Unity Bank’s Focus on Local Business Growth Sets Example for Banking Industry
While the financial industry as a whole has received much criticism of late, one area bank is receiving high praise for its role in helping small businesses lead the economic recovery in five New Jersey Counties and one in Pennsylvania.
Unity Bank, a mid-sized community institution with 16 branches, is providing a combination of critical business services and much needed loans to help area businesses thrive, while competitors struggle to survive.
According to Michael Downes, Chief Lending Officer of Unity Bank, the bank decided to take a leadership role in its service area at the first signs of an economic slowdown. “Even as other lending institutions began holding back on business loans, we continued to make loans to worthy businesses with a strong sense of commitment to the community,” says Downes, “and we provided a one-stop suite of services that is giving our business customers a distinct competitive edge to this day.”
Downes points to the bank’s wide array of products as the source for many of the innovative business services now offered by Unity. “At the beginning of the downturn we formed a team from within our ranks that continues to find creative solutions for the financial needs of our customers,” says Downes. “We offer overdraft protection in the way of lines of credit for small businesses and we provide for the seasonal and short-term working capital needs of other customers with lines of credit suitable for their businesses.”
Founded in 1991, Unity Bank has been designated a Preferred Lender by the Small Business Administration, based on its years of experience and track record as a lending institution. Michael Downes credits much of that track record to the bank’s hands-on approach to small business lending.
If the breadth of business services and the volume of business loans provided by a bank is any measure of its willingness to support the local community, then Unity Bank certainly ranks among the area’s most supportive lending institutions. Recent loan recipients run the gamut from day care centers, to body shops, to professional service companies.
Lending practices aside, the bank attributes most of its success to its unremitting community involvement and helping-hand approach to neighborhood banking. “We’re on a mission to reach out to every business customer in our area, “says Downes. “We’re out to over-service them away from all those banking institutions that don’t have a vested interest in our community, and give our entire region a competitive advantage in the process.”
President of Unity Bank, James Hughes, also emphasized the fact that the bank’s formula for small business success has less to do with capital availability than it does with its overall philosophy and strong sense of good citizenship. “We’re all about establishing and growing banking relationships that will strengthen our area’s economy,” says Hughes. “Most important, we never forget that human beings run the companies we service, and we treat them as such.”
Ask the bank’s business customers about their experience with Unity and you get the feeling that Unity Bank has truly developed a unique bond with its customer base. According to one Unity Bank business customer, “Ours is more than a business relationship, it’s also a business friendship.”
Unity Bank began as First Community Bank in 1991 with two branches and thirty employees. Today, it has over one hundred and eighty employees in Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset, Union and Warren counties in New Jersey, and Northampton County in Pennsylvania.
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