In particular, I support the retail business and branding efforts for the entire banking network including the 19 branches. I’m the brand champion. Media and advertising projects begin and end with me.
The Bank is a family enterprise, so I am also charged with using publicity and scheduling community events associated with the family’s philanthropic efforts.The Bank of Stockton is the oldest bank in California still operating under its original charter. The bank’s story goes back to August 12, 1867 when 29 well-respected community leaders and businessmen signed the articles of incorporation at the facilities of the Union Copper Mining Company. The bank did $100,000 worth of business in its first 24 days of operation.
This occurred only two years following the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox Courthouse that ended the Civil War. The City of Stockton had become the San Joaquin County seat 18 years earlier and members of the community had decided they needed a bank to support local business. Stockton’s population had boomed to 4,429, only 357 of which were women — fewer than the number of Native American residents. The Federal Government would not set up the FDIC as a banking regulatory agency for more than 60 years, so the organizers had a free hand in setting up any kind of banking institution they wished with the two stipulations of “…always within the Laws of California, and always with the safety of depositors.” They obviously decided to set up a good bank — one that would endure. They were remarkably successful! One evidence of the stability of the bank is that it has had only eight presidents since its founding.
Sixty-four years ago, the first Eberhardt became president of the bank and the third generation of Eberhardt leaders is now coming online. The current Director of Community Banking, Mary-Elizabeth Eberhardt, is the third generation descendent of the original scion of the family, R. L. “Ebe” Eberhardt. Her father was the former bank president and her grandfather before that. Her uncle is the chairman of the board and her cousin is the president.
Mary-Elizabeth attributes the bank’s stability and continued prosperity to the fact that it has never deviated from the basic course that was laid down when the bank was founded, which was to place the safety of the depositors before the profit of the corporation.
This strong and conservative principle made it possible for the Bank of Stockton to pass unscathed through 15 economic downturns including 11 recessions, five panics, and the Great Depression.
The bank is now carrying on deposit relationships with clients who are the 4th and even 5th generation descendants of those who began banking with us. Many of them enjoy walking into the bank and conducting business with people who know their name and, in many cases the names of their children and even family pets. They like talking to us.
In spite of the bank’s rich legacy, we keep abreast of the technology. For example, in 1993, we became the first bank on the West Coast to introduce the revolutionary “Image Check System” that enjoyed a 99% acceptance rate by our customers. Banks around the state subsequently consulted with us in their efforts to replicate the leading edge tool that we had pioneered. We were the first community bank in our markets to offer electronic banking and to launch an Internet website. We continue to offer our customers access to the latest digital products and services including mobile apps and an extensive suite of online cash management tools. Electronic services are an option that customers can choose and not something that the bank imposes. We regard technology as “service enhancement,” not service replacement is that we form partnerships with people and organizations in each of the communities we serve. The familiar “What Goes ’Round” principle is powerful because, as the bank supports the communities, the communities support the bank. We become an ally and a proponent of small businesses, helping them grow while promoting the economic health of their surrounding communities.
The bank is wise enough to understand the power of downward loyalty with the result that employee turnover is so minor as to be nearly non-existent. For example, Mary-Elizabeth Eberhardt was working here when I joined the bank, more than 30 years ago. Some of our current employees had been working here for more than a decade before either of us joined. Five of my original fellow-employees had been working at the bank when I was born. During the most recent economic downturn, bank management made the decision not to give a pink slip to any employee. We decided not to downsize or right size, but to keep everyone on the payroll. During the subsequent six years of national economic crises, the Bank of Stockton did not lose a single employee except through normal attrition.
Our commitment to the communities we serve extends beyond offering premier banking services. We become involved in philanthropic endeavors. Our branches provide support for a wide variety of nonprofits. Our contributions are more than financial because the bank maintains a culture of community involvement that encourages employees to become personally involved in community outreach programs and service organizations. The bank’s upper management supports and encourages employee involvement. Members of the Eberhardt family lead by example by participating in numerous nonprofit organizations and service projects.
Another evidence of the bank’s commitment to communities is the effort we make to preserve connections with Northern California history. We maintain an archive of photographs dating back to the 1800s. We use some of the images in a beautiful calendar that we distribute each January, as well as using some of the images on bank stationary and note-cards.
We have scanned the images into high-resolution digital archives that will never fade, wrinkle, or be lost in some dreadful fire. The archive began in 1990 when Bob Eberhardt acquired more than 21,000 photographs, which had been collected by a local photographer, Leonard Covello, which included images dating back to 1850. The archive has since grown to more than 30,000 and continues to increase as people keep donating pictures from their own family archives.
Mary-Elizabeth graduated from University of the Pacific. Members of the Eberhardt family involved in the bank are required to receive their initial training in an outside institution. Mary-Elizabeth’s cousin, Douglass, the current president, trained with The Bank of New York.
Mary-Elizabeth got her own training at Security Pacific Bank. That was more than three decades ago. Mary-Elizabeth’s father, Robert, was president when I joined the company. He had held the position since 1969 when, at 42, he was one of California’s youngest bank presidents. Bob tragically passed away in 1994 while on a family vacation in Budapest. He was only 68 years old and left behind a legacy of leadership, commitment, and determination that continues to inspire us all to do our best for our customers. Bob’s brother, Douglass, continues the tradition of family leadership.
Bob’s death was a personal tragedy for me. I met him the first time I entered the bank as an applicant for an internship. My Business degree program at the University of the Pacific required me to take an internship in the Marketing Department of some business. Bob was on the Board of Regents at the school, but as a lowly student, heavily involved in my studies, I had no idea of who he was. Mary Elizabeth’s sister, Leslie, got me scheduled for an interview.
Gordon Medlin was the hiring manager, but Leslie took me to another office where I met a man who was imposing in size but with an open and friendly manner. Only after Leslie turned me over to him and said, “Thanks Dad!” did I realize that the president himself was interviewing me for my lowly internship position.
The event characterizes the bank’s egalitarian attitude. Upper management has always exemplified the personal touch as one of the bank’s core values. The executive offices are up a single flight of stairs at our main location. The doors are always open; anybody can speak with the president or one of the owners, usually without the need for making an appointment.
The bank is a wonderful place to do business and a good place to work. We all love our jobs! I’m sure our enthusiasm and genuine affection for the people who do business with us is one of the reasons why they are so happy to keep coming back.