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 http://www.icba.org/awards 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.

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank in Dunmore, Pa. In the following interview, Marketing Communications Officer Patty DeScipio explains what is unique about this local community bank.

What is unique about your community bank?
We are 110 years old and have been an active member of the community. We had the first drive-up window in the area, the first dialogue banking branch with universal tellers in the marketplace and the first green branch. We continue to look for innovative ways to interact with the community.

How does your community bank uniquely serve your local community?
We have a special Volunteer Time Off program for all employees that allows each full-time employee 40 hours of paid time to work on a charity of their choice. Additionally, we just were awarded “Healthiest” Workplace by the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce due to our support and involvement in many community fundraising walks and runs. Over the past four years the bank has provided more than $1.5 million in financial contributions in support community organization and local charities.

What is the quirkiest, strangest or funniest thing you’ve seen at your community bank?
We have a kids-banking program called Green Team with a Roly-poly mascot named “Sammy Saves-A-Lot.” He’s kind of a big green decimal point with feet and orange hair.

What is your proudest moment from your time at your community bank?
All of the accolades we’ve received over the past five years:

“My bank and I are often in different hemispheres, so it’s vital we be on the same page. Fidelity proved it to me—Fidelity Bank Does It Better!”- Kris Jones, principal, KBJ Capital, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

“I know investments—that’s my business. The investment Fidelity made in me has paid dividends for over two decades and counting. They proved it to me then, and they have proved it consistently through the years, Fidelity Does It Better!” – Jack Carr, financial advisor, Northwestern Mutual

“Fidelity Bank helped to put Halibut Blue in the black! They took the time to examine our needs and come up with solutions that allowed us to grow despite the slow economy. The professionals at Fidelity showed us that Fidelity Bank Does It Better!” Chris Kuhar and Michael McLaughlin, owners, Halibut Blue Advertising, Forty Fort, Pa.

What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on at your community bank?
In an effort to show the community that we are the No. 1 Mortgage Lender in the market (verified by HMDA data), we built a full-size playhouse in one of our county parks for the children of the area. We allowed the children to vote for the playhouse that they liked the best, and that’s the one that we built. More than 20 bankers participated.

How do you celebrate Community Banking Month?
We always participate in Teach Your Children to Save. This year we visited more than 15 schools with 19 bankers and taught about 950 students financial literacy lessons. We also do special collections for our local Women’s Resource Center, animal shelter, food pantry and a variety of other causes.

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Royal Bank-USA

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Royal Bank-USA
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Royal Bank-USA from Elroy, Wis. In the following interview, Brand Development Manager Natalie Adams explains what is unique about this local community bank.

What is unique about your community bank?
Our employees. We have an extremely dedicated and knowledgeable staff with tenure that almost doubles the industry average. Our team continues to grow, which has resulted in a great balance of youthful energy and valuable experience.

How does your community bank uniquely serve your local community?
We have 15 branches located in rural communities of Central and Southwest Wisconsin with average populations of 1,300 people. Many residents travel to work, school or for shopping, and our geographic footprint allows customers convenient access to any one of our locations along the way. In addition, we’re big enough to invest in the latest technology for convenient banking, but remain small enough to offer a personalized customer experience.

What is the quirkiest, strangest or funniest thing you’ve seen at your community bank?
We found a lost tooth when counting a customer’s coin once; had a 6-year-old boy ‘water the bushes’ outside the front door while his mother finished up banking inside with a teller; and had a car run into the side of our building in Gays Mills. Each day brings a new surprise!

What is your proudest moment from your time at your community bank?
Last year, our presidents were featured on the cover of Northwestern Financial Review magazine. The article highlighted the unique structure of our bank leadership and gave a great voice to the personality of our bank. It was an honor to be featured on the front cover and extremely humbling for the bank and our executive team.

What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on at your community bank?
After following many banks on social media, we decided to join in on the fun and launched our Facebook page in December of last year. This has given us a great outlet to connect with customers in real-time and has really helped to humanize our brand.

How do you celebrate Community Banking Month?
We have treats in our lobbies from local shops, teach about financial literacy and expand on ICBA’s #GoLocal and #BankLocally campaigns. Each branch has signs that say “I {heart} My Community Bank Because…” for customers to fill out and take a selfie with. There have been so many good ones already, including “because they helped me buy my house 5 years ago today!” We heart Community Banking Month!

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Community Spirit Bank

CommunitySpiritBankCommunity Banking Month Spotlight: Community Spirit Bank
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala. In the following interview, Marketing Director Emily Mays explains what is unique about this local community bank.

What is unique about your community bank?
We are our community’s oldest business, opening our doors on June 11, 1908. Community Spirit Bank was originally housed in the southwest corner of the Red Bay Hotel. We were located directly across from the barber shop, which was also located in the entrance of the hotel. Our original vault doors remain on display in the local museum. Our first president of the bank, A.J. Hackett, was one of the original investors and the surveyor who platted the Town of Red Bay. Our history is rich, and our roots run deep in our ever-changing communities. We are proud to continue to serve going into our 107th year!

How does your community bank uniquely serve your local community?
It’s service first, bottom line. We take pride in not just saying we offer amazing service, but showing it in every way possible. Our chairman of the board could just as likely be seen in his corner office or on his tractor scraping snow from the parking lot. When shorthanded on the frontline, our executive vice president/COO steps out of her office and runs a teller drawer if needed. We have a simple philosophy: whatever it takes to get the job done, and do it well. Service to our community is precedent. We serve our families, churches, and civic responsibilities with the same pride we do in banking. Making where we live, work and play a better place!

What is the funniest thing you’ve seen at your community bank?
One of the funniest moments is our very own Harlem Shake video we filmed in 2013. This video definitely brought out the wild side of some of our senior management. What is priceless about this video is our chairman’s role in “not having time for such foolishness.” This was certainly a fun way of showing a different side of our bankers, and for our community members that know our chairman, his depiction of no time for such nonsense was spot on!

One of the bank’s proudest moments?
We received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when our small town of Red Bay was selected as the inaugural Alabama city for the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit, “The Way We Worked,” as part of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) tour. We were distinctly privileged to get to play many roles in bringing this exhibit to our Main Street. The work spanned 11 months in preparation. The Smithsonian tour was set up in the bank’s Weatherford Centre. (This is a building we took over in 1992 that was previously a bowling alley, snack shop and movie theater and was in need of much repair. The bank’s management had a vision and converted that building into a community banquet and theater facility.)

Well worth the effort, “The Way We Worked” tour explored how work has become a central element in American culture, following the history of the workforce and it’s evolution over the past 150 years. It brought in almost 6,000 visitors from all over the U.S., as well as four other countries, to our little town. This unique mission was an honor, allowing us to engage, educate and inspire far beyond just our local communities.

Favorite Project?
We engage in many local projects, but our favorite would have to be our ever-growing financial literacy program, Community Spirit Bank Money$mart. We started our program in 2013, partnering with the EverFi platform in seven area high schools. Our first year had just shy of 600 students receiving their financial education at an 86 percent certification rate. This school year we are working with nine area schools, have over 600 students registered with 4,045 financial education modules completed to date! Through this program students are taught and assessed in multiple topics of financial education, allowing them to become more informed, responsible citizens. Our hope is to provide our future generations the knowledge of common core finance decisions and skills to manage their finances effectively for a lifetime.

Celebrating Community Banking Month?
April is definitely the month to let that community banking light shine even brighter! We love our communities—they are truly like family. Each year we try to have a variety of activities for our customers and employees. Some of our favorites include spreading the community banking word on social media, giving away local gift certificates and hosting a selfie contest for employees. We also always select one extra special day for Customer Appreciation Day. We give away promotional items, fresh baked cookies, popcorn, cash prizes, CSB T-shirts and more! It’s a really fun day for our customers and employees alike. We celebrated all day this year on April 24!

We feel community banking is a calling, our president and CEO challenged all of us at the beginning of the year with this: “At the end of the day, ask yourself if what you are doing at any point is in the BEST interest of our customers. If it is, then the bank will ultimately benefit as well. Are your actions, words and deeds for you, or for the best interest of our customer? Every action we make should be for betterment of our customers! What is true, what is noble, what is right, is what we should do every day!” And we believe that is truly what makes a community banking different!