In the beginning, Centier Bank President and CEO Mike Schrage gave the banking business a five-year trial, bypassing a career as an athletic coach.
“I decided before I threw away the family opportunity, I would try it for five years. I came up through the ranks as a teller, loan clerk, assistant branch manager, branch manager, loan manager,” says Schrage. “It’s been a 48-year journey so far, and I am happy with the choice I made.”
Centier Bank is marking 125 years in 2020 and was launched in 1895 by Mike’s great-grandfather, Henry Schrage, with one location in Whiting. Mike signed on in 1972 with an eye on growth and development under his father, Walter Jr.
“My dream before I came on board was to be the largest bank in Lake County,” he says. “It was an ambitious undertaking, but I was a young buck all about growth and expansion.”
He took the helm in 1977 as president and CEO and has guided the transformation from the original Bank of Whiting to Centier Bank. Today, there are 64 offices and 950 employees throughout the organization.
“I took on a lot of responsibility at an early age and have a lot of scars to prove that, but when it’s all said and done, no journey goes in a straight line. There have been valleys and dips and lots of peaks,” he says. “I learned a lot by trial and error – a method I wouldn’t endorse. You can’t do too much by yourself; you have to surround yourself with talent and people who complement your weaker and inexperienced areas.”
Schrage says the bank’s community-centered role has been even more critical during the COVID crisis. The bank has assisted with PPP loans, helping small business clients access $330 million. The bank’s team has also reached out to help community organizations and nonprofits, such as food banks and homeless shelters.
“Our employees are very serving people with servant hearts. We have supported local restaurants through paid lunches for our associates who were working during the shutdown,” he says.
Mike is looking forward to serving additional years before his sons-in-law take over leadership of the bank.
“Through the years, I have been able to transform my style of leadership toward a more inclusive style and serving unto others,” he says. “It has been a major blessing for me personally. It’s all about my family, our associates, our clients and the communities that we serve.”