By Kay Metcalfe
For any bank, opening four new branches in a year is significant, but for a small community bank, it is a noteworthy achievement.
The corporate office of Long Island-based Community National Bank (CNB) opened its doors in Great Neck in 2005. One year later, the independent commercial bank received approval from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to open branches in Garden City and Woodbury.
The rapidly growing network of branches expanded in late December 2007 to Oceanside and is set to continue this year with new locations slated to open in Huntington and New Hyde Park in March, and Rockville Center later in the year.
“With four branches opening within a year time-span, we’re pretty busy around here,” said Stuart H. Lubow, chairman and chief executive officer.
CNB’s continuing success can be credited to the personalized approach taken to banking, placing a premium on building and maintaining close customer relationships, Lubow explained. From the beginning, the bank’s goal was to be fully service-oriented and to take care of the banking needs of the local community.
The bank began because there was an opening in the Long Island banking market. In 1997, Lubow was founder, president and CEO of Community State Bank in New Jersey. He was responsible for managing every aspect of this four-branch, $145 million organization. The bank was acquired by Lakeland Bank in August 2003 and Lubow, who had been living on Long Island during his tenure, realized there was a void in the community there for a small commercial bank.
“We weren’t involved in any of the subprime issues,” said Lubow. “A market was created for banks like us because we’re still doing what we do. Some of the larger lenders that got involved with the subprime mess had to take a step back. There have also been several large mergers and acquisitions, which has also given us opportunities to expand.”
CNB is now one of the top five Small Business Administration (SBA) preferred lenders on Long Island, and is also able to offer special loan and financial management programs designed to help small and medium-sized businesses succeed.
In 2007, according to an SBA Regional Report, Community National Bank was ranked second for dollar volume and ninth for loan volume in the report’s Lender Comparison. During that period, CNB made loans to local businesses totaling $3.66 million.
“We have about $180 million in loans and $245 million in assets after two-and-a-half years,” he noted. “Our rates are slightly better than larger institutions because there are no overhead costs we have to worry about. We are a lean, efficient operation because a larger institution has much more infrastructure to worry about that can cause problems.”
With an accountant for a father, Lubow was born into the business world. He majored in accounting at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa. and went straight into banking after graduation. For the last 28 years, Lubow has been an executive banker and was a founder of CNB. He was responsible for the entire regulatory application process, as well as the initial capital raising.
“My sister is also a vice president, at another bank … it just runs through our blood,” he said. “The talk around the family table on the holidays is all about banking. It’s a lot of fun for us, but I don’t know if anyone else would find it as enjoyable!”
Lubow speaks about CNB with a genuine passion. The success in the future of CNB will rely on a focus on service and a focus on technology, he said.
CNB offers cutting-edge services tailored to meet the financial needs of small and medium-size businesses, professionals and individual consumers. The bank offers a full range of modern financial services, backed by state-of-the-art technology, said Lubow. The DeskTop Banker service allows local merchants to deposit checks electronically, without leaving their businesses. Some clients haven’t had to step foot in a branch in months because of the service, according to Lubow.
The bank also features extended lobby hours on weekdays, plus hours on both Saturday and Sunday, 24-hour ATM services and free Internet banking.
“Because we are so customer-orientated, our customers know they can pick up the phone and get another person on the other end,” said Lubow. “They can even get me on the phone.”
With new branches opening up and plans for more underway, CNB’s biggest project right now is the branching efforts, according to Lubow.
“We are always looking to enhance the system … by the end of the year we will be real competitors in the Long Island banking market,” he added.s
Kay Metcalfe is a staff writer for Banker & Tradesman, a Boston-based newspaper serving the financial industry in New England for 135 years.