Taets resigns at Wells Fargo to head new group | AspenTimes.com

Taets resigns at Wells Fargo to head new group

The former president of Wells Fargo Bank in Aspen is so bullish on the local economy that he resigned from his position this month to start another bank.

Mike Taets is the local connection in a group of investors that wants to start Timberline Bank. The group’s charter application is expected to be submitted this week to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. If the bank is approved, it would be Aspen’s ninth.

Taets said a new bank must offer exemplary service and work harder than the other financial institutions to survive in such a competitive market.

“Does Aspen have too many banks? I don’t know. Does it have too many lawyers and too many Realtors? I don’t know. But I do know that my friends who are good lawyers and good Realtors are successful,” Taets said.

“I think we can make a living in Aspen if we do it well,” he continued. “We don’t have to be huge to pay the bills.”

Taets said the “bread and butter” of the new bank would be mortgages for people building or buying second homes, even though many purchases in Aspen’s ultra-wealthy market are cash deals. He estimated that two-thirds of second-home deals historically involved cash. The figure has probably been even higher the last five years, he said.

Nevertheless, there are enough mortgages sought, and at high enough amounts, to make lending a lucrative business. “You just need the crumbs,” he said.

Taet’s goal is to build a strong enough bond with those mortgage customers to entice them to make deposits and do other business with the bank.

Timberline Bank, assuming it’s approved, will also compete for individual and commercial deposits. In that area, Taets will rely on relationships he has built as a banker in town since 1991.

“The deposit game in Aspen’s tough,” he said. “That’s where most of the competition is.”

Taets came to Aspen from Minneapolis about 13 years ago to be president of the Bank of Aspen. The institution was sold to Norwest in May 1993 then folded into Wells Fargo in June 1998. Taets remained president through the changes.

He was approached by a group of Chicago investors two years ago about opening a new bank in Aspen. He declined the offer but eventually he and a brother, Jeff Taets of Grand Junction, decided to make a go of it themselves.

A key part of their plan is to open a bank in Grand Junction, where they see huge growth potential. The Aspen bank would be a branch.

Taets, who is a member of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s board of directors, said he is looking for the perfect spot to lease in town – near the core but not taking a spot that could go for prime retail.

Some Aspenites believe the town’s retail scene has been harmed because so many real estate and professional offices have opened in prime retail spots.

“I’m trying to stay out of there and not add fuel to the fire,” said Taets.

The business plan is to build a bank in Grand Junction, where Taet’s brother owns a mortgage business.

The two brothers, who were raised in a farming family in northern Iowa, have recruited two other brothers to join them in the new bank. The four brothers, along with a business associate, will own 50 percent interest in the bank.

Taets said there are seven community investors from Aspen and another seven from Grand Junction. He wouldn’t disclose the Aspen investors’ names yet, but noted it would be public information in the charter application.

The FDIC provides decisions on charter application within 120 days of when it deems an application complete, according to Taets. He is hopeful that Timberline Bank will be open in Aspen before next ski season.

Taets would be the president and CEO of the bank holding company and president of the Aspen branch. The best part of the deal, he said, is he would remain in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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