River Valley Bank was chartered in July 1967 by 13 applicants including Gordon R. Connor, who was named the first president of the bank. River Valley opened Dec. 8, 1967, in a small house on the corner of Kort and Volkman streets in Rothschild, Wisconsin with $500,000.
By July 1968, the bank had grown to $2 million in deposits and had moved to its new location at 1130 E. Grand Avenue in Rothschild, which still serves as the bank’s Rothschild branch. By December 1968, River Valley’s assets were more than $3 million. In three years, the assets would double to $6 million.
The bank continued to expand its physical footprint as well, opening a branch in Weston in 1975.
But it was the bank’s commitment to business banking that attracted the Nicklaus family. In 1983, Ron and Kay Nicklaus, farmers from the Tug Lake area in central Wisconsin who had become the nation’s largest producer and harvester of green beans, purchased majority stock in River Valley.
“It is a community bank, has a good board of directors and has a strong agriculture and business lending program,” Ron said in a Jan. 25, 1986, article in the Wausau Daily Record Herald. “(While heading Nicklaus Enterprises) I learned a certain amount about banks and I found it interesting.”
By the 1990s, under Nicklaus’ leadership, River Valley had grown to six locations, including Merrill in 1988, Tomahawk in the early 1990s and Minocqua in the fall of 1998. The bank expanded farther to the north in 2001 with a branch in Eagle River and in 2004 acquired six banks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in Ironwood, Houghton, Calumet, Marquette (Third Street and Washington Street) and Iron Mountain. The newest River Valley branch opened in Madison in 2014.
Ron and Kay’s oldest son, Todd Nicklaus, joined the bank in 1990 and was named president in 1993 and chairman of the board in 2006. He now serves as Chairman of the Board. In 1998, Todd’s younger brother Greg Nicklaus joined the bank as executive vice president and currently sits on the bank’s board of directors. Although both brothers remain close to what is happening in the company, day-to-day operations are overseen by bank president Todd Nagel.
Nagel’s commitment to expansion and digital initiatives prompted an expansion into Internet banking in 2009 with IncredibleBank, River Valley’s online division. Since its inception, IncredibleBank has offered high-interest deposit accounts with exceptional customer service. In 2016, IncredibleBank added loans to its suite products with specialty loans for motor coaches.
River Valley now operates in 15 communities throughout central and northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.