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At Your Service

Author: Elaine B. Holtz
September, 2014 Issue

Summit State Bank provides exceptional service to customers and supports the community in myriad ways.

“Exceptional,” “supportive,” “responsive,” “committed to community,” “caring” and “local” are words and phrases used by customers of Summit State Bank providing feedback on its website. In 1984, the bank opened its doors in in Rohnert Park, and it remains headquartered in Sonoma County to this day. As a community bank, it’s committed to giving back to the areas it serves. It offers a generous Nonprofit Partner Donation Program and supports the local organizations and programs that serve Sonoma County, along with providing small business loans.  
“We’re more than just your bank—we’re your partner,” says Tom Duryea, president and CEO, who’s been with Summit State Bank since 2001. He believes the bank’s success stems from the belief that the bank, its employees and customers are all partners and that, as a Sonoma County-based community bank, its customers know their money is put back into the community to support the economy, jobs, businesses and nonprofits.
As a member of the Go Local Cooperative (an organization that works to grow the market share of locally owned businesses; see “Keeping Dollars Local,” June 2014), Duryea understands the importance of local customers. When asked to describe his business and position, he says, “We’re in the customer service business and just happen to be selling financial products.
“By depositing locally,” he continues, “Summit’s customers are making a difference in the community’s economy; they’re helping to fund local loans, provide local jobs and even support local nonprofits that provide life-changing services.” Duryea attributes the bank’s success to its dedicated employees and ability to attract quality customers, make sound financial decisions and work with local businesses and individuals.

Service matters

Summit State Bank has five branches, two in Santa Rosa and one each in Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Healdsburg. It reports total assets of $460 million and total equity of $63 million as of March 31, 2014. It provides diverse financial products and services throughout Sonoma, Napa, San Francisco and Marin counties. Summit has been recognized twice as one of the Top 75 Corporate Philanthropists in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times and also as a Top Corporate Philanthropist by the North Bay Business Journal. In addition, in October 2013, Summit State Bank was honored with the Rising Star Award from California Independent Bankers, a community banking trade organization created to encourage and reward exceptional accomplishments of community bankers in California. The award honors organizations in the community banking industry that have shown exceptional promise of leadership and contribution to communities served based on self-awareness, integrity, vision, effective communication, enthusiasm and innovation. In 2013, Summit also was the sole winner that year of the organization’s Overall Bank Achievement award. Summit also has been recognized as one of the North Bay’s Best Places to Work by the North Bay Business Journal and is consistently recognized as a high-performing bank by Findley Reports.
The Summit Way Service Standards outline the bank’s unwavering commitment to exceptional customer service and are its guiding principles. Included are some common sense ideas, such as to exhibit a “can-do attitude,” be courteous, greet customers by name and always treat coworkers with the same respect one treats customers.
Summit emphasizes the importance of offering solutions and finding answers to customers’ questions. If a question is asked that’s outside an employee’s area of expertise, he or she will find the person who knows the answer. Communication is important, and the staff strives to return calls and emails the same day or, at a maximum, within 24 hours. Although expectations are high when it comes to customer service, Summit encourages its employees to always challenge themselves to excellence. According to Duryea, the service standards apply to all employees, especially him. “The Summit Way is our brand—what we’re selling—and it defines who we are,” he says.
In addition to solid customer service, Duryea believes keeping up with the times is an important component of success. For example, in 2011, Summit was the first community bank in California to offer mobile banking and mobile deposit, which let customers manage their accounts and deposit checks from anywhere, anytime, using most smart phones and tablets. “This enabled the bank to have a further reach and freed clients to bank anytime they wanted,” he says. To support its business customers in using this type of service, Summit (at no cost) will install a remote deposit machine, which is particularly beneficial for businesses that have to deposit 10 or more checks per day.
Duryea is a strong believer in supporting local businesses. Summit’s Small Business Lending Program, which started in 2012, has a goal of lending $50 million annually. In 2012 and 2013, it exceeded that goal, and is on pace to do the same this year. Through the program, the bank offers a variety of business loans, including equipment and commercial real estate, as well as lines of credit to help fund short-term cash flow needs.

Nonprofit support

For nonprofit organizations, the bank offers many account features at no cost, as well as its Nonprofit Partner Donation Program, a special deposit account program meant to enhance fund-raising efforts. For charitable organizations with Summit State Bank deposit accounts, the bank makes an annual contribution of 25 to 75 basis points, based on average annual account balances. For example, a $100,000 average balance Summit account could receive a $750 annual contribution.
In 2013, Summit donated 5 percent of its profits, totaling $215,000, to local nonprofits. It was the only Sonoma County company named as a Top 75 Bay Area Corporate Philanthropist by San Francisco Business Times that year.
After a comprehensive selection process, the Community Child Care Council of Sonoma County (4Cs) selected Summit State Bank as its financial service provider. This nonprofit agency is responsible for operating 12 child development preschool centers throughout the county. It’s dedicated to supporting and providing quality, accessible and affordable preschool and child care services for children, families and child care professionals through education, resources and direct services. Summit was chosen because it’s a local bank that demonstrated commitment to supporting local nonprofits. Executive Director Melanie Dodson says, along with providing excellent service, Summit is an annual sponsor, providing approximately $12,000 per year to support 4Cs, our work with children and families and the annual Champions for Children Breakfast, which honors community members who’ve been involved in enhancing children’s lives.
Pat Callahan, executive director of the Health Care Foundation Northern Sonoma County, has been a customer of Summit for approximately six years. Her organization’s primary function is to raise funds for health care. What she likes most about Summit is that she feels she’s more than a customer—she’s also a nonprofit partner. “They ask how they can help you achieve your mission along with offering marketing and networking ideas,” she says.
According to Callhan, Summit meets its core values and, “I’d want to thank [the bank] for its investment in and concern about keeping quality health care close to home.”

Helping businesses grow

According to Duryea, more than 30 percent of all new customers have been referred by existing customers who are both satisfied and understand the importance of banking locally. Paolo Petrone, general partner and co-owner of Hotel Healdsburg is one of those customers. After being referred to the bank in 2011, he became a client. “I met [Tom] and liked his philosophy about being a local bank and taking good care of its clients. We’ve had a good relationship ever since.” At present, Petrone is working on his company’s third hotel, made possible in part by a small business construction loan from Summit.
Petrone says he likes referring clients to Summit because he knows the bank will provide good service to them. “I’m in the hospitality business, and I know how important customer service is. I like working with a local bank that shares that philosophy,” he says.
Summit also supports customers by buying their products and using their services whenever possible. Kayse Gehret, owner and founder of Soulstice Spa in Santa Rosa, was interested in a local bank. After doing extensive research, she found Summit had the most upbeat references. Her decision was further influenced by conversations with the bank’s customers. “People actually raved,” she says. What stands out most for her was, when she made the decision to become a “valuable partner,” the bank helped her in the beginning stages of her networking efforts, which helped her business grow and expand. “The bank very much walks its talk. It’s referred me to many of its other clients and used our services by providing chair massages to its entire staff.”
Jamie Hidalgo, assistant vice president/senior compliance administrator, has been with Summit for five years. The most impressive thing to her about Summit is its community involvement and support for employees. “The bank sees the staff as equal to customers. The president has an open-door policy and is very accessible and open to new ideas,” she says, adding that her experience has been positive from day one.
Summit also offers its business and nonprofit customers an opportunity to showcase their organizations through its Featured Partner Program, wherein customers learn to make their displays eye-catching, fun and creative. Featured customers can include discounts or coupons with their displays along with providing product samples, business cards or catalogs (customers are generally featured for one month).

A personal touch

Renee Bergeron sits at the front desk at Summit’s corporate office in Santa Rosa. As a customer service representative for the past three years, she’s had the opportunity to build personal relationships with many customers. “I enjoy my job and love working for a company that encourages building relationships,” she says.
Another way Summit gives back to the community is through its Summit Day of Service, which gives every Summit team member one paid workday per year to volunteer time with any nonprofit organization. The time can be spent sorting food at a food bank, helping seniors, tutoring youth, being a teacher’s assistant at their child’s school or volunteering with any organization they’re passionate about.
As a community bank, Summit State Bank is proud to donate 5 percent of its net profit to support our local nonprofits and charitable organizations that make a difference in our community.

Future plans

Duryea is optimistic about future plans for the bank. Over the past three years, he says the bank has seen a 30 percent increase in growth. This year, he’s looking for an additional 5 percent growth by attracting new customers and adding services to the bank’s online and remote deposit programs. He’s also looking at adding a Person-to-Person Banking (P2P) mobile banking deposit program. P2P banking is an online system that lets individual members complete financialtransactionswith one another by sending deposits to each other via mobile phone.
Duryea also recently attended a business seminar for bankers and, when asked to describe his bank and job in five words, he responded, “Caring, responsive, giving, community and fun.” He adds, “future plans include making these ideas and customer service even stronger.” 

IOLTA Leadership

Summit State Bank is proud to be recognized as an Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Leadership Bank. According to Wikipedia, IOLTA is a unique and innovative way to increase access to justice for individuals and families living in poverty and to improve our justice system. Without taxing the public, and at no cost to lawyers or their clients, interest from lawyer trust accounts is pooled to provide civil legal aid to the poor and support improvements to the justice system. Every state, along with the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, operates an IOLTA program. In 2009, the U.S. IOLTA programs generated more than $ 124.7 million nationwide. These funds, together with state and federal appropriations as well as private grants and donations, enable nonprofit legal aid providers to help low-income people with civil legal matters such as landlord/tenant issues, child custody disputes and advocacy for those with disabilities.
According to Duryea, Summit offers 1 percent interest for the Legal Services Trust Fund Program through trust accounts held at the bank. Each quarter, the bank allocates those funds to the State Bar organization, which, in turn, distributes the monies earned to various legal aid programs throughout the state of California. Summit State Bank is acknowledged in Bar Association and Legal Aid newsletters, websites and events for being a member and for helping to support the California Legal Aid programs.


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