Howard Bank Hosts International Visitors
Howard Bank President and CEO Mary Ann Scully (center) and bank Vice President and
Howard Bank President and CEO Mary Ann Scully put to rest a misconception that American banks only care about profit when a delegation of Japanese bankers visited the firm’s offices recently.
Officers of the bank, which has its corporate headquarters off Snowden River Parkway in Ellicott City, hosted the visitors on their first stop of a tour of four banking institutions.
The 16-member group chose Howard Bank because of a strong interest in the philosophy behind community banking. Also, Scully served as senior vice president of First National Bank of Maryland’s International Banking Group from 1983 to 1996.
Scully was joined in the meeting by Paul G. Brown, executive vice president, and Christa L. Spalding, vice president and relationship manager. Communication was facilitated through the services of a translator accompanying the delegation.
“We are a young bank that is building relationships in the county and across the region,” Scully told the group by way of introduction. The bank, which is the only locally owned and operated bank in Howard County, opened in August 2004.
“We are very fortunate that our county is growing quickly and is wealthy – Howard County has the third highest household income in the United States. That has allowed us to base our financial business model on growth.”
The bankers listened in silence, all taking copious notes as Scully described the firm’s break-the-mold approach to banking.
“We are able to offer advice that many would not expect to receive from a small community bank,” she continued. “We combine a sophisticated product with up-to-date technology, face-to-face advice and transactions over the Internet – it’s the best of both worlds.”
Howard Bank’s motto – “Hands on” – supports this philosophy.
Scully emphasized throughout the two-hour session how important involvement in the community is to the bank’s success and its directors’ sense of well-being.
“As a local bank we feel an obligation not to just benefit from this county’s good fortune, but to ensure it remains in a strong position,” she explained. “Our officers are required to take leadership positions on at least two boards or committees in not-for-profit organizations throughout the region.”
The meeting was then opened to questions, and the first one concerned what the visitors briefly misconstrued as the ease with which branch offices are built here.
“If the permit process is difficult in Japan, then we have something in common as we’ve been building a branch for over two years,” Scully empathized. “As our country becomes more densely populated, land is becoming more valuable. We are certainly not as densely populated as Japan, but we are becoming more populated in certain areas.”
One banker wanted to know if American banks are focused more on investments than on savings.
“You know, even better than we do, that the United States is a young country and we sometimes tend to try to do everything,” Scully replied. “The problem in our country is that sometimes people don’t save enough and then they borrow more than they can afford to pay back.”
“Some financial institutions have allowed people to borrow more than they should, but we refuse to do that,” she continued. “We advise our clients on what is right for them and don’t believe there are any off-the-shelf solutions.”
The comment that seemed to engage every member of the Japanese delegation was the observation by one of their members that they thought American banks were focused solely on profit.
“We are very focused on profit,” Scully replied with a broad smile. “But we need to take a long-term view. We want to receive a long-term gain rather than a short-term profit, but none of us can do better over a long period of time than our marketplace. Everything we do is done to ensure long-term profitability.”
Following a lot of vigorous nodding around the conference table, the head of the delegation replied through the interpreter that, “It is so easy to focus on short-term goals, but following your speech we intend to focus on the long term. We understand now that being helpful to the community will also help us to get more customers.”
“By offering our employees the opportunity to influence the future of our company and our county, we also have the ability to impact our customers directly – and that’s very attractive to everyone involved.”