It’s been a busy few years for Michael Gilfeather at the helm of Orange Bank & Trust — a company that first opened its doors in 1892 in Middletown, NY, under the name Orange County Trust & Safe Deposit Company. Gilfeather has overseen the bank’s recent expansion into Westchester (with locations in White Plains, Mount Pleasant, and Mamaroneck since September 2015) and Rockland, as well as its rebranding, for only the second time in its 124-year history. As a self-described “Westchester guy” currently in his “dream job,” Gilfeather is committed to bringing his bank’s customer-focused, business-banking model to the Westchester marketplace.
Why is this the right time to expand into the Westchester market?
The idea of moving south to bigger markets in Westchester and Rockland was [always] the thinking. Also, the ongoing consolidation of banks in the marketplace [was another driver]. There’s a lot of fallout when big retail banks continue to get bigger. It’s appealing [for customers] to bank instead with a smaller institution.
What kind of results has the bank seen here so far?
It’s no easy thing to up and change [banks], yet I’ve been pleased by our immediate acceptance by customers.
Are there any specific challenges to the business-banking environment here?
Our challenge is being new to the market. How do we crack through? The big retail banks are so dominating to the marketplace mindset. So, we get our business one [customer] at a time. Westchester is very big, but we have an appeal due to our focus on business banking and the customer. Also, we hire people with exceptional skillsets who truly understand our services.
What motivated you to change the bank’s name for only the second time in its history?
The idea had been bubbling about for a while. We’re not the first bank to change its name by removing a provincial tie to one area. [We knew that] Westchester was a much different demographic. We did focus groups and had lot of names to consider. In the end, having the word “Bank” in the title was very important. Also, preserving “Trust” was important; our trust department is integral to our success. Rebranding any company supports growth and new energy. The actual color orange, too, has been shown to have a positive impact on people.
How is the bank able to remain community-based and thrive amidst competition from big banks?
A big part of our appeal is that we attract customers who feel their bank should know who they are. Our customers tend to be larger, and we want them to feel they have access to the top. Our banking relationship is not just at the customer-service level but also the senior level. Technology has also helped the smaller banks keep up: We have the mobile capabilities and other bells and whistles that bigger banks have.
What are your goals for the bank in 2017?
To continue expanding while remaining “people first.” The other important thing is our trust business. Trusts go hand in hand with business owners, as they have to think about how to transfer those businesses. Lastly, we’ll continue to focus on being a premier, high-touch business bank. Hopefully that’s what people will know us for.