120 years and counting: Home Loan nears another business milestone

Jamie Hamilton oversees Home Loan Insurance and Home Loan State Bank in Grand Junction as chairman and chief executive officer. Home Loan, which marks the 120th anniversary of its founding on Dec. 23, continues to provide a range of insurance and banking services. Hamilton attributes the longevity to a diverse operation, talented staff and ongoing commitment to serving customers and the community. (Business Times photo by Phi Castle)
Jamie Hamilton oversees Home Loan Insurance and Home Loan State Bank in Grand Junction as chairman and chief executive officer. Home Loan, which marks the 120th anniversary of its founding on Dec. 23, continues to provide a range of insurance and banking services. Hamilton attributes the longevity to a diverse operation, talented staff and ongoing commitment to serving customers and the community. (Business Times photo by Phi Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

It’s 1897. William McKinley has begun his first term as president of the United States. A gold rush has lured prospectors to the Klondike region of northwest Canada. And inventor Thomas Edison has received a patent for the kinetoscope.

In Grand Junction, two lawyers with entrepreneurial and political ambitions launched a business to provide loans and insurance.

McKinley was assassinated less than four years later. While some prospectors struck it rich, most left the Klondike empty-handed. The kinetoscope gave way to the movie projector and subsequent advances.

But 120 years after Home Loan & Investment Co. was founded, operations continue. Moreover, revenues and staffing keep growing, as does the level of financial support the company gives back to the community.

Jamie Hamilton, chairman and chief executive officer of Home Loan, says there have been other significant changes in the operation over the years, including the conversion of  an industrial bank charter into a commercial bank charter in 2008. That in turn allowed Home Loan State Bank to offer a full array of banking services. In 2015, Home Loan State Bank branched out in opening a location in Montrose.

But some things haven’t changed a bit, Hamilton says, including a commitment to service based on the Golden Rule: “We just treat customers the way we want to be treated.”

While no observance is planned for the exact 120th anniversary of the incorporation of Home Loan on Dec. 23, a celebration of some sort will follow after the holidays, Hamilton says.

Samuel McMullin and William Marsh filed the certificate of incorporation for Home Loan & Investment Co. on Dec. 23, 1897.

McMullin and Marsh were both lawyers with business and political interests. McMullin served as district attorney and later attorney general. Marsh also ran a real estate business and held positions with the city, county and school district.

Home Loan was set up a room in the Canon Block Building on Fourth and Main streets in downtown Grand Junction with three employees. One of the first insurance policies the company issued was for the home of I.N. Bunting, editor and publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Home Loan has faced challenged over the years, Hamilton says, among them the Great Depression and the bust that followed the oil shale boom in Western Colorado.

Rather than foreclose on delinquent mortgages during the depression, Home Loan allowed customers to remain in their homes and asked them to at least pay on the principal each month. Home Loan also extended financing to people other lending institutions wouldn’t, he says.

After the so-called Black Sunday announcement in 1982 Exxon was pulling out of its oil shale development project in Western Colorado, the volume of premiums Home Loan Insurance issued dropped by half in just six months, Hamilton says.

The diversified operations of Home Loan has helped the company over the years, Hamilton says. When the financing side of the business was down, the insurance side compensated, he says. Conversely, when insurance business retreated, banking business advanced.

Expanding Home Loan State Bank geographically with locations in both Grand Junction and Montrose has helped as well, he says.

Although there have been ups and downs along the way, Home Loan has grown substantially over the years in terms of revenues and staffing, Hamilton says.

In 1993, pre-tax earnings for Home Loan climbed to nearly $1 million, a record level for the company at that time.

By 2016, annual revenues for insurance alone hit $6 million, Hamilton says.

Staffing has increased as well. What started out as a staff of three had grown to more than 50 in 2014 and since has grown by another 10, Hamilton says.

Hamilton attributes the longevity of the operation to a number of factors, including recruiting and retaining a talented staff. “The one thing that hasn’t changed in 100 years is good associates.”

Providing quality customer service, establishing long-term relationships and growing business through referrals have always been priorities, Hamilton says. Making sales might lead to commissions. But making friends builds careers, he says.

Giving back to the community has been yet another hallmark of the company culture, Hamilton says.

Home Loan Insurance and Home Loan State Bank donate annually to a range of nonprofit organizations. In 2107, financial support will total about $150,000, he says.

As for the future, Hamilton says he can’t envision what the next 120 years will hold for Home Loan. The Internet, smartphones and other technology already have brought dramatic changes to the banking and insurance industries, he says.

What Hamilton does expect, though, is that some aspects of business will continue as usual. And if the past really is prologue, Home Loan will continue to operate.