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The Harder Right: An Interview with Miners Bank CEO George Groves

June 23, 2011

Nick DiFrancesco interviews George Groves, CEO of Miners Bank

 

The following article was published on May 9th, 2011 by the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers (PACB).

Nick DiFrancesco (ND): Miners Bank is nearing the 80-year marker. As the current caretaker of this rich legacy, how do you think your bank’s reputation has held up over these many decades?

George Groves (GG): Well, Miners Bank has always had the reputation of being committed to the community. I’d say that irrespective of other issues, that commitment has held steadfast. We’re always encouraging additional employee involvement in our hometowns, but there’s work to be done here.

ND: Integrity is core value that has an elevated place at Min­ers Bank. Practically speaking, what does integrity look like to your customers?

GG: Integrity is essential to our mission. Do what’s right and everything else sorts itself out. In our bank, we’re building a foundation of trust that the next generation of stewards will have to vigorously maintain. A bank is only as good as our word.

ND: Given the anemic economic backdrop, why is your bank still growing?

GG: In 2009, we focused on a strategy of commercial lending to locally owned, privately held businesses in the Schuylkill region and the adjacent market. Proper marketing and exe­cution of this strategy gave us the growth in late 2009 and 2011, and as a result we welcomed new commercial relationships and the result­ing loans and deposits. We also added several cash management services to en­hance those relationships. I’d say we’ve been fortunate in that a market opportunity was available, the target market was receptive and we were able to take advantage of it.

ND: Part of your stated strategy for growth is the mortgage division. How are you convincing customers that it’s the right time to build and buy?

GG: Look, we aren’t trying to convince customers that the timing is right to build and buy. That’s their decision and based on their needs and resources, and we respect that. What we are doing is developing a product portfolio that gives homeowners and developers the right options for them to pursue their choice. On the commercial side we’ll work with experienced and financially stable developers to finance new communities. On the retail side, now that we have the ICBA relationship, we are able to offer very attractive mort­gage options to finance those choices. Having the ICBA sec­ondary market capability allows us to continue to be rate ag­gressive to those potential borrowers. I’ll add that we’ve also dedicated substantial resources to educating and training our branch staff so that we can take applications in the local markets we serve. Given a concern that rates must inevitably rise, we didn’t want to carry the fixed product on our balance sheet. Again the ICBA service met that objective.

ND: As a small, community bank, what are the major obstacles to remaining competitive with the chain banks on mortgages?

GG: In our market, 4 of the larger banks operate. Of the 4, only one has not had their own challenges. The larger banks in our market tend to market rate and or technology. As a community bank, we must be responsive to rates, but com­munity banks don’t typically have the terms and conditions attached that the larger banks develop. Customers have the capability of reading those terms to get past the headlines.

On technology, by outsourcing many of the key elements, we can provide technology solutions equal to or better than the larger banks. So our expectation is that the competition will continue to intensify their efforts to come “down mar­ket” and will use technology and pricing as the key tactics. Service is a pretty effective way to combat this.

ND: What sold you and your team in Minersville on the ICBA Mortgage Solution platform?

GG: In an environment in which interest rates are volatile, it was just not feasible to continue to book long term, fixed rate loans on our balance sheet. It created too much risk. We needed an off bal­ance sheet solution. We ana­lyzed FHLB, Fannie and Freddie and found their of­ferings as more restrictive and non-responsive to a small community bank. John McNair of the ICBA communicated to us ICBA’s intent to launch a secondary market product. We were interested in learning more. We did and found that the product attributes were favorable. Just by chance we were the first to use the product – right place at the right time. Sure, there were a few, “hiccups” in the process, but ICBA and our team patiently worked through those.

LEADERSHIP PROFILE:

Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky
Family:

Jimmie L Groves – wife of 40+ years
Susannah Groves, Cash Management Specialist, Peoples Bank of York
Elizabeth Aycock, Trust Officer, PNC in Baltimore
2 grand dogs

Education:

United States Military Academy, West Point, 1966—BS Military Engineering
Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia, 1973—MBA
Professional Working with the team to start Legacy Bank and making it a great bank for clients and shareholders. Working with the team to reposition Miners Bank as a quality
community bank

Books:

Coming Home to Glory

David Eisenhower’s review of the time after the Eisenhower presidency.

56
Joe DiMaggio and the last magic number in sports.

Life Lessons/Quotes:

“to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong”
From the Cadet Prayer & a lesson also learned from my parents
“It is not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Teddy Roosevelt
“Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up”.
Winston Churchill
“Failure is the start point, not the end”.
George Groves

 

© 2010 Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers

2405 N. Front Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110
Phone: 717-231-7447 or Toll Free (in PA only) 800-443-5076
Fax: 717-231-7445
Email: pacb@pacb.org

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