By Maddy Vitale
Gerald Reeves defies all of the stereotypes a person may think a bank president is supposed to be, all business, a bit stiff or stuffy, and definitely serious.
He has a wide range of interests from basketball and the Eagles – he went to the Super Bowl with his son, and most importantly, is devoted to the banking business, his wife and six grown children, and three grandkids with three more on the way.
In an interview Tuesday at Sturdy’s administration building, 506 South Main Street in Cape May Court House, Reeves, a lifelong Cape May County resident and president of the bank since 2008, spoke about the importance of working with and for the community it serves.
That mission has kept Sturdy Savings Bank a banking choice for the community since 1922, he said.
“The number one reason in my mind is we stay in touch with the marketplace. We know the community we serve,” Reeves said. “Our officers, our directors, live here and know the business owners and the homeowners.”
And with the banking world changing, with bank closures and mergers, Sturdy has not only managed, but excelled, in keeping and gaining customers. The institution is known for providing all the services of a larger bank, with a community feel.
Sturdy serves 12 branches in Cape May County, soon to be 13, with a Marmora branch opening in the spring, and a branch in Somers Point in Atlantic County.
“People say, ‘My grandparents banked with you. My parents banked with you. I feel like I should bank with you,’” Reeves said. “The local connection keeps us viable in an area where bigger banks are buying little banks.”
Over 95 percent of the loans from Sturdy are to businesses and homeowners within the communities it serves, he said.
“We have a strong understanding of the marketplace,” he noted. “We are available, and we are approachable. I don’t think you have that approachability at other banks.”
As a community bank, it may seem more difficult for it to keep up with the larger banks.
But it does, Reeves emphasized.
That is because Reeves and the directors know it is vital to keep evolving and providing the newest services and products, which help keep longtime customers happy and also grow their customer base. He said new customers often come through referrals. Sturdy has been the No. 1 lender to small businesses in Cape May County for the last eight years, Reeves noted.
“We have mobile banking, mobile check deposit, person to person deposit transfers, we keep adding products and services,” Reeves said. “People want it and they enjoy it.”
Dave Repici, director of retail banking senior vice president, said Sturdy’s mission with that strong community mindset is partly because of Reeves at the helm.
“It is his life and his passion,” Repici said. “He looks forward to coming to work. It is a good part of his life, along with his family.”
Sturdy does a lot of outreach with the community. Reeves, who grew up on a vegetable farm and whose parents also owned a hotel in Cape May, said giving back to the community is important, because it is another way the bank really solidifies it is part of the area it serves.
The bank donated to 215 organizations totaling $167,000 this past year, according to figures through mid-December.
“We continue to be successful and profitable and we are able to allocate some funds to the community,” Reeves said.
Donations to The Wetlands Institute, theater groups, youth sports, and artistic endeavors, help make the community better as a whole, Reeves explained. The bank also has donated funds to fire companies and other volunteer personnel.
“It is so meaningful. It makes a difference,” Reeves said of donating to organizations. “I enjoy every day because we are serving our community in a remarkable way.”
Sturdy Savings Bank branches are in Avalon, Cape May, Cape May Court House, Dennisville, North Cape May, North Wildwood, Ocean City, Rio Grande, Somers Point, Stone Harbor, Tuckahoe, and Wildwood Crest and soon to be in Marmora.
For more information about Sturdy Savings Bank, visit www.SturdyOnline.com or call 609-463-5220.