By Mike Lewis
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — In celebrating Jefferson Security Bank’s 150th birthday this year, bank officers said they want to salute the institution and the community it serves.
“It means a lot for us to be part of a small, community bank. We believe we an have an impact on people in the community,” said Cindy Kitner, the bank’s president and CEO. “There’s definitely a lot of history here. It’s something we’re very proud of. We want to stay current with things, but we also don’t want to lose track of where we started.”
Part of that history hangs on the walls in the bank’s conference room. Portraits of the bank’s first two presidents, David Billmyer and H.M. Lemen, look down on current bank leaders as they make decisions in that space.
As part of its 150th anniversary, the bank has launched 150 days of “random acts of kindness,” such as December’s Christmas donation of toys for local children in need.
Kitner said the bank will partner with community organizations and resident for other acts of kindness. Involving community residents, business and organizations in the celebration is part of the plan.
“They’re the whole reason we’re here celebrating this,” she said.
The bank has weathered the storms of the Great Depression and what’s become known as the more recent Great Recession.
“Like others, we definitely felt the economy turn” in the late 2000s, Kitner said. “We had our share of troubles to work through.”
In the aftermath of the recession, new regulations were put into place in an effort to prevent it from happening again. And all banks, including hers, have felt the impact of complying with those rules, she said.
But as the 150th years starts, Kitner and the other leaders are optimistic about the future. For example, the bank continues to invest in modern services, such as digital technology for customers.
“Just because we’re small, that doesn’t mean we can’t offer the technology and services of the larger banks,” Kitner said.
It started in a house
Originally chartered as Jefferson Savings Bank, the institution opened on May 19, 1869, and operated from the B.F. Harrison residence in Shepherdstown, according to a bank history. It’s the oldest bank in Jefferson County, W.Va., and, according to the bank, it has been recognized by the state as the oldest operating corporation in West Virginia.
In 1873, the growing institution moved across the street to the Billmyer building, and in 1906, it relocated again to a new bank facility at Princess and German streets.
In 1909, it changed its name to Jefferson Security Bank.
In 1975, a larger bank facility was built at Washington and Princess streets in Shepherdstown. And in 1987, an addition nearly doubled the size of that building, which still serves as the bank’s main office.
The bank also has opened branches in Charles Town, W.Va. (in 1986), Martinsburg, W.Va. (in 1997) and near Inwood, W.Va. (in 2000).
In 2006 the bank opened two new offices, one at the west end of Shepherdstown and another across the Potomac River in Sharpsburg, Md., marking the first office in the Old Line State.
The bank now employs about 75 people in its six locations.
The local focus extends beyond buildings.
“A lot of our employees are from this area. They grew up here,” said Karl J. “Jeff” Keller, executive vice president of lending. “We tend to hire relatively locally, because people tend to deal with us. Customers know us.”
Keller said those relationships extend to lending money, too. The bank serves many customers who, for whatever reason, don’t fit into the molds set by larger financial institutions. They also serve multiple generations of the same families and have come to know their business and personal banking needs.
He stressed that the bank’s board members are local, too.
“If we have to go ahead to the board (for a decision), it’s a hop, skip and a jump,” Keller said.
The bank also benefits from nearby Shepherd University. Through the years, many Shepherd students have worked at the bank.
“We look to develop people,” said Kitner. “I think we’ve helped a lot of students in a lot of ways.”
Then she nodded toward Jenna Kesecker, executive vice president and chief financial officer.
“When I came on board, Jenna was a teller.”
Kesecker also was a Shepherd University student and, as a class assignment, she was reading a book about how to become a bank CEO.
Kitner learned about that book and was intrigued. She encouraged Kesecker to pursue an accounting degree at Shepherd. Kesecker also did an internship in the bank’s accounting department.
Kitner said that by the time she became CEO, “it was almost a natural transition for Jenna to be appointed to CFO.”
Kitner and Kesecker are both CPAs.
In a way, Kitner said, success stories like that are behind everything the bank does, from working with employees to serving loans to helping people save and grow their wealth.
“Those are the stories that matter to us,” she said.
Acts of kindness
The bank’s Random Acts of Kindness campaign is generating some of those stories, too.
The bank’s first act was the donation of 150 toys to local organizations, including Community Networks Inc., Shenandoah Women’s Center and Toys for Tots. Each toy went to a local child in need during the holiday season.
As the campaign continues over the coming months, JSB will be sharing acts of kindness with the public on its Facebook page. The bank will also be asking others to share their random acts of kindness by using the hashtag #JSB150RAK on social media sites.
“This campaign is a way to show the people in our communities how grateful we are for their support, while also promoting kindness from others,” Sara Wasson, director of marketing and community relations, said in a news release.
A few fast facts about Jefferson Security Bank:
• JSB is a West Virginia state-chartered bank that was formed and opened for business on May 19, 1869, making it the oldest bank in Jefferson County, W.Va.
• JSB started with $1,750 in total assets and has now grown to more than $300 million.
• In 2015, Jefferson Security Bank was recognized as the oldest operating corporation in West Virginia.
• In 1986, the bank opened its second Jefferson County office in Charles Town, W.Va.
• Expansion into neighboring Berkeley County, W.Va., began with the opening of an office in Martinsburg (March 1997) and continued with the establishment of a second location in Inwood (August 2000).
• The bank opened its door in 2006 to two new offices, the Barron office at the west end of Shepherdstown and an office in Sharpsburg, Md., which was the bank’s first branch outside of West Virginia.
• Visit www.JSB.bank for more information.