By Kay Metcalfe
Formed in 1869 by the Van Arsdale family, the Bank of Castile has grown significantly while retaining its small-town flavor.
Originally located in Castile, 60 miles southwest of Rochester, the bank was primarily owned by the Van Arsdale family until President Charles Van Arsdale and Chairman James Van Arsdale put the bank out for public offering in 1988.
Now headquartered in Batavia in western New York, the bank is located in the Tompkins Financial Center. Completed in 2005, the 3-story building boosted business activity in the small community bringing, in over 50 employees who frequent area restaurants and shops.
Today the bank is valued at $650 million and specializes in commercial and agricultural lending, according to James W. Fulmer, chairman, president and chief executive officer of the bank. The bank also has a small-business lending team that serves small businesses in the area.
“When I came here in 1998, the bank had five branches, basically just located in Wyoming and Livingston counties,” he said. “Since then we have grown significantly with nine banks opening or purchased.”
Today, Bank of Castile is visible in five New York counties: Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Wyoming and Orleans.
With publicly traded stock and the largest shareholders being employees, the bank really strives to get good return for its stockholders, said Fulmer.
“We have a very diversified base of shareholders that includes people from the communities we serve,” he noted.
Tompkins Financial Corp., the bank's holding company, oversees 38 banking offices in New York through it subsidiaries. The Bank of Castile was acquired by Tompkins Financial Corp. in 2000 and has 15 branches: Tompkins Trust Co. operates 14 and Mahopac National Bank nine. The company owns Tompkins Insurance, with 18 offices in Central and Western New York, 11 of which are shared with one of the banks. The company also owns AM&M Financial Services, a financial planning company. Tompkins Financial recently announced it plans to purchase Sleepy Hollow Bancorp, the parent company of Sleepy Hollow Bank. The holding company has assets of $2.2 billion.
The Main Street building in Batavia also houses the insurance company’s headquarters. Originally, the insurances offices were going to be located all on one floor and the bank offices on another, but in the end all the offices were mixed together over three floors. The customer-centered building offers representatives of Tompkins Investment Services, who are available to discuss financial planning and management. The bank’s operation center remains in Perry.
“It’s a good combination for the bank to couple banking with the insurance services,” said Fulmer. “It makes it easier to meet the needs of our customers.”
November witnessed the acquisition of Sleepy Hollow Bancorp for $30.2 million by Tompkins Financial Corp. Sleepy Hollow will be merged with Mahopac National in the first quarter of 2007. The merger will result in $750 million of assets and 14 branches in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties.
In order to stay successful and continue to grow, Fulmer appreciates the importance of remaining independent as a company. The best way to achieve this is to stay profitable by serving the needs of the community, he said.
The bank employs a lot of local people, and is very involved with local businesses and organizations, with a large budget available for contributions.
“We are very involved with State University of New York at Geneseo, supporting the community and college,” said Fulmer. “We also support the Genesee Country Village & Museum, which is an 18th century village.”
The village is the largest living history museum in New York and features 68 restored and fully furnished buildings. Visitors can walk through the town and see how a log cabin settlement grew into a bustling community of stores, shops, schools, churches and houses.
Fulmer was born and raised in Wellsville, located two hours south of Rochester. His father was an insurance agent, giving Fulmer an early background in the industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from Clarkson University in Potsdam and furthered his education at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he received a master’s degree in business administration.
In 1973, Fulmer joined Chase Manhattan Bank A.A. and enjoyed working in the city, he said. The bank relocated him to Rochester and soon after, he took a job with what was then Norstar Bank. As Norstar got larger, Fulmer said he became less enthusiastic about working there, and so he left in 1988 and joined Letchworth Independent Bancshares Corp. in Castile. Letchworth became the holding company for Bank of Castile when the bank went public in 1989. Tompkins acquired the bank in 2000.
Fulmer arrived at Letchworth as president, and also as chairman and CEO of Castile. He later became president of the bank and now sits on the board of directors of AM&M Financial Planning, a planning company that was purchased by Tompkins in 2005, and was named vice president at Tompkins Trustco in January.
“All the companies have similar philosophies and we consolidate a lot of work behind the scenes and work together,” he said.
Kay Metcalfe is a staff writer for Banker & Tradesman, a Boston-based newspaper serving the financial industry in New England for 135 years.