Face-to-Face with Susquehanna Bank

For years, the banking and financial services industries have played an integral role in the development of communities. The extent of their influence has even been portrayed on the silver screen – The Best Years of Our Lives and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Susquehanna Bank officers Steven Butz and Jewel Cooper would not deem their jobs worthy of a cinematic production, but both of them agree that their employer embodies the civic-minded virtues represented in those iconic films. Many customers find such qualities appealing and purposeful.

An Ohio native, Cooper is retail executive for Susquehanna. She is a graduate of Penn State University and has more than 27 years of experience in the financial services industry with expertise in sales and human resource management. She was a member of the executive team at Graystone Bank when it was founded in 2005 (Graystone became a part of Susquehanna Bank earlier this year). Cooper resides in East Hanover Township with her husband, Woody Shaull.

Butz has more than 25 years of commercial banking experience in the central Pennsylvania region. He is Susquehanna Bank’s Capital Region president and, like Cooper, joined Graystone in 2005. Butz grew up in Mechanicsburg, is a University of Delaware alumni and lives in Upper Allen Township with his wife and their five children.

Susquehanna refers to itself as a “Main Street” bank. What does that mean, and why is it important?

Steven Butz (SB): We’re truly a community bank. Our region and the local branch offices within it have a great measure of autonomy. Hiring of personnel, loan applications, branch locations…these are decided at the regional and local level. We try to employ people who live in the community where they work, or very close to it.

Jewel Cooper (JC): Susquehanna is not a small entity. We’re the 35th largest bank in the United States. But, because of our regional structure, everything tends to be localized. Each region and local branch has its own budget. The “Main Street” concept decentralizes decisions.

SB: The capital region includes all of Dauphin County south of Peters Mountain, Cumberland County and a portion of northern York County. In it are 12 full-service locations and two boutique branches at Messiah College and the GIANT Food Store in Dillsburg.

Both of you have lived all of your adult lives in the Harrisburg area. How does that help you to serve customers?

SB: We have a vested interest. When the day is over, we don’t get into our cars and drive an hour to get home. We live in the community in which we work, so we see our customers at the grocery store, restaurants, school functions, athletic contests and so on. That interaction and experience gives us insight into the local community when we make decisions at Susquehanna.

JC: It’s all about relationships, about communicating and keeping in touch. That’s why it’s so important for Susquehanna to employ local people.

In what community organizations are you involved? Why is such activity important to you?

JC: As far as raw numbers are concerned, we have 21 officers in the region. They serve 77 different civic and community organizations, mostly as members of boards. And they are active in 123 committees of those organizations. The officers naturally gravitate toward those community organizations and activities for which they have enthusiasm. We don’t get involved to sell the services of our company, but it often happens as a consequence of that involvement.

“We try to employ people who live in the community where they work…” ~ Steve Butz

SB: Susquehanna has guidelines for its officers regarding community service. But, actually, people that we hire are already of that mindset. It’s a “how can we help” attitude.

JC: It’s a question of how can we make a positive impact on the community, as individuals and as a corporation? Through these community activities, we often get referrals and learn of business needs.

Butz and Cooper exemplify the spirit of community involvement. Butz is a member of the Board of Managers of the West Shore Branch of Harrisburg YMCA. He is a past president and served on the board of directors for The Wildcat Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to support the Mechanicsburg Area School District and surrounding area. For several years, Butz has been a United Way volunteer. Cooper currently serves on the boards of the Capital Region Economic Development Corporation (CREDC), Dixon University Center and the United Way Foundation. She is Chair of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber “Annual Awards” committee, and an active alumna of Leadership Harrisburg and past board member. Previous leadership positions included those in United Way (of the Capital Region) and the Rotary Club of Harrisburg.

SB: As you can tell, we’re passionate about community service. It’s what we want to do. It’s personally fulfilling, and it fits Susquehanna’s corporate culture. We meet weekly to discuss who we can assist, how to allocate funding and so forth. Of course, we can’t help everyone. But, we try to have the biggest impact possible on the community, through donations and volunteering, as well as through our core business of providing financial services.

JC: It goes back to local autonomy. Loan applications, for example, are not sent to some distant corporate headquarters for a black-and-white analysis of the applicant. Those decisions are local and sometimes reached by thinking outside of the box.

What makes Butz and Cooper a good team?

SB: We’ve known each other and worked together for about seven years. Consequently, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and defer to the other person as required. It’s a yin and yang type of thing, if you will. Jewel’s forte is retail banking and small business development, brokerage and community relations. Mine is commercial.

What is the difference between retail and commercial banking?

JC: Retail refers to consumer banking and to businesses that generate less than $5 million in sales per year. Commercial are businesses that exceed $5 million.

What is important to you as leaders in the community?

JC: I think it is to have a positive impact, to be plugged into your passions.

SB: You need to do those things that you really want to do. But you must always consider how your involvement will affect your community.

JC: This is our regional hub [1826 Good Hope Road, Hampden Township], the place where our Spirit Team meets. The Spirit Team consists of representatives from each branch bank plus people in marketing, and the credit and legal staff. We do fun things once a month, like an ice cream social, cookout, favorite things potluck and quarterly service projects. The projects comprise activities like working at a food bank or participating in the American Heart Association walk to help raise funds for that organization.

Do the branches have similar activities, as well?

JC: Yes, each branch has regular community-based activities, which are often fundraisers. They may be sub sales or yard sales, for example. Or, it may be volunteering to assist with the homeless or those in dire financial or personal circumstances. Many of these events take place on weekends, outside of the work week. It all goes back to the fact that, for our employees, community service isn’t part of the job; it’s part of who we are.