ITS ALL ABOUT COMMUNITY

“We’re proud to be a true, traditional community bank,” said Rick Vail, president and CEO of Mechanics Savings Bank, headquartered in Auburn, with branches in Lewiston, Windham and Brunswick.

“We are completely integrated into our communities,” Vail added, “and have been since 1875. All our managers and directors live in the community, we actively support dozens of charitable local ventures, and while we have no shareholders – we are governed by our depositors – we pay taxes here, we employ some 75 people, and last year alone our employees donated more than 5,500 hours to volunteer work in the community.”

Mechanics has also donated more than $1 million over the past 10 years to more than 80 organizations active in education, the arts, social welfare and community events.

“A significant part of our mission,” the bank president stated, “is to empower local people through local decision making, local problem solving, and support of local communities.

“In spite of our traditional emphasis,” said Vail, “we have also pretty much re-built the entire bank, both inside and out. In the past three years, we started and completed about 100 different projects, including bricks and mortar, systems and products; we have transitioned to the 21st century, for sure.”

The bank’s range of retail services – in person, electronically, by smart phone (and phones that aren’t quite so smart) – has become significantly more diversified. And although Mechanics has developed a robust business lending and services capacity, more than two-thirds of its assets are residential and they remain the leading bank mortgage lender in Androscoggin County, with the bank ranked third overall in market share.

At the same time, local decision making has made the bank an important resource for small business formation and expansion, a capacity that was significantly expanded when Chief Banking Officer Dick Roy and his team of veteran commercial loan officers joined the bank.

Among the most dramatic new initiatives, one designed to improve service to customers, ensure the bank remains both competitive and independent, and grounded in the community, is an innovative new alliance with Biddeford Savings Bank. The two banks are jointly forming a commonly owned holding company that will provide more efficient and cost-effective operational support, yet from a customer perspective will remain independent.

“The allaince enable us to share resources,” Vail explained, “without altering our identity or commitments to our respective service areas in any way.”

It is, Vail believes, the first time such a venture has been undertaken by two independent mutual banking institutions which did not already have a holding company of their own, and it is certainly the first time two Maine banks have formed a multi-bank mutual holding company.

“Just another example of the kind of outside-the-box thinking that enables us to provide state-of-the-art service to our customers,” Vail added.

But with all the mostly invisible enhancements to products and systems, the most visible changes to the bank may be the most physical. It’s hard to miss the construction project underway across the parking lot from the bank’s Minot Avenue headquarters.

The new 4,140-square-foot branch, expected to open as soon as this August, will replace the branch that operates from the headquarters building. The new branch will offer just the right blend of technology and personal connection, with some creature comforts for an enhanced customer experience.

The existing branch will be rehabilitated into expanded, modernized offices, with more meeting space to host small seminars and functions. The completed complex will form a campus-like venue that Vail expects will be part of a revitalized gateway to Auburn.

“We believe we are making an investment that will meet customer and community needs for the next century,” Vail said, “and with the other changes coming to the Washington Avenue-Minot Avenue corridor, we expect that our new campus will be a catalyst for an improved image of the twin cities.”

Vail suggests that there is an additional dimension to the bank’s community focus.

“By being so thoroughly integrated into our home communities and committed to building meaningful long-term relationships, we are well positioned to maintain extensive and complete relationships with our customers,” Vail explained. “Having a relationship with a bank that knows you and is personally connected to the places you live and work, may not be something most people are even aware of, in good times. But when times are tough, when customers need more than a routine transaction, it is really helpful to know the people you’re doing business with.”


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