1992 kicked off years of rapid change at U.S. Bank

January 18, 2018

Our Minnesota-based company, and banking itself, looked very different the last time the big game came to town. 

The last time football’s biggest game was played in Minneapolis, Super Bowl XXVI at the Metrodome, employees down the street at First Bank System were plugging in their first-ever desktop computers.

“We didn’t even know what to do with the things after we turned them on,” said one banker who, other than a brief computer training session several months prior, had lived in a world of faxes and while-you-were-away notes.

“All of a sudden we had to become self-sufficient,” added another, who had become used to dictating notes and letters that the department secretary would, in turn, type on a typewriter.

Since that time in 1992, banking has undergone many transformations. Among them, a wave of consolidation throughout the 90s. And First Bank, with $18 billion in assets, branches in seven states and a growing reputation for efficiency, was in prime position for growth through mergers and acquisitions.

Five years later, it merged with Portland-based lender U.S. Bank and formally became the company that would later acquire naming rights to Super Bowl XLII host U.S. Bank Stadium. In taking on the U.S. Bank name, the company invested in its future aspirations as a national bank. In maintaining its headquarters in Minneapolis, it nodded to First Bank’s roots dating back to the founding of First National Bank of Minneapolis and First National Bank of St. Paul in the 1860s. 

Beyond the Twin Cities, during the consolidation era the company also picked up the assets and based-on-a-true-story histories of a St. Louis bank that financed Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, a Colorado bank with a branch that was the first robbed by Butch Cassidy and a Cincinnati bank whose charter was signed as the Civil War raged across the Ohio River, among other firms. A familiar face helped engineer the flurry of moves: current U.S. Bank CEO Andy Cecere, who was on First Bank’s M&A team for much of the 90s. 

In the years since, U.S. Bank has continued to grow, largely organically, more than doubling in size and becoming the fifth-largest bank in the United States.

News coverage at the time of the First Bank-U.S. Bank merger foretold this trend, with one analyst telling The New York Times that First Bank “paid a full price but got something that was worth a fortune.” 

Reporters also pointed out the necessity of such mergers, as industrywide investment in technology and marketing was ramping up – and those with scale were winning.

That investment by U.S. Bank will be on display next month as tens of thousands of visitors descend on downtown Minneapolis for the big game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The bank will provide out-of-towners refuge from the cold at its Possibilities Lounge, which, located at the corner of 9th St. and Nicollet Mall, will give consumers the opportunity to experiment with the latest in financial technologies such as contactless and person-to-person payments.

One thing you probably won’t find in the Possibilities Lounge? A desktop computer. 

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