The Family Business

Mitt and Shane Schroeder

Written by Alex Watson
Photo by Beau Gustafson

For Central State Bank executives Mitt and Shane Schroeder, the path to success in banking is clearly marked with sign posts from the past. The centennial celebration of the 1916 founding of the Shelby County bank has been an opportunity to look back at the history of the institution and see how certain principles continue to inform the bank’s future.

“We are after consistent, steady growth,” senior vice president Mitt Schroeder says. “We are methodical. With the family having the predominant ownership of the bank, we don’t have shareholders demanding growth at all costs. We don’t believe in exorbitant lifestyles; that is not where you derive your happiness. It comes from inside.”

With brother Shane, Mitt Schroeder plays a lead role in the bank’s management, and their father, Bill Schroeder, remains active as chairman of the board.

Central State Bank began serving customers in Calera, Alabama, in February of 1916. William Schroeder’s father-in-law, Roy Downs was hired in March of 1945, and just two years later purchased controlling interest in the bank. Upon the death of Downs in 1971, Bill Schroeder  was promoted to president and chairman of the board at the age of 29.

Downs successfully grew the assets of the bank and invested time, energy, and resources into economic development for the town of Calera and Shelby County. It was old-fashioned community building from a banker who understood the value of investment and growth. Those early principles Central State Bank was built upon permeate throughout the bank today.

It is above all a hometown, community bank. Under the Schroeder’s leadership the bank’s mission was clearly defined: to be the bank whose community is enriched by its presence and the bank whose customers would not consider banking anywhere else.

Today Central State Bank has five locations in Calera, Pelham, and Alabaster, and at the Shelby County Airport. The bank also owns Central State Mortgage in Greystone.

“We have a family orientation,” Shane says. “We view bank employees as family. We have one lady who just celebrated her 51st year with Central State Bank. And then we have 17 people who have been with us more than 20 years, and we have 24 who have been with us greater than 15 years. Then multiple employees have been here over 10 years.”

“It is important because of the consistency. As a community bank or a bank in general, you are able to walk in and see the same people. One of the things on our mission statement is we want to be a bank whose customers would not consider banking anywhere else. The second is to be a bank whose employees are envied by their peers.”

“You have to be in good health to accomplish that mission,” Mitt Schroeder says. “Our father always taught us that if you are solid in the regulator’s eyes, you are doing pretty well. So we listen to them. Many bankers look at regulators almost as adversaries. We look at them as how can they help us.

“We have a diverse loan portfolio. We have a lot of commercial property as well as personal and business loans. We are able to maintain a high rating because our risk is spread across so many areas. Our real estate portfolio is very diverse. We are fortunate in that growth has come toward us as metro Birmingham has grown south.”

Even with growth, their distinction still lies in their size. “In the well managed community bank, the employees really do care,” Mitt says. “They see the effects and the connections. In a larger bank it is more about self and not so much about the client you are actually serving. We both sell money, but it is the approach and delivery that is different from a big bank.”