Member Spotlight: Community Bank
Innovative HQ. Innovative Services.
Can a 70-year old financial institution be innovative? One visit to Community Bank’s corporate office in the Hastings Ranch neighborhood of Pasadena and the answer is an emphatic, “you bet.” Open workstations, vibrant pops of color, glass-walled conference rooms, a sleek kitchen, and an employee ping pong table seem to take their cues from Google HQ rather than the banking industry. The office itself is a reflection of how Community Bank does business today.
Beyond the traditional financial services provided by Community Bank, Senior Vice President and Pasadena Business Center Manager Stefan Lehner sees the bank as an ally to the Innovate Pasadena network, including startups and the entrepreneurial minded, which embody the spirit of Community Bank. “Community Bank was founded by entrepreneurs, so the mission of Innovate Pasadena resonates with us,” Lehner said.
The Bank envisions a panel or networking event where Bank employees can offer their expertise to entrepreneurs, startups, and middle-market companies. “When bringing a new product or service to market, there’s always a tipping a point. Suddenly technophiles, industrial designers, and bio-engineers have to shift from working in a garage or local coffee shop to establishing a real business model,” Lehner observes. “It’s not the glamorous side of innovation, but Community Bank is primed to offer insights on how to set up business operations, human resources, and, yes, solid financial plans.”
It’s no accident that Community Bank’s modern amenities are juxtaposed with historic mementos of the bank’s founders — brothers Charles and Howard Cook — including a replica of Charlie’s office circa 1967, replete with wood paneling, a vintage adding machine and photos of the Cooks with a pre-gubernatorial Ronald Reagan. In a separate display, there’s even a 1939 letter addressed to Charlie from the king of innovation himself, Henry Ford, congratulating him on having sold 100 vehicles in a single month. These exhibits root Community Bank in the past but also propel the company forward, constant reminders of the founders’ ambition and innovation.
Innovation and entrepreneurship often go hand-in-hand. It’s certainly true of Community Bank’s founders who started an array of businesses only tangentially related to one another, if at all. In the 1920s, the Cook brothers set-up one of the first Ford dealerships in California, went on to sell and manufacture concrete mixers, and then, when construction funding dried up during the Great Depression, entered the realm of personal finance. Shortly after World War II, the brothers established Community Bank (then Huntington Park Bank) with backing from the FDIC, becoming the first California state bank established since the stock market crash of 1929.
In this day and age, even the idea of a “community” bank is innovative. Larger banks — you know which ones — have consolidated most of their services in the Midwest and the South. When you’re applying for a car loan or opening a line of credit, you’re better off if the person standing in front of you makes those decisions. “We have a better understanding of local needs — both the challenges and opportunities faced by our customers, which in turn makes us better able to provide true customer service,” said Laura McKinney, Vice President and Director of Marketing.
At the same time, Community Bank has the financial assets and technology to support a wide range of needs. With 16 branches located across Greater Los Angeles, Community Bank offers a suite of business, personal and concierge banking services to help its clients grow and succeed.
Supporting the community is central to the bank’s core identity. Community Bank was recently in the news after making an equity investment of $700,000 in Clearinghouse Community Development Financial Institution, which finances community development projects in Southern California’s low-income neighborhoods. Additional charitable work includes a partnership with the Vet Hunters Project to donate 300 meals to homeless veterans, and support of Five Acres, a Pasadena-based organization dedicated to the safety, wellbeing, and permanency for children and their families.
“The bank’s investment in our community is just as important as a tech startup investing in a sound financial plan,” McKinney suggests.
Originally published at www.innovatepasadena.org on May 30, 2017.