Stephen Gobel, President and CEO of the First National Bank of Groton, stands next to a portrait of the bank’s first president, Charles Perrigo.

Stephen Gobel, President and CEO of the First National Bank of Groton, stands next to a portrait of the bank’s first president, Charles Perrigo.

For the second straight year, the First National Bank of Groton earned the “Best of Bauer” in March by BauerFinancial, Inc., the Nation’s Premier Banking Rating Firm.

Not only has the bank earned a five-star rating for financial strength and stability, it has also maintained that rating for 122 consecutive quarters, thus earning the “Best of Bauer” honor, according to a press release. Vice President Alan Christopher attributed the bank’s success to various factors.

“We have a community that’s been very supportive, for one thing,” Christopher said. “Our municipalities and our customers have been very loyal. We have a good variety of products. I think we have products that suit everyone. We may not be the first bank in the area to offer something, but we try; we do a lot more electronic transactions. … We’re very supportive of the community. We try to help out where we can.”

According to its 2019 annual report, the bank has seen its numbers take a slight dip from its 2018 “record earnings.” The bank’s net income in 2019 was $2,561,155, which was 6.7 percent down from its 2018 income of $2,743,816. Its return on average assets lowered from 1.52 percent to 1.40 percent. The bank’s return on average equity went from 11.48 percent in 2018 to 9.92 percent in 2019. Its earnings per share ($42.69) came close to its 2018 average of $45.73. Its capital assets ratio did increase from 13.38 percent in 2018 to 14.87% in 2019.

Even though the statistics have declined a bit, the bank is still performing well enough to earn its high rating.

“As the president of BauerFinancial, I am often asked what it takes to be a 5-star bank,” Karen Dorway, president of BauerFinancial, said in the release. “Like so many other things in life, success in banking boils down to knowledge. Knowledge of banking, of course, but knowledge of its customers and the communities the bank serves are equally important. This intimacy enables the bank to steer clear of danger and work with customers for a common goal. It’s what gets so many community banks, like the First National Bank of Groton, through the tough times unscathed.”

The bank, as well as the community as a whole, are certainly facing tough times with the COVID-19 outbreak bringing health and economic-related stresses. Despite this, the bank is doing its best to alleviate any economic struggles in the community.

“Between waiving fees and not charging certain things, we are very aware that people are out of work, a lot of people are out of work,” Christopher said. “We are adapting to that. We’re trying to help out where we can. We are now operating with a more limited staff. We only have the drive-up open to defend against the virus. We’re operating with half of the employees at each office. The other employees will be on call if needed.”

Currently, the bank is waiving all ATM usage fees at its own ATMs as well as at foreign ATMs. The bank is also offering delayed loan payments (through extensions or deferral), waiving CD early withdrawal penalties on withdrawals of up to $10,000 and increasing mobile deposit limits. It is also working with the Small Business Association’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Loan program.

“What it does is it's for businesses who have been affected by the virus, and as long as they are going to keep their employees employed or pay them, they can qualify for a loan that could be forgiven if they use the funds in a certain way,” Christopher said. “It has to be towards payroll; has to be towards rent, utilities, those types of things. But we are participating in that, and we have quite a few applications that we’re processing right now actually. We’ve been helping people – businesses – get through the application forms. … We’re trying to help people as much as we can. We’re certainly there for them if there’s any questions.”

Sports Editor

Andrew is the sports editor as well as a news reporter for the Ithaca Times/Finger Lakes Community Newspapers. He also enjoys writing personal essays in his spare time.

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