Dorothy Field, Peter Iwanyckyj, Tara Hagerman celebrate Bridgehampton National Bank’s Centennial on Friday, February 19 at the Sag Harbor branch of the bank.
Bridgehampton National Bank was founded when farmers and small business owners alike banded together to create a community-based financial institution in Bridgehampton that could address the needs of a growing agricultural economy.
Henry Chatfield, G. Clarence Topping and Elmer Thomson opened the bank on the east side of the E.C. Loper store on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton on February 19, 1910. Their focus was to serve local businesses in the area, loaning farmers the money to purchase seeds during difficult times and aiding local merchants in expansion.
And according to Bridgehampton National Bank (BNB) CEO Kevin O’Connor, very little has changed over the last 100 years when it comes to BNB’s core philosophy – it is a community bank where personal relationships are forged, whether between lenders and small business owners, or tellers and the working mom who deposits her check each Friday.
“Last night, Southampton Town presented us with a proclamation, and it was very personal, not just some standard proclamation,” said O’Connor on Wednesday morning. “It was very special to our organization to accept that kind of honor, in Southampton, where we began, where so many of our shareholders live. I looked around, and I felt like I knew everyone in the room. It was a very personal experience.”
Providing a personal experience for business owners and clients, said O’Connor, is the secret to BNB’s success and one of the reasons he said the bank has flourished, particularly in the last two decades where 16 branches and counting were founded by BNB from Montauk to Mattituck and now as far west as Shirley.
“We like to think our employees, in a sense, become business advisors for these local companies,” said O’Connor. “We hope to be able to work with customers on a one-on-one basis, and will make introductions to accountants if they are looking to take their business to the next level, or attorneys if a business is considering purchasing a property. It really is a partnership. You want to be a trusted advisor.”
That extends, said O’Connor, to BNB’s branches, all which celebrated the centennial with their customers this past Friday with cake and balloons.
“I value tremendously the branch employees and network,” said O’Connor. “For a long time, I think people perceived the lenders as the superstars, but what the branch managers and tellers do is so important. They are the people our clients generally have the most contact with.”
Bridgehampton National Bank was federally chartered in 1910, joining the Federal Reserve System in 1914. The 1920s began the first period of expansion for BNB, with its board of directors purchasing the Loper Building in Bridgehampton in 1920 for $8,000, agreeing to lease the west side of the building to the post office.
Coming through the Depression intact, by 1935, BNB managed 2,000 accounts. By the 1960s, the company had formed a partnership with AInterBank, which would become VISA, and through this alliance were able to offer small business owners the ability to accept credit card purchases. BNB’s growth continued in the 1970s when it opened its first branch office in the Bridgehampton Plaza on Snake Hollow Road, but it was in the 1990s that the company truly branched out, developing its website and opening a number of branches across the North and South forks. BNB currently serves clients in Bridgehampton, Mattituck, East Hampton, Southampton, Southold, Montauk, Greenport, Sag Harbor, Hampton Bays, Westhampton Beach, Wading River, Cutchogue and Shirley.
According to O’Connor, with a number of small businesses flourishing in Patchogue, BNB is looking to open a branch there next.
“We will never put a branch next to Wal-Mart, because that is frankly not our marketplace,” said O’Connor. “We went to Shirley because there were a lot of people with small businesses and we will go to Patchogue for the same reason.”
O’Connor sees BNB continuing to expand, using this now 100-year-old model of conservative, community-based banking.
“A company has to have a culture and I think we have a very strong culture,” said O’Connor. “We have all the products, all the technology the big banks have, but we can also deliver and serve our customers at locally based branches where many of our customers are our shareholders and we look them in the eye, every day.”