A Moment in Bank History
Upstate NY Banks and Their Wacky Ways
By Paul Hemminger
In the 1970s, banks were limited to counties in New York State. There was no statewide banking. Laws changed that allowed banks to expand outside New York City and Westchester. The rules required separate chartered banks that were subsidiaries of the corporation. Where possible, Chase's strategy was to buy existing banks in the counties upstate and on Long Island.
I was in the Controllers Department (later renamed Internal Audit) and told to perform pre-acquisition audits of banks being purchased to enable statewide expansion. We purchased the Caledonia Bank and Trust Company (Rochester), Saugerties Bank and Trust Company, Canton National Bank and Trust Company and Lincoln National Bank in Buffalo–not to be confused with Lincoln First. De novo banks were opened in Albany (Chase Bank of Eastern NY), Binghamton (Chase Bank Southern NY), Syracuse (Chase Bank Central NY) and Melville, LI (Chase Bank Long Island).
Each of the purchased banks had its own idiosyncrasies as they were local hometown banks. In Saugerties, customers entered the safe deposit area, took the guard key off a hook and opened their boxes; customers walked into the loan area, left their payments and posted their own loan records. In Caledonia, the manager sat upstairs, and when his signature was needed, a clothespin was lowered down on a string! In Canton, we walked in to do the initial audit to find a cow being milked in the lobby, celebrating dairy week. Integrating into Chase was a challenge at best–not so much for the staff but for customers accustomed to processes we found to be an issue.
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