Bigger may not always be better.
The Independent Community Bankers of America, which represents nearly 5,000 community banks throughout the United States through its "Go Local" campaign, is urging consumers to consider the benefits of switching to one of their banks.
"You will have a relationship with a banker who cares about your success. They are vested in the local community. Their success depends on the success of the customers who live in the community," said Terry Jorde, ICBA senior executive vice president and chief of staff. "Community banks are focused on the people and those relationships."
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Roy Claar of Hollidaysburg is waited on by Jennifer Keller, a customer service representative with C&G Savings Bank on Pleasant Valley Boulevard, on Monday.
Jorde, who was a community banker for 30 years, said there is no hard and fast definition of a community bank.
"It is not based on size; it is based on its commitment to the local community," she said. "We have some very large ones that started small and were so successful that they grew."
C&G Savings Bank, which has three offices in Blair County and three in Cambria County, puts its customers first, said Bill Ritenour, president and CEO.
Ritenour, who serves on the ICBA Mutual Bank Council, said C&G is a mutual savings bank. He said it does not have shareholders, but instead is owned by the depositors.
Community banks are big players when it comes to small business loans.
"Community banks fund nearly 60 percent of all small businesses under $1 million and use local dollars to help families purchase homes, buy a car, finance college and build financial security," said Bill Wood, president and CEO of Clearfield Bank & Trust Co.
Clearfield Bank & Trust has 13 offices in Bedford, Blair, Centre, Clearfield and Huntingdon counties.
Jorde said community banks are "relationship-based," taking time with people who are starting and expanding a business. She said they consider themselves partners in small business and farm loans.
Ritenour noted that community banks offer most of the services that the larger banks offer.
"One of our mottos is 'we can't be all things to all people.' We don't have an investment service here, we don't have a trust service. There are some services little banks won't provide because they don't have the resources," Ritenour said. "We want to be good at what we do and take good care of our customers and our employees."
Lynn Fusco, vice president of operations of Investment Savings Bank, which has offices in Altoona and Hollidaysburg, said many, if not most, of the disadvantages of being smaller are things of the past.
"Quick and convenient access to your accounts is not an issue now. With 24/7 Internet banking, you don't need to run to the branch for everything," she said. "It used to be that big banks were the only game in town when you wanted a bigger ATM network. That's no longer the case with Sheetz and GetGo providing hundreds of local, surcharge-free ATM access options."
Membership in the ICBA can be advantageous.
"We have an office in Washington and we are able to share the message from community banks to representatives on Capitol Hill on how important they are to our country," Jorde said. "We speak with one voice for the community banking industry."