Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 23
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

Advertise in Town Topics

Iris Interiors

Advertise in Town Topics

Weather Forecast

It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

SUCCESS STORY: “There is a vast array of financial products available. Our people are trained to help customers find what is best for them; to listen to what the person is trying to accomplish and help them achieve it.” Shown left to right are Bank of Princeton executives: founder and director Stephen Distler, senior vice president and director of market development Barbara Cromwell, and chairman of the board Andrew Chon.

Area Community Banking Makes a Comeback As The Bank of Princeton Continues to Grow

Once upon a time, there was the First National Bank of Princeton and the Princeton Bank & Trust. People got mortgages, secured business loans, set up Christmas accounts, and established savings accounts and college funds for their children. Bank employees not only knew their customers’ names, but those of family members as well. Friendly and helpful service was the norm.

As time passed, these banks were swallowed up in a series of mergers, and new banks seemed to come and go quickly. There was not as much time to establish close relationships, and a more impersonal atmosphere was the new norm.

People were generally resigned to the new ways of the banking business, but not Princeton residents and successful businessmen Stephen Distler and Ross Wishnick.

“We were part of a community and wanted to help the community,” explains Mr. Distler, former managing director and treasurer of Warburg Pincus, LLC, a pre-eminent private equity investment firm. “There was no community bank, there was no personal connection, and Princeton is a town of personal connections. We are a residential and commercial bank.”

Their plan was to establish a community bank focusing on personal, knowledgeable service.

Opening a new bank is not a small task. Approval from the New Jersey Department of Banking and the FDIC are necessary; incorporators, a board, and management team must be formed, and large amounts of money must be raised.

Good Start

“We were able to raise $30 million in a six-month period,” says Mr. Distler. “That far exceeded the $6 million minimum threshold required by the N.J. Department of Banking. This fund-raising success is a strong testimony to the considerable support the bank has in the local community, and it was a good start.”

The initial incorporators consisted of a group of 20 individuals, and nine of these incorporators also made up the initial board of directors. Next, a management team was formed.

“We’ve had a core group of directors that provided stability, and helped guide the bank,” points out Mr. Distler. “Ross and I played a more senior role in the beginning; then Andrew (chairman of the board Andrew Chon) has played the role now in continuing and furthering the bank’s progress.”

“We also have an advisory board, including people who are active in town, and who have an interest in the bank. They meet quarterly, and are really additional representatives of the bank.”

The bank’s success story was apparent almost from the beginning. It opened April 23, 2007 on Chambers Street. On March 31, 2008, after one complete year of operation, the bank more than tripled its assets to $91 million.

A Pennington office opened in December of 2007, and a third location in Hamilton in April, 2008. The corporate headquarters, complete with a full service branch and drive-through facility, opened at 183 Bayard Lane, in November, 2008.

Success After Success

Despite a difficult economy, the bank registered success after success. As of December 31, 2008, it reported total assets of $194 million. This represents nearly a 200 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. The bank achieved profitability for the first time in the second quarter of 2009, and as of April 30, 2010, its total assets climbed to more than $311 million, with a profit of $540,000.

“The successes we have had and what we’ve accomplished in three years has been phenomenal,” reports Barbara Cromwell, senior vice president and director of market development. “It has been a lot of hard work by a dedicated group of people, and it has led to success.”

That success includes yet another branch, this one the former Provident Bank on Route 206 in Montgomery.

Plans are also set to open a sixth branch in Jamesburg and a seventh in Lambertville in the near future.

In addition, The Bank of Princeton is acquiring Philadelphia-based MoreBank, with the merger expected to be completed later in 2010 or in early 2011. MoreBank focuses on the Korean-American community, a market The Bank of Princeton is interested in targeting.

“MoreBank will be a division of The Bank of Princeton,” notes Andrew Chon, chairman of the board of directors. “This is a well-known name in the Asian market in Philadelphia, so we will use the MoreBank name to launch our Asian division. The Bank of Princeton is more general, providing banking for the community. We are looking for an attractive growth market, and we saw the Asian market as a market that is growing and very attractive.”

Welcoming Atmosphere

And in The Bank of Princeton’s already established banks, the customers keep coming. People are opening personal accounts and business accounts, setting up retirement plans, taking out mortgages, and establishing savings accounts for children.

A welcoming atmosphere is a high priority, reports Ms. Cromwell. “Our customers are a real mix. They represent all ranges of income, and when you come into our bank, it doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have; everyone is treated the same. And we offer free checking for everyone, regardless of age.”

People have different concerns, adds Mr. Distler. “People in their thirties and forties are starting to save money for their kids’ college funds. The bank needs to reach out to them.

“People 55 and over are looking forward to having enough money for retirement,” he continues. “They are most interested in preserving their wealth. They are concerned that the bank is on a firm footing. We can advise them and give them options. Everyone needs a bank.”

In the case of businesses, he points out that many are better served by a community bank.

And, with increasing emphasis on technology, more and more banking business is on-line. For business customers, The Bank of Princeton offers remote capture service. This enables a business to process checks for deposit conveniently at their location, thus eliminating daily trips to the bank. Business transactions can be conducted on-line, and include balance information, transferring of funds between accounts, ACH transactions, wire transfers, bill pay, and stop payments.

Human Face

The human face remains a priority, and The Bank of Princeton is committed to serving the community. It does so in many ways, points out Mr. Chon.

“We emphasize involvement with the community. We are partners with many organizations and charities. We emphasize local community, local business, local organizations, and local people.”

“It’s very exciting to be part of a new venture,” adds Ms. Cromwell. “Community banking is very different. You get to do a lot of different things.”

Mr. Distler is pleased that the bank has become an important part of the community and that it has clearly filled a need. “We have grown in an orderly fashion. There is nothing better than providing a service for those who need it.”

The Bank of Princeton’s Bayard Lane office is open Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 8:30 to 6, and Saturday 8:30 to 1. (609) 921-1700. Website:

Return to Top | Go to Princeton Personality

Town Topics® may be purchased on Wednesday mornings at the following locations: Princeton — McCaffrey’s, Cox’s, Kiosk (Palmer Square), Krauszer’s (State Road), Olives, Speedy Mart (State Road), Wawa (University Place); Hopewell — Village Express; Rocky Hill — Wawa (Route 518); Pennington — Pennington Market.
Copyright© Town Topics®, Inc. 2011.