Peoples Bank completes purchase of First Federal

2014-04-02T14:56:00Z 2014-04-02T17:51:14Z Peoples Bank completes purchase of First FederalJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

Two longtime Northwest Indiana community banks have officially merged.

NorthWest Indiana Bancorp, the holding company of Munster-based Peoples Bank, announced Wednesday it completed a purchase of First Federal Savings and Loan of Hammond. 

No cash traded hands in the transaction, and no shares were issued. First Federal, which has branches in Highland and downtown Hammond, had been looking for a buyer to take it over and determined that the century-old Peoples Bank had similar values.

"I'm extremely proud of the entire Peoples team for what they accomplished with this merger," said Benjamin Bochnowski, Peoples Bank executive vice president and chief operating officer. "This was a very unique transaction, and with no cash, stock or other consideration paid, it is expected to be accretive to earnings in 2014. Just as importantly, this merger reinforces our strong partnership in the community. We are excited about what we can offer to First Fed's customers, and look forward to growing out banking center network for all Peoples Bank customers."

Peoples Bank now has $760 million in assets, $482 million in loans and $629 million in deposits. The financial institution has expanded its retail footprint to encompass 14 bank branches in Lake and Porter counties.

First Federal's two bank offices will be rebranded with the Peoples Bank name during the third quarter.

The savings and loan had been right across the street from the long-gone Goldblatt's Department Store in downtown Hammond and served many of its employees.

WJOB often used to refer to First Federal as the "Bailey Building and Loan of Hammond" after the bank where Jimmy Stewart's character worked in the holiday movie "It's a Wonderful Life." The bank had been in existence for 80 years.

The number of independent community banks in Lake County has shrunk from 35 in the 1960s to five today.

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