Growing Business. Building Community.

A Century of Honor

HONOR – There’s an old saying about great things coming from small beginnings.

It’s not a proverb generally associated with the financial sector – but it’s an apt description for Honor Bank. From its humble beginnings in a lumbering town on the Platte River in the heart of Benzie County, Honor Bank is getting ready to turn the page on its second century of operations as a locally-owned, independent bank – a growing rarity in a fast-moving banking world of mergers and takeovers.

“We’ve structured the bank so remaining independent is in the best interest of our shareholders,” said Michael Worden, Honor Bank’s President and CEO. “That local decision-making means a lot. Our decisions are made by people who know Benzie County.”

The bank was officially chartered as a financial institution in June of 1917 as Honor State Bank, founded with $20,000 in capital from 20 customers investing $1,000 apiece. Its founding documents include family names steeped in the history of Benzie and southern Leelanau counties. Even with its humble beginnings, the bank has been a community bedrock in Benzie, surviving numerous economic cycles over the decades including the Great Depression in the late 1920 and early ‘30s. Through the country’s most-desperate economic times, the bank was only closed through a mandatory state-wide bank “holiday” from February 14-21 in 1933.

These days the bank boasts more than $200 million in capital and a customer base of more than 300 individuals and families. It also stayed financially connected locally by selling stock in the community – some of it still connected to the families of the original score of investors.
“There’s a real customer loyalty there,” Worden said. “We’re able to combine that with great employees – past and present.”

It shortened its name to Honor Bank seven years ago while bolstering efforts to grow its market share in the region.

“Where are you going to grow in northwest Michigan? So we added resources in (the Traverse City) market,” Worden said. It now operates two locations in Traverse City, along with its original home in Honor and branch banks in Bear Lake, Benzonia, Buckley, Copemish and Lake Ann. It also has a loan operations center in Beulah.

The bank also increased its presence in Traverse City through its Chamber involvement. It’s taken part in the Chamber’s Small Business Celebration, and Worden also served as a director on the Chamber Board.

The community will also be a big part of Honor Bank’s centennial festivities. Starting in March the bank selected 10 non-profit organizations where they have branches where employees will donate their time and resources to help those charities. The organizations include the Betsie Valley District Library, Benzie Animal Control, Michael’s Place, the Red Cross, local food pantries and others. The charities were determined through the input of the bank’s employees and its community partners.

“It’s what the staff has a passion for,” Worden said.

Giving back to the communities it serves is a great way to celebrate its first 100 years and an inspiring springboard into its second century of operations.

“We’re very fortunate,” Worden said. “A lot of businesses don’t get the opportunity to celebrate their 100th year.”