By opening a new 12,000-square-foot branch at 581 Wilson St., Brewer on Monday, April 2, Machias Savings Bank “let the whole world know who we are,” said CEO Edward L. Hennessey Jr. “We’re in the Bangor-Brewer area to stay.”
As its name implies, Machias Savings Bank traces its roots to Down East Maine. However, the bank operates a 14-branch network stretching from Houlton to Rockland and extends its services statewide via online banking.
Machias Savings Bank was well known in the lower Penobscot Valley long before Brewer Branch Manager Ken White opened the doors at 581 Wilson St. on April 2. After providing commercial-lending and business-banking services in the region for decades, the bank had opened a branch at 1126 Hammond St., Bangor seven years ago, according to President Larry L. Barker.
That branch “has been very successful,” in fact so successful that despite a significant building expansion completed not long ago, “we are bursting at the seams in Bangor,” he said.
“We have a large customer base in the greater Bangor area,” Barker said. “We have many customers already in Brewer. We wanted to provide another convenient location in the greater Bangor area for our existing customers and for new customers.”
“We’re very excited,” said Traci Sanborn, senior vice president for marketing. “We’ve had such a tremendous success at our Bangor branch, and we feel we’ll have just as much success in Brewer.”
“Our consumer banking has expanded rapidly since we opened the [Bangor] branch,” Hennessey said. “We’re consistently among the top-four generators of mortgage loans in Penobscot County.”
Bank and local officials attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Brewer on Thursday, April 5; an official grand opening will take place on Friday, April 27. The Brewer branch lobby is open Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday, 8 a.m.-12 noon. The drive-up window is open Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m.-12 noon.
Located next to the drive-up window, the ATM is available 24 hours a day.
SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE
Machias Savings Bank decided to open a Brewer branch because the greater Bangor area “has been a tremendous market for us,” Barker said.
“Our success there is for the same reason that we are successful in all our markets: a very strong emphasis on taking care of the customer and building relationships with the customer,” he said. “We do it one customer at a time, one phone call at a time, one interaction at a time. We work very hard to take care of the customer.”
“It’s an attitude. It’s in our blood. It’s what we’ve always been. It’s what we always intend to be,” Barker stated. “We call it ‘The MSB Way.’”
“The only thing we can do different than anybody else is to provide better service,” Hennessey said. “We provide exceptional service.”
“We are truly focused on building relationships with our customers, understanding their needs and meeting their needs,” said Jim Donnelly, executive vice president of business banking. “That has been the winning formula for Machias Savings Bank for a long time.”
“At the end of the day, it’s the customer service and the relationships that are allowing us to continue to grow our business,” Barker said. “The customer is our No. 1 priority. That is the Machias Savings Bank difference.”
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE IN BREWER
In designing the Brewer branch, MSB officials looked to the future — and the past.
Located next to Pizza Hut, the two-story building incorporates design elements from a branch that Machias Savings opened on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor a few years ago, according to Hennessey.
“If you look at the outside of both branches, they’re very similar,” he said. “We’ve used brick veneer on both of them. The shape the buildings is similar, although the Brewer branch is much larger. Some of the interior of each is very similar.”
Customers can access the Brewer branch from Wilson Street or a driveway that intersects the Green Point Road next to Gunn’s Sport Shop. This driveway lets customers reach the bank via Dirigo Drive, which parallels Wilson Street.
“In the summer, the traffic on Wilson Street is terrible,” Hennessey said. “We have made it more convenient for the customer to access our facility without using Wilson Street.”
Customers can enter the bank via the front or rear entrances. A historical reminder awaits those customers using the front entrance, above which are emblazoned “Machias Savings Bank” and “Since 1869.”
“I’m excited about what Brewer means for Machias Savings Bank,” Donnelly said. “It’s a real statement about our long term commitment to our customers.. I love the keystone … over the front door that says, ‘Since 1869,’” a reference to the year that Machias Savings Bank was granted its charter by Maine Gov. Joshua L. Chamberlain.
“Not a lot of [Maine] banks can say they have that long-term commitment to our communities,” he said. “If you take our commitment from that date to where we are now with our new president, Larry Barker, the truly exciting part is we’re just getting started.”
According to Sanborn, the “MSB difference starts the moment you come inside” from either vestibule. Customers enter a spacious, naturally lit lobby featuring a décor that emphasizes “the feel of Maine,” she said.
“That is where we live, that is what we are,” Sanborn said. The lobby’s four columns blend fieldstone bases and vertical surfaces painted to resemble white birch. The fieldstone represents “the rugged coast of Maine,” the white birch the state’s forests, she said.
Bordering the lobby are two “pods,” with two employees assigned to each pod. “When you walk into the Brewer branch, our employees will come out and greet you,” Sanborn said. Employees can assist customers at a particular pod or in a conference room beside the front entrance.
Along an interior wall is a coffee bar, a counter where a customer can pour a cup of coffee and relax while visiting the bank. Beside the coffee bar is an interactive touch-screen TV that displays information about MSB products and services.
The lobby features a waiting area with a 70-inch TV screen and a children’s area with a 60-inch TV screen and “a game center for kids to enjoy while their parents are banking with us,” Sanborn said. In this area, a child can also feed loose change into a coin machine and receive a receipt to exchange for cash.
Just off the lobby is a large vault accessible via biometrics and a key. Biometrical access involves a customer undergoing a hand scan to enter the vault; a key opens the customer’s deposit box.
From the front vestibule, customers can use an elevator or stairs to reach the second floor. Located there are offices for MSB business bankers and business services representatives — and a 1,560-square-foot community room that overlooks outer Wilson Street and the Dedham Hills.
As at its Bar Harbor, Ellsworth (Mill Mall), and Machias branches, the bank offers the community room for public use at no charge. In Brewer, the community room will have two 70-inch TV screens and one 60-inch TV screen, and “one end will be set up to hold up to 30 people in a U-shape setting” with stadium seating, Sanborn said. This section was designed “for people who want to use it for training [purposes], perhaps a smaller company that would like to use it during the day or at night,” she said.
The community room will be available days, nights, and weekends. Individuals or organizations should contact the Brewer branch to reserve the room.
“We will give you a key,” Sanborn said. “This gives you access to our front entryway and the stairs and elevator to the second floor. People using the community room can use the bathrooms and kitchen area, which has a natural gas-fired stove, refrigerator, sink, and dishwasher.
“We want the community to come over and enjoy this building as much as we’re going to enjoy it,” Sanborn said. “It’s an absolutely beautiful, gorgeous building to have meetings in.”
Hennessey, who has visited the Brewer branch several times, described the building as “state of the art. We’ve done it right. We’ve built for tomorrow” by “including room for future growth.”
With oil prices the topic of many Maine conversations nowadays, the Brewer branch emphasizes energy efficiency. “We see this branch as being there for a hundred years, and we built it accordingly,” Barker said. “With energy costs continuing to escalate, we wanted the building to be efficient.”
Among the building’s energy-efficiency features are roof-mounted solar panels, additional insulation, natural gas-fired boilers, and lighting.
“We partnered with ReVision Energy to install a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic roof-mounted array,” said MSB Facilities Manager John Hayward. The solar panels produce electricity that “we will use … before purchasing power,” he indicated.
Hayward thinks that when the bank is closed on sunny days, the solar panels “will produce all the energy required to maintain our building.” Near noon on one recent sunny, but cool day, the panels were producing 4.6 kilowatts of power fed directly into the building’s electrical system.
To insulate the Brewer branch, “we used ‘closed cell’ spray foam insulation … 7 inches in the ceilings and 3 inches in all exterior walls,” Hayward said. “It gives us a complete air-and-moisture barrier along with a sound barrier.
“We installed two Lockinvar stainless-steel, condensing natural gas Knight XL boilers,” he said. The boilers emit fewer emissions than do traditional boilers and “are extremely efficient at approximately 94.6 percent,” he said.
“We partnered with Efficiency Maine and installed energy-efficient lighting throughout the building, using only T-5, T-8, and compact fluorescent lamps along with LED signage and exit lights,” Hayward said. “We have installed occupancy sensors to control lighting in bathrooms, closets, and areas where lights are frequently left on.”
Exterior lights will “not only protect the ‘night sky,’ but are designed to cut off light at property lines and streets and be directed only to the areas that require lighting,” Hayward said.
BUSINESS BANKING STATEWIDE
With the Maine economy facing tough times, Barker stressed that “we do plan to grow in 2012. We see opportunities out there.”
Growth will occur in consumer and business banking, he indicated.
“We’re very committed to rural Maine. We’ve been very successful in rural Maine,” Barker said. “A lot of the bigger banks are closing their doors in some of those markets. We see an opportunity for us to grow market share there.”
Despite intense competition, Machias Savings Bank has expanded its commercial activity “quite a bit … over the last 10 years,” said Donnelly.
Although its name implies a strong Down East connection, Machias Savings Bank has “commercial or business customers from Kittery to Caribou, from Jackman to Eastport,” he said. “We’re not constrained by zip code. We go to where our customers are.”
The bank’s 14 business bankers — including Barker, Donnelly, and Hennessey, who all have commercial portfolios — and four business services representatives support the bank’s far-flung customers. Donnelly, two other business bankers, and the four business services representatives transferred to the Brewer branch from Bangor in early April. Three business bankers and an assistant are assigned to the Bangor branch.
Each business banker works with specific customers, many of whom are located far from the nearest MSB branch. According to Donnelly, Machias Savings Bank offers many online products and services, such as MSB ECorp Online Banking & Cash Management services, that let a business owner transact banking business while seated at a desk, whether in the office or at home.
“When you look at our geography, at where we have our branches as opposed to where many of our customers are located, there is a heavy reliance on technology,” Donnelly said. “Machias Savings Bank supplies high-quality, technologically advanced products.”
“Between your computer and a device called a ‘express deposit machine,’ its like putting a bank on your desk,” he said. “You can access just about every service available at the bank through that your computer and this device with the exception of writing yourself a loan.
“Our online products have really changed the way banking is done,” Donnelly said. “The transaction counts that are being done online and with remote capture have been going up exponentially since the introduction of these services.”
“Across the state, we have customers very satisfied with the service we are providing,” he said.
Among such customers, many refer other business owners to Machias Savings Bank. “About 80 percent of our business comes from referrals. It’s huge,” Donnelly said. “Existing customers that are happy have a friend, may be in Portland or in York County or Aroostook County. They’ll call [the friend] and make a referral.
“There really is nothing more rewarding than having” a customer “put their name on the line to recommend you and convince other folks that they ought to be doing business with” Machias Savings Bank, Donnelly said.
“We have customers who are an extension of our family, and they are looking for how to help Machias Savings Bank grow,” he said. “They know that their friends and other business owners will benefit by doing business with us.”
For many business owners, financing remains paramount. “You hear about banks not lending,” Barker said. “We never stopped lending. We’ve originated over half a billion dollars in new loans in the past three years.
“We’re looking for opportunities to make loans. That’s what we do for a living,” he said. “We were the No. 2 SBA lender in Maine in 2011; we work closely with our business customers.”
“The borrowing demand so far in 2012 has been strong on the business side,” said Donnelly, who senses “some pent-up demand … for buildings, for equipment.” Lending has also been spurred by retirees selling their businesses and entrepreneurs “looking to develop a new business,” he indicated.
“And it isn’t one industry over another” in terms of lending activity, Donnelly said. The bank has financed projects in such sectors as agriculture, fishing, hospitality, light manufacturing, and logging.
“More to come,” he said.
According to Barker, Machias Savings Bank works with its customers no matter the economic conditions. “It’s easy in the good times,” he said. “When the times are tough, we do what we can to help our customers make it through as opposed to telling them to find somebody else to do their banking with.
“We value our customers. They are very, very important to us,” he said.