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Centier, Peoples named among the best banks to work for nationally

A Centier Bank employee is pictured in this file photo assisting a customer at a branch in Griffith last year. American Banker Magazine named Centier the 10th Best Bank to Work For in the nation and the best in Indiana.

Merrillville-based Centier Bank and Munster-based Peoples Bank were ranked among American Banker’s list of “Best Banks to Work For” list, with Centier coming in 10th nationally and as the top-ranked bank in Indiana.

“Our annual ranking recognizes the financial institutions that are committed to investing in employees’ job satisfaction, career development and personal growth — a ‘return on assets’ that can be hard to measure by traditional means,” said Rob Blackwell, editor in chief of American Banker. “One of the most valuable assets for any organization is the team of people it employs, and banks are no exception.”

The widely read trade publication for the banking industry bases the ranking on employee surveys, as well as benefits, policies, practices, volunteering and charitable contributions.

“We take great pride in being an organization that is honored based on the feedback of the people who work here,” Centier Bank President and CEO Mike Schrage said. “Our servant heart culture is at the foundation of every interaction we have, whether it is working with other departments or on behalf of the clients we serve.”

Centier has been honored as a "Best Bank to Work For" nationally for six straight years.

“We are once again honored to be recognized by American Banker for the culture we continue to build in our organization,” said Chrisanne Christ, senior partner in human resource development at Centier. “Our special culture enables us to attract and retain the finest talent, so our clients have the best in the business taking care of their financial needs. We will continue our focus on providing the best career experience our associates have ever had.”

Peoples Bank, which has 215 employees, was honored for the third straight year, coming in 48th out of the 100 banks American Banker recognized this year. American Banker cited how Peoples "pampers its 215 employees with gifts such as Valentine’s Day candy and a note signed by the CEO, a polo shirt to celebrate an updated dress code, a Starbucks gift card around Thanksgiving, and a $25 gift card congratulating them on the birth of a child."

The magazine noted that Centier provides its nearly 900 employees with "access to hundreds of self-development tools and classes at the continuing-education site Lynda.com" and access to "Yammer, an internal private social networking platform that allows employees to engage with one another, create groups around similar interests and share ideas and stories."

Centier has long stressed a servant heart culture as a way to differentiate itself from competitors.

"What distinguishes Centier is the culture," Schrage said. "Banks largely offer the same products. It's like going to the grocery store where they might be priced differently or have specials but there are minimal differences in the products themselves. We differentiate ourselves with our people. We are really excited about and love reaching out and helping people. We hire people with that personality, and many of the people we hire have no banking background. They come from hospitality, retail and other backgrounds. We try to pick the best people who are out there."

Schrage said it was especially an honor that a medium-sized bank like Centier placed so high nationally and it got such glowing feedback from employees given that it's had to hire 80 to 90 new associates a year to staff its new branches across the state.

"We gain many new clients by word of mouth, so we want to make sure they feel Centier is different from other financial institutions when they walk in," Shrage said. "It helps attract and solidify our relationships with family businesses, which is our market niche. Large national banks do well with huge corporations, but we serve individual and family-owned businesses who know we know what makes them tick and that we will stand by them through thick and thin, even when the economy goes the other way, like during the Great Recession."

Repeatedly being named one of the best places to work by American Banker Magazine and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce helps Centier recruit top talent, Schrage said.

"At this stage in my career, I want to inculcate this culture as deeply as I can, so it's remembered for generations to come," Schrage said. "That's my quest, and I want to surround myself with people with that mindset."

Centier uses the employee feedback it gets from the American Banker survey to try to get better and better, Christ said.

"Family is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but when you walk in here you feel it," she said. "Associates love working here and they're happier to come into work every day, so they take care of our clients. It's really simple. As an organization, you want to take care of your people."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.