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By RITA DUCKWORTH
    Susan Knabe joined First Bank three years ago. She was formerly branch manager of the downtown St. Louis location. When she was offered the opportunity to manage the O’Fallon, Ill., branch of First Bank, she jumped at the chance.
    “This is where I always wanted to be,” she says. “O’Fallon is a great market with a lot of opportunity.”
p17 KnabeKnabe    Knabe was recently promoted and is now a vice president with the bank. In addition to managing the O’Fallon location, she heads the First Bank location in the Dierbergs Market in Shiloh.
    To Knabe, O’Fallon is much more than a bedroom community of St. Louis. She sees unlimited potential as the region’s new economic plan falls into place. “There’s so much new development. I like that. Because of that, and Scott Air Force Base, a lot of people are coming to the area. It gives First Bank the chance to meet their needs.”
    While Knabe was growing up in Jerseyville, Ill., banking was part of family life. Her father was the president of a bank there. After five years working for a finance company in Indiana, she moved back to Jerseyville and joined the banking industry, too.
    “I started as a loan officer at Wedge Bank in Alton in 1994,” she says. “I wore many hats and did all types of consumer and commercial lending.” When the small local bank was purchased by Mercantile Bank, she became a manager for the first time and has been in management ever since.
    First Bank was founded in 1910 by members of the Dierberg family, relations of the Dierbergs of supermarket fame.
    “I have worked for large, mid-sized, and small banks,” says Knabe. “I was drawn to this bank because it is a family owned business. It allows us to have conversations with the many family-owned businesses in the area and get at the root of their issues. We understand what it’s like – the obstacles and changes that come along with that – and can offer solid solutions.
    Knabe muses about the changes in the banking industry over the years.
    “It’s not like it was in my Dad’s day. Deals aren’t made over the phone. Regulations have changed banking considerably. At the same time, we work very hard to make those changes seamless for our customers.”
    She points out that technology has also changed the landscape. First Bank offers services that allow customers the convenience of online and electronic banking. But they are always available for clients who prefer meeting face-to-face.
    “Hands down, my favorite part of the job is meeting with my clients,” says Knabe. “I’m a helper. I love being able to meet their needs and help them reach their financial goals.”