Today begins week one of Doug Distler’s retirement. Friday was his last day as president of First Bank in O’Fallon. After 33 years in that position, and 48 years in metro-east banking, he is calling it a career. Business writer Will Buss met Distler in his office during his last week on the job to reflect on his almost half a century in banking:
When did you get started?
“My career started back in 1967. I took a job with what was First National Bank of Belleville in the Square at the time as a teller. I remember the job paid $300 a month. I was still trying to finish school and had a family to support. It was kind of tough, and I was wondering did I make the right choice in terms of profession. It turned out that all of the sacrifice and hard work paid off in the end. I did eventually finish my degree in finance at SIU (Southern Illinois University) Edwardsville. Once I finished my degree, I received promotions and moved up in the bank.”
What jobs did you initially hold?
“I worked as an assistant auditor and I stayed in Belleville for about five years and then I had an opportunity to come back to my hometown. This is where I was born and raised. I’m a life-long resident here. I’ve been in O’Fallon since that time. I guess 43 years of my 48 years have been spent in my hometown. I had different roles. I have been marketing officer, a loan officer, a cashier. I’ve done just about every job in the bank. I joined what was First Bank and Trust in 1974, and I was promoted to president in ’82. That eventually became First Bank. The Dierberg family bought our bank in 1984. I have been the president of this bank throughout some name changes for the last 33 years. After I joined First Bank, I received additional opportunities to take on regional opportunities for First Bank. First Bank was just expanding its footprint into Illinois in the early ’80s and I was able to get involved on a regional basis to help with those acquisitions and manage those new banks that have come on board.”
How has banking changed in your time?
“Looking back on my career and seeing how banking has changed, when I started in banking, people came to the bank to do their banking, deposit their payroll checks and get their loans. They either came inside the lobby or went to the drive-up window. And the products back then were pretty vanilla. They were basically deposit and loan products. So over the years, to me, it is really amazing how the industry has changed and how there have been new products that have come on board and the way those products are delivered now is different. We saw the introduction of ATMs and the growth of credit cards and the introduction of home equity loans and all different kinds of hybrid residential loans. There’s treasury management services now for businesses to help them become more efficient in managing their working capital. Private banking, wealth management, the industry has come up with a lot of different services to help people meet their financial needs. We have online banking, global banking. But if people have a problem, they still want to be able to go into the bank and see someone face-to-face. Other than that, they could use an ATM; they could use online banking, mobile banking, they could really do most of what they need to do without even coming in and visiting the bank.”
What kept you in the same job for as long as you were?
“To think that I have been fortunate enough to do it all here in my hometown. I’ve lived here my entire life. O’Fallon is really a big part of my life as the surrounding community is as well because of my participation in civic and service organizations go beyond O’Fallon. The opportunities presented me have just been wonderful. I’ve had a wonderful banking career. It’s been fun; it’s been challenging at times; it’s been personally rewarding. And that’s why to make the commitment to retire was tough because I enjoyed what I did my colleagues are like a second family to me, but I realized that I wasn’t going to work forever. When you realize that, then, in my life, after 48 years, we’re excited about opening a new chapter in our life.”
What will you do now with your free time?
“That means more time with friends and family, more travel and adventures, more time for golf. I still plan on being active in all of my community organizations.”
“I’ve been involved in the (O’Fallon-Shiloh) Chamber for over 40 years. I’ve been a past president; I’ve been a treasurer; I’ve served on the board for a number of terms. I’m also on the board of Memorial Hospital-East; I’ve been a Rotarian for over 20 years; I was a charter board member of the O’Fallon Township High School Endowment Fund. I’m a member of the board of trustees of the O’Fallon Library.”
What will you miss about being on the job?
“I think that I’ve always loved the challenge of banking. I always considered myself a community banker, which means that I’ve always been focused on taking care of the financial needs of the business people and residents of the community. My job has given me the opportunity to be involved in all of these other civic organizations because in addition to a community bank providing the products and services for the people of the community, I think it also has a responsibility to be a good community partner to help steward the growth and prosperity of the community. It’s all those things that have really made it a really rewarding career.”
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 618-239-2526.
Job: (Retired) President, First Bank in O’Fallon
Outlook: “When I wake up on Monday, I’ll think ‘How come I’m not putting on a tie?’”