Bank Profile | By Ian B. Murphy
When a local community bank has got a good thing going, it’s only neighborly to share it with the surrounding communities – especially those that don’t have a bank of their own.
Wallkill Federal Savings and Loan has added three new branches in the past five years in Hudson Valley near to its original branch in Wallkill, raising its assets to $193 million.
The bank spent nearly 100 years focused purely on its namesake town in Orange County. The Wallkill Valley Federal Savings and Loan Association was founded in 1913 with the stated goals of promoting “thrift and homeownership within the local community.”
That’s exactly what it did for 98 years, until 2011, when President and CEO Michael Horodyski assumed his current roles and brought with him an expanded vision of “community.”
At that time many large financial institutions were still reeling, not yet recovered from the Great Recession, and pulling back some of their operations. For Horodyski and Wallkill Valley Federal Savings and Loan, it was an opportunity to bring its brand of community-first banking to smaller, underserved communities in nearby towns.
Wallkill Valley Federal in 2011 opened its second branch in Milton (population 1,403, according to the 2010 census), and the following year the bank acquired the Highland Falls Federal Savings and Loan in Highland (population 5,647).
“It’s important for us to identify areas where our style of banking, the community-first approach, is going to be effective,” Horodyski said.
Partners in Local Revitalization
That same guiding principle led the bank to open a branch in the village of Maybrook (population 2,958) in December 2014, after Chase Bank closed the only bank in town earlier in the year. Together the bank and the town applied to the New York State Department of Financial Services for a Banking Development District grant when the branch opened. The grant was approved in August 2016, and now Wallkill Valley Federal is in a position to help the small community revitalize itself.
“We feel there are certain industries that are important to a village center – a pharmacy, a bank, a coffee shop – things you need to be a vibrant center,” Horodyski said. “Maybrook is an old railroad community where the mayor and the town are working hard to redefine what it is.”
Dennis Lahey, Maybrook’s mayor, said the town used to have a good deal of trade and commerce; it housed a crucial switching terminal for several rail lines that linked up to cross the Poughkeepsie Bridge. The bridge was closed in the mid-1970s, and eventually nearly all of the jobs at the railyard dried up. Since then, the town has struggled, but Lahey said Wallkill Valley Federal’s investment in the town – with the state’s help – is a key piece to recovery.
“We’ve been trying to do revitalization and we’ve been working on infrastructure for the last eight years,” Lahey said. “We’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a great thing that the bank was able to come here, because there are a lot of investors interested in coming into the village of Maybrook and building other businesses. This is a really positive step.”
The Banking Development District (BDD) grant provides Wallkill Valley Federal with capital to make sure the new branch can grow in a healthy way while keeping costs low for the bank and its customers and reducing overall risk. The state comptroller’s office gives $10 million in subsidized public deposits.
According to the Department of Financial Services, the stated goals of the BDD are to:
Reduce the number of unbanked and underbanked New Yorkers.
Enhance access to credit for consumers and small businesses.
Reduce reliance on alternative providers of financial services.
Promote an asset-building consciousness.
As part of the grant application, Wallkill Valley Federal identified three underserved populations in Maybrook and have created special programs for each. The town has a large Hispanic population, nearly 13 percent, and so the bank has created special outreach programs for that community to give them new banking opportunities.
Maybrook is also building a large senior living community in town; the bank will create special opportunities for seniors to serve them however and wherever they can. The bank is also creating a financial literacy curriculum for the local high school.
Lahey said the partnership has so far been great for both parties.
“The special thing about Wallkill Valley Federal Savings and Loan is it’s a community bank,” he said. “We’ve referred local businesses to them because they like the hands on, one-on-one approach with them. They’re not a big corporate bank; they’re a bank that lives by working in the community.”
Horodyski said that’s exactly how they like it.
“This is our bread and butter,” he said. “We’re a mutual, we have no stockholders, our stockholders are the communities within which we operate.”■