A Century of Service: Gate City Bank’s Mission Is To Make Lives Better

Gate City Bank Enters Its Next 100 Years

In a Nutshell: North Dakota’s Gate City Bank celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2023, a rare milestone in the financial world. Understanding the mutual bank’s traditions highlights what made that milestone possible. Gate City’s mission is to make lives better. That starts at work with a culture that encourages longevity. It extends to customers and communities through products and services that promote personal growth and commitments to volunteerism, philanthropy, and financial education. At Gate City, people, not numbers, make the world a better place.

What does it mean to celebrate a century of service, as has Gate City Bank, founded in 1923? It means providing a social and economic constant to help people and communities weather financial storms and thrive.

Based in Fargo, North Dakota, Gate City has seen its share of bad weather, financial and otherwise. But the bank provides shelter from the storms to remind people who they are and why they keep striving on each other’s behalf.

Gate City Bank logo

The bank’s umbrella extends from constructive products and services to steadfast commitments to volunteerism, philanthropy, and financial education. True to its mission to make lives better, Gate City is a force for good in a world that needs more of them.

Kim Settel, Gate City’s EVP of Retail Banking and Lending, has family memories of Gate City stretching back to the ’70s.

Kim Settel, Gate City’s EVP of Retail Banking and Lending, is a prime example. Settel’s family settled in the Fargo area in 1972. Her father established solid relationships at the bank, including with James Milbrath, whom Settel remembers as beloved throughout the community. Settel’s father referred to Milbrath as “Banker James from Gate City Bank” as if that were his name.

Settel also remembers dancing around the family room to a Gate City television commercial featuring a memorable jingle (see the YouTube video below).

Settel started her banking career in 1994 and landed a job at Gate City in 2013 — unfortunately, about two weeks before her Dad passed away. She cherishes a call she received from him as she was getting started when, true to tradition, he asked for “Banker Kim from Gate City Bank.”

“He was so proud,” Settel said. “There was some destiny in my path to Gate City — my parents had their checking account there for many years, and it played an important role in helping them finance vehicles and homes. And now my daughter is a third-generation Gate City Bank customer.”

Products That Elevate Potentials

Gate City is a mutual bank, which means it is accountable to customers, not shareholders. A $3.5 billion institution, it is the number one mortgage lender in North Dakota. About 770 team members in 45 branch locations help keep 23 communities throughout North Dakota and central Minnesota strong.

“Our culture centers on creating a warm and welcoming environment for customers and community members and encouraging team members to lead fulfilling personal and professional lives,” Settel said.

Mutual bank status gives Gate City more leeway to give back to customers and communities. A frequent award winner, Gate City has placed in the top four on the Forbes World’s Best Banks list among U.S. banks, including third in 2024.

The bank offers products and services to suit customers from all walks of life. Checking and saving products, loans, business services, insurance, and investments help customers no matter where they are on their financial journey.

Gate City Neighborhood Reinvestment Initiative
Gate City has awarded over $23 million in low-interest neighborhood reinvestment loans in 2024.

Mutual bank status also means not neglecting customers and community members who need a nudge forward to become more productive. Settel is particularly proud of Gate City’s BetterLife™ Student Loan consolidation program, the first of its kind in the nation.

BetterLife allows customers to consolidate their student loans with no fees and fixed interest rates as low as 4.75% APR. The program has helped nearly 3,500 customers save more than $35.2 million in student loan interest since 2015, an average of over $10,000 per customer.

“We started the BetterLife™ Student Loan with the specific goal of helping more people afford homes,” Settel said. “These individuals have invested in their education to become entrepreneurs, business owners, and community contributors, so it was also a way to help the communities.”

Neighborhood reinvestment loans, which started in Fargo and now extend to communities across Gate City’s service footprint, are partnerships with municipalities. They identify core neighborhoods where homeowners need help to invest back into the places they live in and love.

The catalyst was a neighborhood in Fargo where the school was about to close due to low enrollment.

“They didn’t have many owner-occupied residents in that core neighborhood,” Settel said. “The below-market loan rates encourage people to renovate and make neighborhoods attractive for others to move into.”

Building a Solid Foundation for Generations to Come

Gate City has awarded $104 million in low-interest loans for qualifying home renovations, including more than $23 million in 2024.

Community commitment also means reaching beyond the bank’s extensive customer base to engage with stakeholders and consumers at all levels.

Financial education is a prominent component of that outreach. In branches and through online and in-person sessions at schools, workplaces, and public venues, Gate City helps community members master their finances, manage current challenges, and feel confident about the future.

Gate City branches are home to mobile geniuses. These are subject matter experts dedicated to assisting customers with bank tech, including its handy mobile app.

Gate City volunteerism
Volunteerism is at the heart of Gate City Bank. Here, team members contribute their time to a local food bank.

Strategic partnerships with community organizations allow team members to provide baseline financial education, tackling fundamentals such as how checking accounts function.

“Checking accounts have certainly evolved significantly in the 30 years I’ve been in banking,” Settel said. “My husband and I once asked my daughter to write a check, and she was baffled.”

Financial literacy programs span many groups. Gate City goes into middle and high schools and even colleges. It’s also always ready to help new Americans and other groups acclimate to the financial system.

Gate City is also vigilant in offering online resources to tell people how things work and give them tips and tricks. That includes sending out email blasts with financial education, and even using social media as a platform for quick “did-you-know” tidbits.

Online resources include extensive articles written by team members covering saving, budgeting, personal finance, retirement, and other financial fundamentals.

A Help Center points digital banking users to bank information and answers questions about security and fraud, among other vital topics. Free financial calculators help users calculate loan payments, manage debt, and meet many other challenges. A glossary clarifies the financial industry’s sometimes arcane terminology to ensure everybody’s on the same page.

“We don’t take for granted that everybody understands how it works,” Settel said.

Going Above and Beyond in the Community

Philanthropic giving and volunteerism are core components of Gate City’s community service mission. Since 2003, the bank has donated over $40.9 million in charitable giving, contributed more than 310,000 volunteer hours, and helped over 1,000 charities.

“We encourage our team members to pursue their passions,” Settel said.

At the time of our interview with Settel in May 2024, several team members had just returned from volunteering at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, which exists to preserve the natural beauty and accessibility of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Community partnerships with the American Red Cross, Emergency Food Pantry, Great Plains Food Bank, and Giving Hearts Day, among many other community stakeholders, provide the bank ample opportunities to contribute support.

Charitable giving recipients include the Cass Clay Community Land Trust to establish more affordable housing in Fargo and neighboring Moorhead in Minnesota. Other recipients include Creative Care for Reaching Independence, which provides accessibility and mental health services; El Way Child Care and Learning Center; and Empty Bowls, an organization that contributes to the Grand Forks food pantry.

VA loans and military banking are a priority. The U.S. Department of Defense has recognized Gate City for supporting military veterans and families. A military committee ensures the bank reaches out with meal assistance and assistance with everyday tasks like lawn mowing, in addition to helping military members reacclimate to civilian life after deployment.

A generous spirit fuels all these initiatives, ensuring no stone goes unturned in serving customers and community members. Settel’s father would be proud to know his daughter is helping to continue Gate City’s century-long altruistic tradition.

“It’s easy for a bank to be with somebody on the best day of their life when they’re signing their loan documents to close on their house or opening their first checking account,” Settel said. “We love being a part of those milestones, but it’s a true financial partner that will walk with you during life’s difficult moments, as well.”