December 2015

Atlantic Community Bank:Celebrating 10 Years of Creative Community Banking

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: john brackett

Pictured above from left to right: Mollie Sandman, Bob McKinney, Ansley Goodman, Michelle Pennell, Susan Sherry, Todd Hoke

The first incarnation of banking was believed to be in ancient Assyria and Babylonia around 2,000 BC where grain loans were exchanged for the transport of goods. However, financial historians agree that the pivotal period for the establishment of community banking as we now know it occurred in 14th Century Renaissance Italy where the oldest bank still in existence, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena located in Siena, has been serving customers since 1472; that’s approximately 114,180 business days of banking professionals buttoning up their vestments, inking their nibs, funding loans, and driving the engines of commerce.

The first bankers had to be risk takers and visionaries, not to mention the borrowers and depositors who were placing their trust and their fortunes in a relatively unproven entity. In every generation of banking, financiers and governments have worked diligently to limit the industry’s inherent risks; however, nearly every incarnation of community banking has, at its root, highly motivated individuals who have a passion for the customer, a penchant for the numbers, and a vision for the future.

With the mission of a true community bank, Atlantic Community Bank is celebrating 10 years of serving the business and personal banking needs of Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, and beyond. That’s a mere 2,600 days of buttoning their jackets, booting their computers, funding loans, and driving the engines of commerce—enough time, however, to firmly establish roots worthy of aspiring to Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena’s 114,180 days.

“It was 2004 to 2005 when the idea for Atlantic Community Bank was hatched,” said Todd Hoke, the bank’s chief credit officer. “They wanted a community bank that was local where the decisions were made locally. It’s been going gangbusters ever since.” By August of the same year, their second branch was opened on Hilton Head Island.

Community mindedness is woven into the fabric of this institution. “Everything we do represents a true commitment to the customer and understanding their needs and the community’s,” said president and chief executive officer Bob McKinney. “Our dedicated business proposition says that we’re here to do what we need to do, and we’re here to do it for our customers, our bank, and our shareholders.”

Atlantic Community Bank believes that size really does matter, and their small size, relative to other banks, is one of their greatest enterprising assets. “Our small size, which sometimes may be seen as a disadvantage, is really an advantage because we’re able to react quickly. We’re nimble and we’re entrepreneurial like our customers,” said Michelle Pennell, chief financial officer.

A bank in the true sense of the word, the team is always on the lookout for both the pitfalls customers may encounter, as well as for opportunities to increase business or manage personal funds. “Our lending and branch staff are really intuitive and in touch with our customers, proactive, and can help them see what’s about to happen, talk to them in such a way as to help them get through difficult times, which then helps us get through,” Pennell said.

“The bank made it through the toughest time that anyone in this room is likely to ever see,” said McKinney, referring to the financial crisis that began in 2008.

“Because of the commitment of our staff, our directors, and our shareholders, the bank has been very successful. We are now in a growth mode. We have always been well-capitalized, and we have the capacity to grow.”

“The decision makers are in this room,” said Ansley Goodman, vice president of retail. Customers know their best interests are being protected. No decisions are made behind the scenes. “We have true first name relationships with our customers, and word of mouth is primarily responsible for our steady growth. We have to think all the time about what distinguishes us—about how we stand out.”

Taking a lot of time to understand their customers’ needs and having the flexibility and fluidity to respond means not all solutions fit into predictable boxes. “If you expect more from your bank, then you are the perfect client for this bank,” said Pennell, who along with Goodman, and several other team members have enjoyed visiting clients’ businesses. Game for anything, they have climbed up on tractors, were first in line when the doors opened on a client’s new restaurant, and even staged a photo shoot sporting a client’s line of socks.

Growth opportunities are not only for clients; Atlantic Community Bank is a dynamic place to work. “We have a sense of ownership with what we do,” said Mollie Sandman, assistant branch manager. “It’s an environment that enables us to grow and learn and expand. People come into this environment, and they feel the sense of team; they feel like people here really care about the outcome.”

Looking forward to an exciting 2016, the bank has been approved for a branch relocation on Hilton Head Island, where their existing boutique branch will move locations, allowing them to add drive-through services. “We are also rolling out mobile banking, remote deposit capture, and we’re revamping our website. All of this is scheduled for the first quarter of 2016,” Goodman said.

Sponsoring local events throughout the year, the bank’s team contributes time, talent, and money to charitable events across the Lowcountry. For 2016, they are pleased to announce title sponsorship of the Go Tri Sports Beach Bum Triathlon on July 9 and August 6, with at least one bank representative, Hoke, planning to participate.

For Atlantic Community Bank, much as changed since 2006, and much as stayed the same. “We didn’t change what we we’re doing from when we started to what we’re doing now. We’re always going to go out and help our customers,” Hoke said. That’s 2,600 days and counting.

Atlantic Community Bank is located at 1 Sheridan Park Circle, Bluffton, and 1 Corpus Christie Place, Suite 108, Hilton Head Island. For more information, visit atlanticcommunitybank.com.

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