When President and CEO Troy Peters first came to Jonestown Bank & Trust Co. in 2006, he had no idea that one of his elderly female customers was the unofficial historian of Jonestown and an author.
This little lady wound up penning the bank’s history. She drew largely from her own memory banks and was an irreplaceable wealth of knowledge about the bank’s turn-of-the-century days.
It was just another lesson for him in the importance of knowing your customers.
When he learned that customer Evelyn Isele was the author of five books, he asked her to help chronicle the bank’s life.
The account of Jonestown’s storied life ultimately became a popular pamphlet that was a key part of the bank’s 140th anniversary celebration in 2013. Tragically, the bank lost its beloved customer when she died at the age of 97 in 2016.
A Long, Proud History
Thanks to Evelyn’s research, we know that the charming town of Jonestown in Lebanon County was born in 1761.
The region was once a verdant land of trees populated by the Lenape Indians. A visitor in the earliest days of the town reported that it had a few log homes, a church on a hill and a wooden bridge built to link the banks of the Swatara Creek.
Jonestown Bank was first located in Jonestown Square. The location was torn down and later became Jonestown’s Borough Hall, built in 1915.
Jonestown was the only bank in town for decades. The closest banks were in the city of Lebanon and to the north, in Pine Grove.
The first bank opened in a building shared by a general store and a bar run by a Mrs. Peters, who was no relation to the current CEO. The Heilman Hotel became the second location of the bank in 1880, in what is the current location of ABC Laundromat.
Lebanon County had its first recorded bank robbery in 1931, when Jonestown Bank was robbed by four men, with connections to Ohio, toting sawed-off shotguns and revolvers. A huge chase scene straight out of a B-movie followed, with the getaway driver dropping roofing nails in the road to try to deter the police who were in hot pursuit. The robbers were eventually apprehended in Ohio with more than $6,000 in cash. The bank suffered two more robberies in subsequent years.
The Christian Seltzer home stood in the location of the current bank, at Market and South Lancaster Streets.
The Reformed Church Parsonage stood beside the Seltzer home. The bank purchased these properties and expanded them, adding a drive-through window in 1957.
In 1928, the bank’s capital was increased to $125,000 and they received a new charter to enter the trust business. It was then that the name was changed to Jonestown Bank & Trust Co. Much later in 2007, the Bank began using JBT in addition to its formal name.
JBT is still going strong at 2 West Market Street in small-town Jonestown.
The bank has 13 branches with locations in Grantville, Ebenezer, Lebanon, Cleona, Newmanstown, Quentin Road, Londonderry Village, Palmyra, Northside Commons, Cornwall Manor, Ephrata, and its newest one in Manheim. A Lititz branch is planned for 2018.
The bank has $561.5 million in assets with $483.4 million in total loans, and $451.1 million in total deposits.
Jonestown itself is a bedroom community where most people live but work elsewhere.
Today, the bank is in the heart of the town square. The squat brick building has large ceiling fans in its high-ceilinged lobby, and the traffic flow is constant, including everyone from a mom with toddlers and a businessman in a blue shirt and tie, to an older man in a baseball cap clutching cash.
Two gas stations sell fuel and lottery tickets at the end of town, and “Welcome to Jonestown” signs straight out of Mayberry RFD bookend the main drag.
Banners line the street, marking “A History of Unity,” and a church sits every few hundred yards.
Ed Martel, Jr. has served as the Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Branch Administration at JBT for the past six years.
Like President and CEO Troy Peters, the man who held the post before him, Martel has a “big bank” background. He started at community banks but they all were acquired. Like Peters, he worked at PNC, when Bank of Lancaster County was acquired by PNC.
Martel was born and raised in Lebanon, attending Cedar Crest High School.
He has great faith in Troy. “He allows the executive team to do our job. I think it’s very empowering.”
“He allows for completely open and honest feedback that is two-way.”
Martel added, “He is not a micro-manager. He has established that level of trust.”
“One of the neat things about the executive team, and it comes from Troy and the board, is that we are all going in the same direction,” Martel said. “We are all committed to the independence and success of JBT and that’s what makes it good to come to work every day.”
Opportunities Disguised as Challenges
“Our bank has been here 144 years, and we want to be around for 144 years more. To do that, we must remain relevant to our client base, and give them the right services and the right service levels. We must adapt and change to meet the needs of our clients,” Martel said.
When leaders consider the needs of the bank, such as the right products, the best design of the office, and the skill set of employees, “It’s not an easy thing to do.”
And of course, the “regulatory environment is a major concern we have to face.”
Martel recalled how 30 years or so ago, a home equity loan took three to seven days and five sheets of paper to process. It now takes a month.
At some banks, it takes many months.
Finding top-notch employees is a challenge, too, not just at JBT, but industry-wide.
“We have had open positions for six months,” Martel said.
It’s hard to find “people people” who also understand regulations and the finer points of banking.
Martel believes the differences between the Gen X-ers, Y-ers and Z-ers and older generations are not nearly as big and impossible to bridge as many may think.
“They want good answers and good treatment,” whether you are a Gen X-er or the “greatest generation.”
Millennials want electronic banking, but, “If someone has a problem, no matter what generation it is, they still want to talk to somebody.”
The workforce of tomorrow must be cultivated now, Martel emphasizes. This is a great career opportunity, but Martel believes banks have failed to communicate the allure of banking, and they must.
The Bank of the Future
One of the ways JBT is leaning forward is by implementing a concept called “Future Bank.”
“It’s a multi-faceted concept that coalesced three or four years ago,” Martel said.
He said fewer folks are coming in to their branches. Transaction counts are down 20-25% from 10 years ago, but there is still traffic. The people calling or coming in have more complex needs.
It’s no longer just deposits and withdrawals.
When people call, staff can help with all generations’ banking needs, whether it’s cashing a check or opening an IRA.
“The first person they interact with must own the client relationship,” Martel said. It’s a concept many others call the “universal banker.”
The bank is creating posts that create a “private banker” type of experience for a client.
The concept of Future Bank is still in its infancy. With 140 current employees in soon-to-be 14 branches, they are creating new titles and new positions.
We have “Future Bank non-negotiables,” Martel explained.
“This is the minimum of what we can expect. It drives client loyalty through client interactions that are focused on building relationships.”
Martel says it doesn’t focus so much on sales, but “it does involve making clients feel special.”
Their client resource center now has a live-chat feature.
Their operations areas are a one-stop shop. They are cross-training all employees so the staff understands all the functions of their department. They have eliminated the teller positions in their branches.
The goal is, when a client walks in, no matter what their need is, a person can say, “I can help you with that,” Martel explained.
The Manheim branch has no teller line, he said. “We built that branch from the bottom up.”
Other branches will soon be rebuilt to replicate this model.
When a customer comes in at Manheim, an employee will immediately greet and ask, “How can I help you?” then, based upon the reply, take the customer to a pod to perform a transaction or a private office to open a new account or apply for a loan.
The greeting employee is their guide to whatever their transaction is.
“This involves lots of learning and a different way of thinking,” Martel said. “We are not perfect yet.”
“My primary goal is not to get you in and out as quickly as possible; it’s to build a relationship.”
But you can’t change overnight, Martel acknowledges.
It is a 30-month process. “We are getting much better at it. Employees are being asked to do more and it’s providing them with a better defined career path.”
We used to have tellers, a head teller, and a customer-service person. “Now everyone is cross-trained, and we always offer the service levels clients have come to expect.”
For customers who want to get in and get out, the branches still have a drive-thru and a transaction line and the goal is still to be efficient and keep lines moving.
“Twenty-eight years ago, on a Friday before a holiday weekend that happened to be a Social Security day, we had lines out the door,” Martel remembers. “That doesn’t happen anymore with direct deposits” and so many other technological advancements.
Martel doesn’t ride motorcycles like Nick DiFrancesco and Troy Peters. He doesn’t drink coffee or play golf either, so he jokes that he is “the anti-banker.”
He plays ice hockey, but is glad Nick and Troy are riding for regulatory reform.
As JBT’s Community Reinvestment Act Officer, Martel encourages employees to be involved.
“We don’t make people do set activities. We let them follow their passions.”
“We cover a lot of organizations, and give thousands of hours of community service time,” he said.
For example, their “Making Change Count” allows the fees from their coin counting machines to be donated to local charities. On a quarterly basis, they feature local charities.
Martel is personally involved with the Lebanon County Historical Society, and is the Union Canal Boat Ride narrator.
He is also involved in Junior Achievement and PROBE (Potential Re-entry Opportunities in Business and Education). He also serves as chairman of PACB’s Education Committee.
“PACB provides a voice for us that we may not have individually. It makes sure we are heard, and makes our voice louder.”
“I love going to PACB committee meetings,” Martel said. “I love to hear what our peers are facing. Even though we may compete, we are an industry that looks out for each other.”
“Regulatory relief is a hot-button” issue today.
When he contemplates Peters’ CEO role and his new PACB Chairmanship role, he said, “Troy goes out of his way to recognize the positive behavior of his employees.”
For example, when their Client Resource Center dealt well with some customer complaints, Troy took the time to go to them and thank them for their efforts.
“That goes a long way. People really respond to that,” Martel said.
Peters will often send hand-written notes to people who accomplish something.
“It’s not an email; it’s a hand written note. A hand-written note means something. It’s kind of cool that your CEO takes time to do that. It’s pretty impactful.”
Trust and a team atmosphere also factors in the culture. The “bank on a smile” mantra is real.
“I’m thrilled with the resolve and the environment we create here. We’re not perfect, but it’s a pretty nice place to work,” Martel said—and to save, spend and serve—with a smile.