Sara Watson has been a Branch Manager with First National Bank of Northern California, www.fnbnorcal.com, for the past ten years. She is a career banking professional and a devoted community banker. There has been plenty of negative press over the last five years about “bankers”, and their contribution to our nation’s financial woes. There has been little, if any, distinction made among investment bankers, mortgage bankers, multinational banks, shadow banks and community banks. Sara scoffs at the idea that community bankers need image rehabilitation. “Community banks had nothing to do with the many misdeeds that led up to our economic collapse. In fact, we have been one of the many driving forces in helping our communities regain stable economic footing”, says Watson. Why is working at a community bank so different? “Every day I look forward to getting up and coming to work. How many people do you know that can say that? I like to say coming to First National Bank of Northern California was like coming home. I worked for big banks for 25 years. When I started out in banking it was like working at First National Bank, they still cared about their customers and employees, I don’t feel that holds any truth now. The customers and the employees are just a number and measured as part of the profit margin.” So what does she do that is different? “When you come into one of my offices someone will always say hello to you and ask how you’re doing, not because they have to but because they truly want to know. To me that is what community banking is all about. No matter how large or small the account, we care.” Considering First National Bank is entering its 51st year, with eleven branches, stretching from San Francisco to Redwood City and from Pacifica to Pescadero on the coast, one might suggest that the bank has been keeping itself a secret. Watson responds, “You don’t see a lot of advertising out there about us, but our bank continues to grow. Why, because our customers are happy and they frequently refer friends and other businesses to us. Our bank employees are extraordinary ambassadors, they also bring in considerable business. It’s all about word of mouth.” What does Watson believe is the key differentiator about her bank? “With the fact that so many banks have disappeared, I feel lucky to work for a bank that works with its borrowers and ensures they are offered the right loan that fits their need and ability to repay the debt.” To steal a phrase from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "Elementary, my dear Watson!"
January 15, 2014