Headquartered in Watford City, North Dakota, $1.8 billion in assets First International Bank & Trust has been an ICBA Reinsurance shareholder practically since the captive insurance company’s inception in 1999. After doubling down on employee training in first and second quarters of 2014, the bank’s premium ballooned from $182,000 to $332,093, jumping nearly 82 percent.
First International Bank & Trust Chief Retail Lending Officer Peter Stenehjem says that the bank has worked hard to create a culture where its employees are trained to ask the right questions and even more importantly, listen to the customer. “We’re a full service bank. Our staff needs to be able to confidently engage with the customer, hear their needs, and determine if a product or service might be of benefit. If it’s a good fit, hopefully we can make that transaction happen.”


First International Bank & Trust has two corporate trainers on staff, but for in depth credit and disability insurance-related training, Stenehjem says the bank leverages the in-person and web-based training offered through ICBA Reinsurance and its partner Transamerica.

At least once a year, Transamerica Senior Trainer Leann Glenna visits the bank and trains new hires and offers a refresher for existing lenders. With locations in Arizona, Minnesota and North Dakota, First International Bank & Trust also has its staff attend quarterly webinars so that multiple branches can receive training at the same time. The webinars, also conducted by Glenna, focus on everything from basic product knowledge to overcoming customer objections to achieving sales success through storytelling.

Stenehjem says that the powerful, real-life experiences that are shared through storytelling resonate with his employees and customers. He recalls that years ago, when he was training and going through the certification process to sell credit life insurance the bank’s Chief Credit Officer told him a story about a customer in Harvey, North Dakota who had a death in the family and their credit insurance policy allowed the family to keep their car. “Stories like that stay with you,” he says. Stenehjem adds that Transamerica has done a good job keeping the training concise and to the point by keeping things very bullet point, with some quick hitters.


First International Bank & Trust’s end-of-year numbers speak for themselves. The bank closed out 2014 with more than $1.1 million in gross premium. Stenehjem says that from a senior management standpoint you can never be satisfied. “There are always areas for improvement. You’re never done training. You’re never done learning. Employee training will continue to be a big part of our culture.”