Community college. Community center. Academic community. Retirement community. Community picnic.
There’s an obvious common denominator in the above list. There was a time when a sense of community, a feeling of belonging in and to a certain location, was common. We knew the folks working and shopping in the local food market, as well as the waitress in the local café. We all lived in the same community.
Lamar National Bank announced in December 2019 the decision to serve the Northlake community. A permanent structure was built in 2021, and Northlake had its first community bank. Lamar now has five locations and one loan production office, with openings in Frisco and Anna coming soon.
“The current trend is for more and more community banks to sell or to merge. If there’s a merger, the new bank acquires existing customers,” Clay Baum, Chief Information Officer for Lamar, explained. “It’s not uncommon to see small towns begin to grow and expand services and facilities, but it’s difficult if they’re trying to do this without the help of a community bank. That was the case with the Celina and Northlake markets.
“Fulfilling the role of a community bank isn’t always easy. The major difference is community banks are relationship-based and centered around the community, while the larger banks might be focused around businesses that don’t impact the community.”
In the community bank, the loan officer often greets the customer by his first name, asks if his wife is over the flu, hands him a cuppa’ coffee, and sits down to discuss how much money he needs to borrow.
Now, don’t misjudge– Knowing your wife has the flu doesn’t mean getting the loan is any easier at the community bank than it is at the larger institution. Stepping through the process, however, is more personal and may shine a light on a few more alternative avenues.
“Community banks focus more on identifying the need for the loan rather than on closing,” Baum said. “We want to be sure the loan serves its purpose. We also pride ourselves on building trust with our borrowers.
“We participated in the Payment Protection Program, which helped our community through the tough pandemic times. It also helped us earn the trust of our customers, especially those whose needs weren’t addressed by larger institutions. It was all part of our effort to stand by the community.”
“Our customers frequently come to the bank in person at our Northlake location, but the younger ones do seem to prefer digital banking. Digital banking is important for all generations, which is why much of our effort is focused on improving the digital banking experience for everyone. We look at it as another way to make our bank more accessible to all generations.
“The only way we can have banking success is through successful customer relationships. Lamar National Bank loves the entrepreneurial spirit, and we do all we can to support it.”
Bottom line: Lamar wants customers to bank in a way that’s comfortable for them. Different levels of technology are offered. Choose the one that fits you the best or choose none. Never make a personal visit to the brick-and-mortar building or drop in every day. The choice of how you bank is up to you. Whatever that choice may be, everyone at Lamar is there to help and support.
A new source of pride for Lamar is its Hero Checking program, designed for veterans, first responders, and teachers. Corbett Howard, Market President for the Celina location, explains. “It’s a special debit card that identifies their line of service. It’s a way for us to reach out and be respectful of all of them while honoring their dedicated service.
“Included in the benefits are free checks on the first order, no ATM fees, no service charges, and custom artwork on the card. Everyone sees their contribution as soon as that card comes out of their wallets.”
Lamar National Bank will grow. That’s just the nature of everything. “But there won’t be one on every corner,” Baum said. “Our goal is to grow organically into the markets that need and want us. Our intention is to serve those markets responsibly, whether physically or digitally. The first question we’ll always ask ourselves before any decision is, ‘Is it good for the community and for our customers?’”
That single question is one of the basic tenets of a healthy sense of community.