By Bay Stephens EBS Editorial Assistant

BIG SKY – Glacier Bancorp, Inc., a regional multistate bank headquartered in Kalispell as well as the holding company for Big Sky Western Bank, has signed to acquire Intermountain Bancorp, Inc., based in Bozeman, which is the holding company for First Security Bank.

According to an Oct. 26 press release from First Security: “Pending board and regulatory approval, First Security will officially be under the Glacier Bancorp umbrella in early 2018. The new relationship will eventually lead to combined locations for First Security Bank and Big Sky Western under the First Security Bank name.”

Still in the preliminary stages, it’s too early to tell how the two organizations will come together, including how the distinct boards will be affected. However, employment doesn’t appear to be at risk here in Big Sky.

“Branch locations are being evaluated right now on the basis of customer convenience and we are not intending any layoffs in Big Sky,” First Security President and CEO Steve Wheeler said.

Although the effect on individual accounts can’t be fully spoken for at this point, Wheeler said account holders stand to benefit.

“For First Security Bank customers, [the acquisition] means a wider service area and also the availability of additional loan programs,” Wheeler said. First Security customers would be able to bank at any division of Glacier Bancorp, including locations in Montana, Idaho, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona.

“We’re proud that Glacier Bancorp recognizes our legacy and leadership and that they want to partner with us and retain our name and brand,” Wheeler said.

The acquisition also means more assets and holdings for Glacier Bancorp. According to a Glacier Bancorp press release, First Security bank had $1 billion in assets, $658 million in gross loans and total deposits of $847 million as of Sept. 30.

According to Securities and Exchange Commission financial statements, as of Dec. 31, 2016, Glacier Bancorp had $9.5 billion in total assets, and $7.4 billion in deposits and $5.6 billion in loans receivable.

Glacier Bancorp’s ninth announced acquisition in the past five years, the bank employs a community banking model that allows local banks relative autonomy to serve the communities in which they are situated.

“I’m excited to be a part of combining these two great banking organizations and I look forward to continuing to support our community’s financial services needs,” said Jim Ness, president and CEO of Big Sky Western. “Both First Security and Big Sky Western have long-standing traditions of being focused on the customers and communities we serve, and together we will be that much stronger and that much more involved. For the benefit of our customers in southern Montana, we have just assembled the A-team.”

Assuming everything is approved, change will be slow in coming. Full integration of Big Sky Western and First Security would follow the official acquisition around February 2018. The banks will send out updates as decisions are finalized.