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WHITING | Peoples Bank plans to buy out the much smaller Liberty Savings Bank in the latest in a series of consolidations that have reshaped the local community banking landscape.

NorthWest Indiana Bancorp, the parent company of Munster-based Peoples Bank, announced it has signed an agreement to acquire the Whiting-based federal mutual savings bank through a voluntary supervisory merger conversion transaction, which is where a larger bank takes over a smaller one so it can remain a going concern. No cash or stock will trade hands.

Liberty Savings Bank had branches in Whiting, Schererville and Winfield.

"Liberty Savings Bank, known as 'The little bank with the big heart,' believes that Peoples Bank has even a bigger heart when it comes to serving the needs of businesses and families within Northwest Indiana," President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph R. Shimala. "Both banks share a deep pride in helping form our communities over the decades. This combination will furnish Liberty Savings clients with a wider range of deposit, investment, wealth management and loan products, while still providing clients with the personal service to which they have grown accustomed to throughout the years."

The merger means the number of community banks based in Northwest Indiana will shrink from eight to seven. At one time, Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties were home to 51 independent community banks.

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Liberty Bank had total assets of $58.9 million, loans of $30.8 million and deposits of $55.1 million. If the transaction closes as anticipated in the third quarter, the merged bank will have an estimated $843 million in assets, $548 million in loans and $709 million in deposits.

"This agreement demonstrates our commitment to strategically and prudently expand our high-performing community banking franchise through consolidation," Peoples Bank Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Bochnowski said. "Liberty is a strong strategic, financial and cultural fit for us, and has a loyal customer base. Peoples and Liberty have come together as a team to create value for our customers, stakeholders and the communities we serve by executing a strategic merger."

Last year, Peoples Bank agreed to take over another smaller Northern Lake County bank, First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Hammond. Its latest acquisition marks its entry into the Whiting and Winfield markets.

"We share the same core beliefs of delivering exceptional customer service, creating partnerships and engaging the community," Peoples Bank President and Chief Operating Officer Benjamin Bochnowski said. "Together we will be an even stronger bank that will continue to create value for the many stakeholders that have invested in Peoples over the years, while providing expanded resources, products and services to benefit Liberty's customers."

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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.