FARGO-Bell Bank is adding an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, to its employees' retirement benefits.

The bank, founded in 1966 and headquartered in Fargo, announced the new benefit Tuesday, Nov. 22.

A news release said part of each employee's retirement funds will be invested in the stock of parent company State Bankshares Inc.

The bank is now owned by about 70 shareholders, with a majority stake held by the families of board Chairman Richard Solberg, Michael Solberg, Julie Snortland and Laura Snortland Fairfield, according to the news release.

"As majority owners, we wanted to find a new way to share the blessings of our growth and success well into the future," said Michael Solberg, president and CEO, in a written statement. "Our employees have always been good stewards of Bell. We want that stewardship to continue and be strengthened by giving our employees the benefit of having ownership in the company."

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The ESOP is projected to grow to nearly 10 percent ownership over the next decade.

Bell Bank is now among the largest independent banks in the country and the largest in the Dakotas and Minnesota, with more than $4 billion in assets and another $5 billion in assets managed through its wealth management division.