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.