Community Bank Delaware remains true to its name, doing business all over Sussex County from just two branches in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, as it has for 15 years.
Community Bank Delaware began with an idea that occurred to Alexander J. Pires Jr., now chairman of the board and chief executive officer. Twenty-five years ago, when he was a lawyer in Washington, D.C., he worked for the Department of Justice and was president of the Department of Justice Credit Union. When he moved to Delaware he took the idea of starting a bank there with him.
Shown (l to r) are Community Bank Delaware’s COO Ronda Douglas, VP Kathie Pryor; President Jack Riddle; VP Chris Benjamin; CFO Angie Warrell; and VP Shannon McGinn.
“I thought of starting a bank here, and local business people put some money together. At that time, the government was very interested in expanding the bank community. It was easier to get a bank license,” he said. “That is no longer true.”
Approved in 2006, the bank started in an old gas station in Lewes. By the next year it had two small branches and now handles $250 million in assets.
“We’re thinking about opening a third branch, expanding into Long Neck,” Pires said.
“We’re a nice, local, community bank. There used to be 35,000 banks in the United States. Now it’s down to 5,000. But we have no intention of selling out to one of the big banks that are gobbling up others,” Pires asserted.
Community Bank Delaware started with about 70 shareholders and ownership is the same today. “They are from all walks of life, people in your community,” Pires said. “We’re an old-fashioned, old-school, community bank, and that’s what it’s going to be.”
That doesn’t mean Community Bank Delaware is behind the times. The bank has purchased and continues to buy leading edge technology.
Jack Riddle, president and chief lending officer, has been with the bank since its inception. He said, “Once we establish a relationship with a client, they never come here unless they want to. Most transactions are done electronically. We invested in all these systems when it opened and it has served us well.
“We offer the products and services that almost every bank offers. Nothing fancy, just vanilla products that every customer wants and needs. We made the decision when we opened that we wanted to be a small business lender, but also a personal consumer lender.”
Community Bank Delaware offers fixed rate and adjustable rate residential mortgages, construction loans, even loans to buy a lot. Checking and savings accounts are available, as are safety deposit boxes. “We even do coin counting and have machines that wrap loose coins,” Riddle said. “Not a lot of banks do that any more.
“These are just little things we do, things we believe the customers want. Some companies try to figure out how to make money on everything. We just want to create a valuable service to our community.”
One of those little things addresses beach traffic. Community Bank Delaware recently launched a website, debeachtraffic.com, which has four cameras focused on Route 1. “We always get these questions, ‘What does the traffic look like on Route 1?’” he explained. The cameras show exactly what’s going on in real time.
Riddle said he had previously worked for a larger bank. “I found the decision makers kept being moved farther and farther away from customers. At Community Bank Delaware, you can meet with them, with me, with any of our senior team. We all can make loan decisions.”
Community Bank Delaware has 34 employees, up quite a bit from the original four. Two of those, Riddle and Vice President and HR Director Shannon McGinn, are still there.
Riddle said, “We pay well and have good benefits, so there is little turnover. That’s a testament to our board, who support us, and to Alex Pires, who decided we should make sure our people can afford to live.
“We need to be profitable to stay in business, but we’re not trying to be the biggest. We aim for slow and steady growth. We create a career path for individuals who want to grow with the bank.”
The bank’s employees, and the bank itself, are involved in the community. Pires said, “We like to do something about our good fortune. We give away four percent of our profits to charity.”
Riddle is chair of the finance committee at Crossroad Community Church in Georgetown, served as treasurer of Nanticoke Health Services for 15 years, and is active in Rotary, the Rehoboth Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware Solid Waste Authority. He said, “We actively encourage our employees to be involved. And if an employee cares enough to be involved in a charity, the bank will financially support it.”
Community Bank Delaware puts community first. See what Community Bank Delaware can do for you by visiting www.communitybankdelaware.com or call 302-226-3333.