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Lunch with Mimi: As president of the new Centre1st Bank, Jack Infield is focused on making a difference for local customers with a ‘community bank on steroids’

on July 24, 2019 11:19 AM

Lunch with Mimi

 

Banking on Community

 

As president of the new Centre1st Bank, Jack Infield is focused on making a difference for local customers with a ‘community bank on steroids’

 

Jack Infield, president of Centre1st Bank, a division of Old Dominion National Bank, is a seasoned banker. He has more than three decades of community banking experience in leadership and regional president positions with PNC, Waypoint Bank, Graystone Bank, and Ameriserv Bank in central Pennsylvania.

Centre1st Bank opened its first full-service branch in State College in early 2019, offering a full range of commercial and consumer financial services to communities throughout central Pennsylvania. More than 150 individual shareholders from the State College area invested about $25 million in Centre1st's parent company, Old Dominion National Bank, where Infield also serves as senior executive vice president.

He joined the Tysons Corner, Virginia, company in 2016 to partner with President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Merrill to reposition and build a regional community bank with employees, shareholders, customers and branches in central Pennsylvania, Metropolitan Washington, D.C., and Virginia. Since then, the bank has raised a total of nearly $69 million in new capital, with more than a third invested by shareholders from the State College area.

A lifelong State College resident, Infield graduated from State College Area High School in 1967. He earned his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Lock Haven University in 1971 and a master’s degree in athletic administration and business in 1973. Infield also completed an advanced designation in Real Estate Appraising in 1982 from the Appraisal Institute.

Throughout his banking career, he has been active in the community. He is board president of the Centre County Child Advocacy Center and the Centre County Industrial Development Authority. In addition, he is on the boards of the Centre County Community Foundation, the Penn State Renaissance Fund, and the J B Griffin Foundation. His recent past includes active positions with the YMCA and United Way boards as well.

 Town&Gown founder Mimi Barash Coppersmith sat down with Infield at The Nittany Lion Inn to discuss the opening of Centre1st Bank in State College, what sets it apart from the other banks, and the future of community banking.

 

Mimi: Well, you've had quite a banking life. How many years?

Jack: Forty years.

Mimi: And how many different banks?

Jack: It’s funny; no, I'm not going to name them all. Because as you know, one of the things I get asked when I talk to folks is, “How many banks have you worked for?” Actually, the first 24 years of my career were essentially with one bank, starting with State College Federal, which changed to United Federal and then was purchased by PNC Bank in 1994. After that, I started a division of Waypoint, which was purchased, then started Graystone Bank and it too was purchased. That’s why this opportunity was something I couldn’t turn down – the opportunity to build an independent, locally owned bank.

Mimi: Right. And now you're back in State College for a good bit of the time as president of Centre1st Bank, a division of Old Dominion National Bank. What made you do it?

Jack: I was sitting at a football game and got a text message from a very close friend of mine who was the CFO of Graystone. He wanted to know if I wanted to join him because he had a chance to get a bank charter in Virginia that we could recapitalize. At that time, you could not get a bank charter due to the federal restrictions on new charters. I looked at it, showed it to my wife, Karen, and said, “You know what, I’ve got to do this, because this time we own the bank and nobody's going to sell it out from underneath us.” So, here I am.

Mimi: You own the bank, along with how many people involved in Pennsylvania?

Jack: We own the bank, along with over 360 individual shareholders.

Mimi: And how many from Centre County?

Jack: There are about 150 individuals from Centre County, right here in this town.

Mimi: What's the minimum investment?

Jack: The minimum original investment was $50,000. Since it was a private offering, they had to prove credit worthiness. We did make some exceptions, because there were some people that wanted to get in because they had missed out on the Nittany Bank and Graystone Bank opportunities. They wanted to be a part of a true local community bank this time around.

Mimi: Was there any maximum?

Jack: Yes, the offering limited the ownership to less than 9 percent of the company.

Mimi: And does anyone own that much?

Jack: We have a Pennsylvania gentleman who is our largest shareholder.

Mimi: So, you're calling yourself a local bank.

Jack: Mark and I are committed to a regional approach and thus, as we create regions they will be run separately so as they grow it allows us flexibility. Centre1st is an independent region owned by the Pennsylvania shareholders. One-hundred-fifty people currently have a stake in our success and consequently, their own investment and that ownership helps ensure success.

Mimi: So, they bought different stock from the main stock of Old Dominion Bank?

Jack: The stock was sold under the charter that we obtained and thus, stockholders all own shares of Old Dominion National Bank. We currently have three divisions, Centre1st here in State College and divisions in Tysons Corner and Charlottesville, Virginia. There is an overall corporate board that controls the charter and, on that board, there will be three to four Pennsylvania board members. In addition, we have created a local advisory board, which currently has 22 local business leaders, all shareholders interested in helping to grow the Pennsylvania region. Over 40 percent of the stock of the company is owned here in Centre County.

Mimi: How much time are you spending here?

Jack: Since we are now officially open, I am spending the bulk of my time here in Pennsylvania. I am usually in Virginia once a month for meetings and board activities, but my primary focus is on Pennsylvania as we build out the team and market.

Mimi: What are your goals for the local bank? How will you set yourself apart from the 17 different banks that have offices here?

Jack: Our focus is being a true community bank. By definition, that is a bank owned by the community that takes care of its customers and gives back to the community it serves. Using common sense and working with your customer base and, when needed, thinking out of the box will make our experiences different.

Mimi: What's your goal in the first year?

Jack: Our opening has already produced unbelievable results in loan and deposit growth. We hope to be at $150 million in loans and more than $50 million in deposits at the new branch in the first year of operations.

Mimi: That's pretty big for a newbie. So, your real growth would be commercial banking?

Jack: It will be commercial and consumer. A lot of our shareholders are simply people eager to bank with and support a true local bank. We also have an advisory group of 22 of the business people in town.

Mimi: How are they divided between men and women?

Jack: The advisory board currently has 19 men and three women, all very successful business members of this community.

Mimi: And any people of color?

Jack: We are continuing to expand this board and look forward to increasing its diversity.

Mimi: I think it's important for all of us to buy into that challenge.

Jack: I agree, no question.

Mimi: Are you going to connect yourself to some project or some organization that you'll have special feelings for to help the community?

Jack: You know me pretty well and you know that giving back to this town I love and care for is important to me. While we’re a new and growing bank here, we’re already giving back. For example, we provide free office space to the Tides organization so that they have a place that they can call home.

Mimi: That’s a wonderful idea.

Jack: There are many ways we can give back and banks as a matter of course try to do that. The difference for us is our connection to this community. I personally am very committed to and involved in this community. I’m the president of the Child Advocacy Centre and am on the Centre Foundation board. I helped raise the money necessary to build the pool at the local YMCA with Tom Songer and, as you know, we raise important funds every year through our Renaissance Dinner to support talented Penn State students. As long as I am involved, this is a primary focus.

Mimi: If you look at the investors from out of town into all this housing, both in the borough and in the contiguous townships, those are out-of-town operations that have little feeling for the community.

Jack: During my time in banking, I have always been fearful once the real estate investment trust market noticed State College. Unfortunately, that has happened. Real estate investment trusts can come into town, pay more for land or projects than they are worth, and build high-rise projects using investor equity. The sad part of it is, it's going to change the complexion of our town. Our downtown is going to be high-rises for students, and bars.

Some of our beloved local business owners, like Brian Cohen at Harper’s and Terry Loesch at Rapid Transit, are going to be challenged as a result with lack of local traffic in our downtown. We can’t lose the downtown appeal that State College has been fortunate to maintain. Plus, you are going to see vacancy factors across the market that we have not witnessed before.

Mimi: Well, that's not sustainable. What's the solution?

Jack: I don't know what the solution is. I mean, they've opened up the spigot to allow the higher buildings to be built and so that's what's going on. These people can now buy these and because they can go up high enough, the economic return is there.

Mimi: Well, that's in the borough. It shouldn't be happening in the townships, but the borough is landlocked, so at least there's a financial explanation for that. What will the picture look like when we have a significant oversupply of student housing, and we’re on the brink of that happening?

Jack: We're definitely on the brink of that; it's going to be interesting to see. We had it a couple times before, not to the same degree. What happens is that some of these outlying projects that are not as well kept start to lower rents. Some of the units that maybe had more density have to go to a lesser density. Some of the new construction outside of the town, if they come in and think they're going to run at 100 percent, they may run at 100 percent for one or two years, and then they'll start to experience some vacancies.

Mimi: You nursed me through a development project. I never knew what a workout was with the bank, and I thank god I’ve only had one. You and I haven't always agreed, but I’ll always have a warm heart for you because you didn't push me to the wall. So, the thing that scares me is if we don't have more local banks and we have these big giants that go by big-city rules, that we're losing the touch of local banking.

Jack: Well, you just gave me the sales pitch, because that's exactly what a local community bank tries to do – work with people to make things better.

Mimi: And I wish you well on that. I think Kish Bank came into the community and did that very effectively.

Jack: I am hoping there are a younger group of bankers that seize the opportunity and know the importance of truly caring about customers and making a difference. I certainly respect the job that Bill Hayes has done with Kish but we both know there is plenty of room in this vibrant community for both of us to do well.

Mimi: I’m not implying that the other people don't have the same goals. It’s just the place is so diversified with banks. What are the big issues?

Jack: The issue of the rapid consolidation in the banking environment, with this bank buying that bank, creates a vacuum or a void of what we consider community banks; there's a need now for community banks. What some of them are finding is there still is a need for bricks and mortar.

Mimi: What are the issues that motivate you?

Jack: Making a difference for the relationships and the customers. The other thing is, we will build an amazing team, because we know the people that can do the job because they've done it for us before. They’re anxious to come on board because there are opportunities here and we're going to build the bank for the long-term. It is our wish to build this bank and make a difference. The main management team with this bank, besides me, are in their 40s. This is a community bank on steroids.

Mimi: Personalized customer service is something you've emphasized a lot. How do you do that, as compared to the other banks?

Jack: You do the extra touch. My cell phone number is on my business card. You can call me. I’m president of this bank and you can call me 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I will answer the phone. You can call, come in, and see me anytime you want to. You're not going to go see the president of some of the other banks in this town.

Mimi: You’ve had a long, successful, sometimes bumpy career in banking. Why now instead of retiring?

Jack: Excellent question. Really, it's just because it's something that I enjoy doing and I think it helps to keep me young. If I can make a difference for somebody every day, it makes me go home feeling that I’ve done something for the betterment of that person in our community.

Mimi: I wish you well with that, because that's a good feeling. You've probably had some significant role models along the way. Who stands out?

Jack: Chuck Pearson. He's probably one of the best bankers that's ever been around. In fact, he was on our board and just recently retired, but he joined our board because he liked what we were doing. He was a tough boss, but he is an amazing man. Pearson came into my career at a valuable time when I was with United Federal and when PNC bought us, and I stayed with PNC for 11 years. My PNC time and Pearson were the most formidable time of my career in terms of becoming a banker.

Of course, my dad, Jim Infield, because my first father left and Jim came into my life; amazing guy, he was quite the influence for me. And then the relationship I have with Mark Merrill, our CEO; we have a very close personal relationship, in addition to the business relationship, and that means a lot to me as well.

Mimi: I wish you well on your new venture.

Jack: Thank you.

 

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