complicated, in this case, means American National was among a group of regional banks that never wrote subprime mortgages, and never bundled those mortgages into securities that were sold and traded based on the mistaken assumption that home values would always keep going up.

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“Higher yields have higher risks,” American National CEO Dennis Nathan said. “A lot of smaller banks didn’t take those risks.”

Nathan said American National has its share of bad loans on the books right now. But overall, American National remained relatively conservative in its lending standards while bigger companies routinely made risky loans.

Those conservative standards have become even more conservative over the last several months, Nathan said.

“When (home) values are declining, you have to do things differently,” he said.

But American National is still in the business of lending money. That message has sometimes been hard to get across to customers when the news is full of reports about bank failures and bailouts.

Telling customers about a bank’s health is pretty basic, Nathan said.

“You just need to be continually talking to customers,” he said. “It’s nice to have the people we do.”

But the last few months have been tough, said regional president Tim LyBarger.

“All banks were lumped into one category ” there was no delineation,” LyBarger said. The good news, LyBarger said, is that the bank is well-capitalized and well-run.

“We think we’ll be in a better position when the economy recovers,” he said.

American isn’t unique in that, Nathan said.

“You’ve got a lot of well-run banks on the Western Slope,” he said. “We’re happy to compete with them.”

Regional banks just about everywhere share a core philosophy of being involved in their communities. Brubeck, who’s lived in Eagle for a long time and worked for a few banks, said American’s philosophy is pretty simple: “We lend to and borrow from our friends and neighbors,” he said.

That’s why it’s hard to see some of the bank’s good customers fall on hard times.

That tempers the enthusiasm about awards.

“We’re proud of them,” Nathan said. “But you don’t want to get too proud ” that’s when you make mistakes.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

American National Bank was honored as a Blue Ribbon Bank by VERIBANC, an independent rating company, for practices including:

– Management.

– Capital strength.

– Earnings.

– Liquidity.

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