Community Bank Spotlight: Farmers & Merchants Bank

During the 2014-2015 school year, Farmers & Merchants Bank (F&M Bank) has provided nearly 1,000 area high school students with critical money management skills via its My Money, My Future financial literacy program. Funded by the bank at no cost to local schools or taxpayers, My Money, My Future is an interactive web-based financial management program that uses the latest in new media technology to bring complex, real-world financial concepts into the classroom.

Last school year alone, students completed 7,901 individual modules, achieving more than 75 percentage points in knowledge gain according to pre- and post-assessment testing. Topics covered included saving, investing, credit scores, and consumer fraud. Students showed the most improvement with the Financing Higher Education module, underscoring the real-world needs the program addresses.

In a recent press release F&M Bank President Dean Withers said, “Farmers & Merchants Bank is very proud of the number of students we have reached with critical financial education as it is just one of the many indicators of our commitment to the community.”

Read more on how Farmers & Merchants Bank educated area students.

Farmers Merchants Bank

Community Banking Spotlight: York Traditions Bank

Community Banking Spotlight: York Traditions Bank
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on York Traditions Bank from York, Penn. Marketing Manager Suzanne Becker provided insight on the York Young Professionals Event from earlier this spring.

York Traditions Bank held its monthly social at the bank’s administrative headquarters during the middle of Community Banking Month. This particular meeting of York Young Professionals allowed for the group’s members to meet and hear from York’s community and business leaders, but also allowed for the bank staff to interact with younger members, such as millennials and Gen Xers, of the community.

During the York Young Professionals’ event, York Traditions Bank’s Founder, Chairman and CEO Mike Kochenour told them that “your generation is making things happen in York! Continue to take opportunities to lead. Take risks. Every day, strive to be the best you can be. Give back. But most of all, be genuine and always do it for the right reasons.”

YTB-Fall Newsletter_Millennials

During the fall of 2014, ICBA released its “American Millennials and Banking – A Cross-Generational Study” to better understand the perception of millennials, Gen X and baby boomers have of independent community banks. As a generation of nearly 80 million, millennials are changing the face of banking; they are hungry for financial knowledge and are self-styled entrepreneurs.

To learn more about millennials and to view ICBA’s 2014 Millennial Survey, visit

Community Bank Spotlight: Heartland Bank

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Heartland Bank
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Heartland Bank from Gahanna, Ohio. In the following interview, Kathy Williams explains what is unique about this local community bank.

What is unique about your community bank?
President Scott McComb and our management team truly let their actions speak louder than their words. This was most proudly demonstrated when Scott, several senior managers and local branch staff collectively organized and provided a hot lunch to workers cleaning the premises of a metal finishing company that has been our customer for more than 20 years. As the employees and cleaning crew worked tirelessly to start the lengthy process of cleaning up and rebuilding, the staff at Heartland rallied to provide a cook-out for the workers to boost their spirits and prove that their bank is supporting them through the good times and the not-so-good times.

The strangest component of this story is that the idea started at the top – from Scott himself. While brainstorming with his staff, he very openly admitted that he wanted to do something extra for this customer as the fire at his business nearly took the life of the owner himself. An on-site visit was not nearly enough, so he quickly decided that taking time out of a busy workday was the least he and his staff could do as they grilled burgers and hot dogs to provide lunch for the dedicated workers.

How did you celebrate Community Banking Month?
During Community Banking Month, our marketing department strives to post some fun ‘community bank’ facts on social media. They may even consider a homepage story on our website. Additionally, they include details about the month on our eMoney Matters newsletter.

BankSouth from Lake Oconee, Ga.

Community Bank Spotlight: BankSouth
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on BankSouth from Lake Oconee, Ga. CEO Harold Reynolds of BankSouth explains what is unique about his local community bank.

BankSouth, founded in 1946, is a family-owned community bank that has not only stood the test of time but has continued to grow and evolve to meet the needs of our customers and communities. We prioritize relationships and couple this with quality products, cutting-edge technology and services, and, most importantly, superior customer service.

Our approach to banking is what sets us apart: We are a family business that happens to be a bank. We are entrepreneurs at heart, and this drives us to focus on processes, measurable deliverables and maintaining a willingness to adjust to changing environments, opportunities and markets. In fact, we are known for finding creative solutions to fit our customers’ needs. There’s not much that a big bank can offer a customer that we are not already doing.

Sustainability and the long-term impact on our customers, communities, and employees drives our decisions and strategic initiatives. Examples of this are not few at BankSouth. When bank and mortgage company failures began in earnest in 2009, BankSouth began purchasing performing debts from the FDIC receiverships. By early 2011, BankSouth had acquired a loss-share bank from the FDIC in a neighboring market and partnered with an independent mortgage broker to form BankSouth Mortgage.  Today, BankSouth Mortgage is the No. 4 purchase mortgage and No. 3 construction mortgage provider in Georgia. Unlike many loss-share experiences, BankSouth stuck to its principles and in our third year of ownership was named the 2014 “Business of the Year” by the local chamber of commerce.

BankSouth is currently expanding our geographic footprint. Most recently, we opened up an Atlanta branch adjacent to our BankSouth Mortgage headquarters and are opening a Savannah branch later this spring. Additionally, the build-out of a correspondent lending channel has allowed BankSouth to further invest in and interact with community banks throughout the Southeast. Recognized as one of the top-performing community banks in the nation for the past three years, we continue to focus on exceeding customers’ expectations and seeking innovative ways to further serve our communities.

To read more about BankSouth in the May issue of Independent Banker, visit the Independent Banker magazine website.

Greater Community Bank from Rome, Ga.

Member Spotlight: Greater Community Bank
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Greater Community Bank from Rome, Ga. In the following interview, Marketing Director Kristy Brown explains what is unique about this local community bank.

Founded 19 years ago by former Rome Mayor and career community banker Tom Caldwell on the principles of small-town banking, personal relationships, community service and a common-sense business model, we take our name, Greater Community Bank, seriously. We offer a top market portfolio of sophisticated financial services in two markets while being ever-mindful that we are, at the end of every business day, a community bank.

At an early age, David Lance, president and CEO at Greater Community Bank, was taught community and banking go hand in hand. His dad, Bert Lance, was director of the Office of Management and Budget during President Jimmy Carter’s administration. The younger Lance would be quick to share with you his dad’s funny but very successful campaign Full Service Bull Service, a program designed to improve the quality of livestock by leasing bulls to local farmers in northwest Georgia. Our bank continues today to lend to local farmers. Money that is, not bulls.

A most unique experience and one of our proudest was founding the Calhoun-Gordon Community Foundation in 2005. Lance and other bank leaders raised $2 million  in a short amount of time to create the largest endowment in the history of Gordon County. The same officers continue to be involved in the grant processes that funnel a staggering investment into the support for non-profits operating in the community. But our benevolence doesn’t end with those relationships. The bank has been central not just to the financial support of other agencies but the dedication of employees who serve on the boards of those agencies, lending their business acumen and professional experience to guide the non-profits toward successful business plans and then funding the loans that the agencies need to accomplish their programs of work.

Calhoun’s GEM Theatre and United Way of Gordon County in particular have benefited from the innovative thinking, creative outlook and hands-on involvement of Greater Community Bank. Donna McEntyre, executive vice president of the bank, is widely credited for bringing the single most successful fundraiser in Gordon County history to the community. After visiting Rome’s Celebrity Dance Challenge, McEntyre’s passion for giving back made her immediately encourage her hometown to create a similar signature event: Calhoun’s Dancing with the Stars. To date, the fundraiser continues to gain popularity and has crashed its own ceiling year after year, having put more than $600,000 in the coffers over the last four years. As a corporate financial sponsor and even as competitors in the contest, Greater Community Bank sparked the fire that still burns.

The bank’s concern for the disadvantaged grew into a strong relationship with our customers in both markets we serve. Our employees serve on boards, in community kitchens, raise funds for needy families, and collect toys and food donations annually. Watching the joy our employees have for the opportunity to give back every year as they serve are some of our proudest moments.

Chairman Bob Berry, a distinguished Georgia super lawyer, is a legacy in Rome. You know the old saying, “it all starts at the top”? Indeed it does literally for Greater Community Bank. Bob has been extensively involved in promoting a regional emphasis for recruitment and awareness of industrial, business and educational projects. For more than 20 years, Berry’s favorite project has been serving as emcee of the Affair of the Heart Awards Gala. The Heart of the Community Awards of Honor is designed to honor those “heroes of the community” who, through their volunteer and community service, are the Heart of the Community.

Volunteers make the difference between a good place to live and a great place to live. We all know bankers make great volunteers. That’s why we believe in our motto, “Live Better. Bank Greater.”

We celebrated Community Banking Month with tag teams! Our customers have embraced us as we have blanketed our community with car tags and magnets depicting our brand. It has been an opportunity to salute community banking and all it stands for as well as put our new brand on hundreds of rolling billboards!

When it’s all said and done, Greater Community Bank is about the greater community.

Tell us how YOUR local bank helps your community

Did your community bank commit time or resources to help a local community service effort during community banking month? Help us recognize your community bank and employees for their exceptional efforts to improve their communities.

We encourage community banks with community service or volunteer programs to go to to nominate their bank for the 2015 National Community Bank Service Awards. Entrants should describe how their programs positively affect their local communities. Entry is free for all community banks, and multiple entries are encouraged.

Award recipients will be featured in the August issue of ICBA Independent Banker magazine and receive a donation from ICBA to use toward future community service efforts. Nominate Your Bank Today.

Member Spotlight: Bank of Agriculture and Commerce

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Bank of Agriculture and Commerce
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Bank of Agriculture and Commerce from Stockton, Calif. In the following interview, CEO Bill Trezza explains what is unique about this local community bank.

What is unique about your community bank?
I’m a hands-on CEO.  As California’s longest-serving community bank CEO—31 years—I maintain a traditional leadership style when it comes to meeting with prospective customers. I regularly attend these meetings along with our relationship managers, and I’m happy to do so. I believe it sends a great message to the prospective client. If they have a problem or simply need advice, they know someone at the bank that can help. I also enjoy interacting with customers outside of the bank at local events and community activities. This gives me better insight of their special challenges and needs.

How does your community bank uniquely serve your local community?
For more than 20 years we’ve hosted a comprehensive annual economic forecast of our region. We invite bank customers and other targeted, local citizens. Often our customers bring their employees, family or friends. This year financial expert John Mitchell, a former chief economist for U.S. Bank, helped us draw more than 500 people and considerable local media coverage. In many respects, customers, the media and community leaders rely on the bank’s annual forecast to receive localized and factual economic information.

What is the quirkiest, strangest or funniest thing you’ve seen at your community bank?
In 2004 “Dumbo the Clown” (literally) tried to rob one of our East Contra Costa County branches. A bank employee spotted a suspicious-looking man leave a bike on the side of the bank. The police were called, and authorities took the bike. Several hours later that day, the same employee was working at the teller window. She noticed another odd-looking character wearing a blue plaid jacket, large curly black wig, yellow baseball cap, large round eyeglasses and rubber gloves. The safety doors were immediately locked. Once the perpetrator couldn’t enter the building, he fled on foot towards the side of the branch — the same direction where the bike was left earlier that morning. Police believed the bike was probably the suspect’s get-away vehicle.

What is your proudest moment from your time at your community bank?
My most gratifying moment with the bank took place June 9, 1999, when I accepted—on behalf of our bank—an Arthur Andersen Capitol Region Best Practices Award for “Exceeding Customer Expectations.” A beautiful reception to thank bank employees followed the formal part of the presentation. It truly was a special and memorable evening. We later learned it was a customer from our newest Modesto branch, which opened in 1997, who nominated the bank.

What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on at your community bank?
In the early 1990s we decided to focus on customer demand deposits. At that time we set a goal of growing the demand deposit accounts from 15 percent to 25 percent of deposits. The results were astounding, and within three years we reached 35 percent. We were able to achieve these goals by adopting the strategies below:

  • Modem-based cash management software,
  • Instituted ACH origination,
  • Established courier service to pick up business account deposits, and
  • Established an off-balance-sheet investment sweep account, which allowed our corporate customers to keep all of their balances with us and achieve a market return on excess liquidity.

Implementing these strategies broadened our appeal to many business customers who were receiving these services from large chain banks.

Do you celebrate Community Banking Month?
Yes. Typically we start generating Community Banking Month awareness internally through an article I publish in our employee newsletter, The BAC Buzz. I cite specific examples to illustrate the distinct and valuable role community bank’s play in building stronger and better communities. We have about 115 employees that can now share this knowledge with their family, friends and other associates so the message ultimately becomes multiplied just from this internal effort.

In addition, this year—with the help of our marketing communications department—I developed an op-ed describing the community banking industry’s positive impacts to local economies. The op-ed was distributed to each major news publication in the markets we operate. To date, three news entities have agreed to publish the guest editorial.