Swinging For The Fence

Swinging For The Fence

Introducing Your New Chairman, Troy A. Peters

When Troy Peters played baseball at York College of Pennsylvania, he and his teammates all dreamed of making it to the major leagues. They knew their chances were slim, but they were undeterred by the odds.

When they hit their “flow” and got “in the zone,” they felt like they couldn’t be beat and they won a nation-leading nineteen consecutive games in his senior year.

He and his teammates were all incredibly close, in the safe cocoon of a small leafy campus. They lived, ate, studied, and practiced together, and it showed: the team was simpatico.

Thirty years later, Peters is hitting his stride again, as President and CEO of Jonestown Bank & Trust Co. (JBT) in quaint, cornfield-laden Lebanon County. He is also the new chairman of the PACB, where he pledges to duplicate that same team spirit and “flow” in the bank’s most perfect “zone.”

JBT’s slogan is “Bank on a Smile,” and Peters, who has a broad, easy smile of his own, steps up to the plate with the same philosophy at PACB.

The bank’s main headquarters is situated in a low-slung brick building in a wide square with on-street parking. A large clock and an American flag hang from the front of the building, and red, white, and blue banners hug the front handrail –silent icons of the bank’s patriotism, history and the passage of time. On one Friday in September, as one pick-up truck pulled away, another pulled in. The drive-through window buzzed with activity, and the front door swung open repeatedly.

Banners lined the streets, claiming unity and support for the Northern Lebanon football team and showcasing local business sponsors. Church message boards welcomed children back to school.

The lobby of the bank had children’s books scattered across a table. A teen in Nike sandals and shorts came in and dumped a bag of coins into a coin counter. An elderly woman with an oversized purse stepped gingerly inside, papers in hand.

In his modest back office, Troy Peters displays a family photograph with his wife and two children behind his desk, a print of the American flag, and a caricature of himself that his employees gave him, with him donning a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey.

Peters was born in nearby Lititz. He attended Warwick High School and played baseball, basketball and football– but baseball was always “his sport.”

Wearing a white Oxford shirt with the signature royal blue and lime green JBT “smile” logo, he joked that he majored in baseball at York College of Pennsylvania. But clearly he was more than just a good hitter or fielder. He earned a degree in business management with a banking and finance concentration and minored in marketing.

Years later, he also attended two prestigious schools of banking to improve upon his skills even more, with the proof also hanging in his office. He graduated with ‘distinction’ from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Georgetown University in 2002 and Graduate School of Banking at Colorado (Boulder) in 2016.

The banking bug bit him early.

“Growing up, my parents would take me to the bank in Lititz, with all this granite, marble and mahogany, and everyone spoke in hushed tones. I didn’t know what everyone was doing back there, but it seemed like a very reverent thing.”

As a child, he liked to play Monopoly. When he played with those neat stacks of pastel yellow, green, blue and pink dollar bills, “I always wanted to be the banker.”

He started at York College of Pennsylvania as an accounting major, but he decided to switch to business management.

When he took a Money and Banking class in college, he remembers the exact day he was running around the school’s cinder track and realized he had found his calling: banking.

He landed a job as a summer floating teller at Drovers and Mechanics Bank in York in the early 90s, a bank which was later bought by Fulton Bank. He said the bank was much like Jonestown Bank & Trust Co. is now.

During his senior year of college, he worked at the first in-store full-time branch—at Giant Food Stores. He worked Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, roaming the aisles trying to sell accounts.

“No one wanted to talk to me,” he recalled with a smile. “They would steer their carts away from me. Their ice cream was melting. You learned to accept rejection early on.”

When he graduated in 1991, the economy was sluggish. He graduated on a Saturday and started full-time at a bank as head teller on Monday. He didn’t care what post he got at that point.

“I would have cleaned the executives’ cars and bathrooms,” he said. It was such a respected, professional arena, so he just wanted to come off the bench.

He had to make the commute from Lititz to York every day, and made about $16,000 a year.

“A lot of my classmates didn’t have jobs,” Peters said. “I was just thrilled to be in my profession.”

He never imagined that he would hit the big leagues 26 years later, to serve as Chairman of the state Community Bankers Association.

In his next job, he went to work at Mellon Bank in Harrisburg. He parked on City Island because parking was cheaper, and walked across the Market Street Bridge over the Susquehanna River. He worked there for six years, and then was recruited by PNC working there for seven years.

“I learned a lot at those two places and worked very hard,” Peters said. “I had some successes and moved through a lot of positions.”

Then he was caught in an initiative called “One PNC”. They lopped off a quarter of the workforce. “It didn’t matter that I was a high performer.”

“It was a terrible time for me.” He endured six months without working. If he had known he would be unemployed for six months, he would have wanted to pedal his bike across Europe but instead, “my full-time job was looking for a job.”

He interviewed at Jonestown, which checked every box for him. He wanted a certain post in a certain area, and it fit the bill.

During that time, what he found “most impressive about the industry was that basically every banker agreed to meet with me.” He met with 50 different ones.

“All but one agreed to meet with me. Everyone was so cordial. I always remembered that. It’s a sign of our industry, caring about the people side.”

Ultimately, he responded to an ad for a branch manager at Jonestown.

“I knew, and they knew, that I wasn’t interested in a branch manager position; I just wanted to talk to them”, he said. He left thinking he wanted the job of the man who interviewed him. Soon, that banker brought Troy back to meet with the CEO.

A couple weeks later, the CEO called him and said they had built a post custom-made for him.

He started at Jonestown Bank & Trust Co. in 2006. That very day, PNC called and asked him to come back. “The timing was crazy!”
Peters knew Jonestown was his place.

“I never planned this course. It wasn’t my plan but if I hadn’t gone through all I did I wouldn’t be sitting here now,” he said.

He became the Sales, Marketing and Branch Administrator, along with the Bank’s CRA Officer.

Five years later, the CEO announced his retirement. He never thought of being CEO. Before, when he worked at the big banks, he would see the CEO on a remote video, it was like they were on a different planet.

“The Board did a search, and they couldn’t find anybody, so they hired me,” he quipped with characteristic modesty.

He remembers the events of the fall of 2011 vividly. The area had been rattled by earthquakes, then Tropical Storm Lee struck with a vengeance, and then their Operations Center flooded. The floodwater displaced 25 employees.

“We were literally drying loan files in the parking lot, hanging files like clothes on clotheslines.”

“It was a complete and utter mess, but it pulled everyone together.”

Compounding the two natural disasters, the bank was opening a new branch in Ephrata, Peters was training for his first marathon, and state bank examiners had just paid a visit.

It was truly baptism by fire.

He is proud of his postgraduate work in Georgetown and Boulder, Colorado.

Why go back to school at this stage of his life?

“You can’t rest on your laurels. You must constantly reinvest in your bank and career,” Peters said. It was fabulous to spend time away to focus without day-to-day issues that I have to respond to.”

Today, the bank has grown to 140 employees and 13 branches. The 13th just opened in Manheim.

They are also building a branch in Lititz, bringing him full circle to his hometown.

The bank just applied for that 14th branch in September. Two branches are in retirement homes; 11 are free-standing.

That’s an impressive new pace for a bank founded in 1873, and reaching the age of 144 years old.

It took the bank 100 years to expand beyond its first branch.

The bank started in Mrs. Peters’ Tavern—no relation, Peters hastens to add—and then it moved to the Heilman Hotel, before they built this building at Market Street.

Since 2010, they have opened four branches. “That is like warp speed for us,” Peters said.

Peters said most people live in Jonestown but don’t work here. “It is the busiest branch we have.”

JBT was a member of both PACB and PBA. His predecessor was a leader at PACB, and that alliance stuck with him.

In his rare spare time, Peters trains for triathlons. In fact, he completed 49 of them, but he admits his triathlon career is on the tail end – for now.

He even completed an Ironman triathlon, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile marathon run, in 15 hours and change at his peak, but admits “that drive to punish myself is waning.”

That experience “has certainly helped me in my work life.”

“Around Christmas I would plan out my training for the coming year through October. I could tell you what my workout would be on any given day in the next year. I was so regimented. When I have a plan, I execute that plan, and it’s going to make me perform. In business, it’s the same thing. You build a plan, you get people to help you execute and you get the results. If you’re not getting results, you change the plan.”

He knows change is a process and you can’t do everything in a day.

“You have to want to and figure out how you’re going to do it.”

For example, in 2007, they re-branded the bank. “It was very big and very successful. I wasn’t a marketing person per se. We changed the logo” and when the financial crisis started and people were upset with Wall Street, JBT decided to go “fun.” The logo has a smile on it.

“Our customers like us, we like them, and we want to make them happy,” he said of the rationale behind the smile.

Big banks like Sovereign, Wachovia, PNC looked serious, so Peters wanted to offer a “shiny, bright, happy bank.”

Initially, he sought to take on the slogan “Bank Happy,” but that was the slogan of another bank, so, it became, “Bank on a Smile.”

“We want to make you expect from us a smile and a pleasant experience and you will leave smiling and feeling good,” Peters explained.

“Whether you want to start a new business, or get a new debit card, we will do it with a smile.”

“Our mission and our mission statement is to improve the financial lives of our clients.”

“Smile standards are our corporate standards. Each letter stands for something.”

The bank gives away Smiley awards for great performance.

They sponsor an off-site employee function every fall as well. One year, they all dressed up for Halloween as a character from their favorite decade.

Peters chose the 50s, wearing a white t-shirt and jeans like Fonzie of “Happy Days,” cigarettes in his sleeve, and a JBT tattoo.

The first year’s theme was the Academy Awards, and employees dressed as their favorite star.

This year has a carnival theme and a milk shake drinking contest.

Rolling for Reform

Peters will soon join Nick DiFrancesco on a motorcycle, riding throughout PA.

He rode motorcycles 20 years ago but then stopped for fifteen years. One day, he was driving to church and he saw a cycle for sale on a porch. He knew he wanted a bike again. He has had four motorcycles since. Riding with Nick will be like “my next triathlon.”

When he and Nick were attending a board meeting in State College, Mother Nature delivered two picture-perfect days. He joked that, “We can visit banks on motorcycles.”

Nick responded, “I did that when I ran for Lieutenant Governor, and it was great!” and an idea was born.

Both are getting custom biker vests. The first trip is planned for Oct. 2.

“It’s different, not stuffy, with a white shirt and tie and all of that,” Peters said. “We will be more approachable and hope to see some customers.”

Peters’ vest has JBT on it, and on the back “Rolling for Repeal.”

“Bank on a Smile” has morphed into, “Bike on a Smile.”

Stops in Jim Thorpe, Erie, and Pittsburgh are planned.

“At my age, it’s great to incorporate things I want to do with what I have to do.”

The theme for Peters’ year as chairman will focus on Top Prospects, like in baseball’s minor leagues.

“My point to all these CEOs and Presidents is, develop the next level of talent. College graduates are not flocking to banking.”

“It’s important that we identify people in our own organization and give them opportunities to grow, and be intentional about that.”

“It’s not ‘Put your nose to the grindstone and get a gold watch in 50 years,’” Peters said.

He wants bank leaders to find their top prospects. It will empower them when they realize “Wow, my leader thinks something of me.”

Let them sit in on meetings and allow them to think about being in that position someday.

Let someone know that someone notices them.

“In your career, everyone has people who showed faith in them, who gave them opportunities even before they were ready, and they were successful. We must intentionally do that. What you say as a leader means something to these people.”

“I have hand-written notes from bosses from 25 years ago. I won’t ever get rid of them. They took the time to recognize me,” Peters said.

The strategic plan for PACB will also be kept as a top priority.

For top prospects, he urges bank leaders to invite them to attend one of PACB’s Regional Meetings or PACB’s Future of Community Banking conference. While they may not have been able to go to Idaho last month because of the expense, these local events may be doable. Here they can network.

This will help get people involved further down. Peters himself didn’t get involved in PACB until he was CEO, and he wants leaders to go further down.

“It’s important to do.”

Peters describes himself as “disciplined and decisive. Most people would not say ‘warm and fuzzy,’ but it is on the inside if not on the exterior.”

Despite the Fonzie look, he describes himself as a bit of an introvert. He is also “focused” and has a “dry sense of humor,” he said.

“People generally know I care about them.”

His wife works at Hershey Medical Center and holds two master’s degrees. His daughter is 14, and son is 8. They live in Annville, and the kids attend Annville-Cleona schools.

Community Service

JBT has a strong commitment to the community.

Peters is on the board of the YMCA. “It’s a great organization. It’s not just a gym. They provide child care to anybody, whether they can afford it or not, including single parents who maybe couldn’t go to work otherwise.” The child care is a four-star facility.

He also serves on the board of the local Chamber and is active in their scholarship program.

He has been involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters for 20 years and served on many committees.

The bank is taking part in “Beyond School Walls.” The Big Brothers organization brings five or six students from Lebanon-area schools to the bank and they are matched with someone in bank.

It is not a traditional match; it is a professional match, allowing young people to learn to be in a work setting, why it’s important to get to work on time, and more. They don’t do work per se, but they may eat lunch there and talk to the other bankers.

Peters feels, “It’s a tremendous win. The kids get work experience and get to come to the bank twice a month for a few hours. We ask employees to volunteer and this is something they can even do it on work time. They don’t have to go anywhere. It all takes place here.”

JBT also gives EITC funds, and engages in Bowling for Kids Sake, Golf for Kids Sake, and more.

Peters also went through Leadership Harrisburg and Leadership Lebanon Valley. While there, he toured a prison and was shocked at all the young people there. He knew they made bad decisions and realized they lacked role models. That drove him to have such a “soft spot for Big Brothers.”

“I’m glad we do that here at the bank,” Peters said. “There is no downside.”

Jonestown Bank & Trust Co. also supports countless charities and Little Leagues.

Fees charged to non-customers at their coin counter are donated to charity, such as the Humane Society or American Red Cross, each month. The bank has given away over $20,000 since the program started.

They also match employee contributions to Junior Achievement, and other charities.

The Future

For the bank, the future lies in something they call “Future Bank.”

Peters said the bank does not hire tellers anymore.

Tellers used to be very pigeonholed into their roles. One teller would take deposits; they also had a commercial window.

Now the industry has changed and the role of the teller has evolved.

Nowadays people may come in with high-tech and more complex questions, like “How do I make a person-to-person payment on my iPhone?” not just “Can I move money from savings to checking?”

Peters adds, “We changed job descriptions to be universal. I can help you through any reason you come in practically. I don’t sit behind a window. Our new branch in Manheim has teller pods. If you need a loan, we don’t just sit and stare at each other until a manager is free.”

The concept involves a great deal of cross-training, and changes to job descriptions.

Before each branch may have had five tellers, and five customer service people, but now no one is limited by their jobs anymore.

“More than being about our facilities, it’s about our people,” Peters said.

“It’s a big cultural transition,” Peters said. “Turning that ship takes a while.”

Employee buy-in is a must.

“We are so bound by tradition in our industry.”

“Personally, I am so blessed to work with these people. This isn’t work for me. I’ve never worked with a greater group of people. I’ve worked with these large banks and the people are often out for themselves, trying to get promoted. We don’t have that kind of culture,” Peters said candidly.

“It’s not me, me, me all the time. There’s a connection there that I’ve never felt outside of community banking.”

Like the camaraderie at York College of PA, “we all lived baseball. We knew we wouldn’t be in the major leagues even though we wanted to, but we loved what we were doing – we played hard for the love of the game.”

At JBT, they love what they are doing, and that gives them the flow they need.

He remembers a former boss who would push him into tough situations and it was the best thing that ever happened to him. The boss just said, “Can’t you just do it?” when he was complaining, and he realized, “Yes, I could.”

He recalls with disdain another former boss. If someone parked in the regional president’s spot, he had them towed.

“No one has their own spot here,” Peters said. “I will never have a parking spot. Other than our customers, no one has the best spots. I’m in service to our people. In too many banks, there’s this upside-down paradigm.”

“I take all our new hires out for lunch, and they are shocked that the president of the bank would do that. It’s an upside-down view to me that they think I am more important than them. That’s not how I look at. It’s just backwards.” They are the ones working directly with the clients, making the bank look good, he noted.

Peters lamented, “No one is ‘just a teller’ – I always hated that!”

As he looks to the future of his bank, all banks in Pennsylvania, and the industry as a whole, he is still aiming for the major leagues, and smiling through it.

Game on.