It Started in 1906 with Cass Avenue Bank
The Early Years
Cass Avenue Bank opened to the public on May 15, 1906, operating from a rented storefront at 1462 Cass Avenue in St. Louis, with Jacob Hellrung as president. Deposits reached $51,100 by the end of the day. Just a month after the bank opened, the business leaders who put up the bank’s initial seed capital had recouped their original investment. The bank’s first loan was granted to George Hohman for $16,000 – a real estate loan for two buildings and a stable at Newstead and Natural Bridge Avenues. The bank was off to a fine start.
In 1915, the bank purchased land at Fifteenth and Cass Avenue for $13,500 to build a new headquarters. The bank moved again in May 1927 under Bank President Harry Rehme’s leadership to Thirteenth and Cass Avenue, where it continued operations until 1974.
In 1929, Cass Avenue Bank became Cass Bank & Trust Company. In 1936, Harry Rehme died suddenly of a heart attack and was succeeded by Harry Hartkopf, chairman. Hartkopf was an experienced bank president and an astute lender who was one of the first bankers in St. Louis willing to extend business loans secured by accounts receivables.
Growing and Expanding
In 1941, Cass Bank advertised free parking, and by 1957, Cass offered convenient drive-up windows. Both were considered modern amenities at the time. Soon the neighborhood evolved from primarily residential to commercial, and business banking became the bank’s major thrust. Cass Bank was one of the first in the nation to use computers to process payroll checks. By 1967, Cass processed its one millionth payroll check.
Focus on Business
During the 1950s, Cass developed a service to streamline the payment of freight bills. Over time, the bank began marketing its “Freight Payment Plan” services nationwide to companies that found the process of examining and paying freight bills a cumbersome and costly undertaking. Using automation and paying close attention to its customers’ needs, Cass was able to streamline the process, and this business grew significantly.
In 1974, Harry Hartkopf, who served as CEO for almost 40 years, retired. He was succeeded by Harry Krieg, who became CEO in 1969 and later chairman. By 1984, to formally distinguish the bank’s freight invoice processing service from its traditional commercial banking business, the processing business was incorporated as Cass Information Systems (CIS) and was led by Larry Collett, chairman and CEO. By 1993, CIS moved from downtown St. Louis to its new building on Hollenberg Drive in Bridgeton, Missouri.
After 84 years in the City of St. Louis, the Cass Bank headquarters relocated to St. Louis County in 1990. In 1997, Cass Bank moved into the recently expanded facility in Bridgeton, Missouri, which was also home to CIS.
In 1998, Cass Bank & Trust Company formally changed its name to Cass Commercial Bank, reflecting its ongoing commitment to businesses in St. Louis. At about the same time, a specialized team was formed to serve the banking needs of religious organizations nationwide. In November 2004, Cass found an opportunity to establish a west coast presence by purchasing a single-location bank, Franklin Bank of California.
A New Century
Cass Commercial Bank celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006 with $522 million in average loan balances.
In 2008, Robert Mathias became president of Cass Commercial Bank and Eric Brunngraber was named CEO of Cass Information Systems. In December of 2008, the Great Recession began, and numerous banks incurred liquidity constraints that curtailed their normal lending practices. During this period, however, Cass was able to make loans and service its clients.
In 2012, Cass Commercial Bank established its new headquarters near Manchester Road and Highway 270 in west St. Louis County.
Today, Cass Commercial Bank is a well-capitalized bank and a wholly owned subsidiary of Cass Information Systems Inc., a public company with $1.5 billion in assets.
Cass Bank continues to grow by serving privately held St. Louis-area businesses, restaurant franchise businesses and not-for-profit organizations, particularly faith-based institutions and ministries. With its branch at 1420 N. 13th Street, Cass continues to serve clients near its original Cass Avenue location, sustaining its 100+-year presence in the City of St. Louis.