Weekly Feature

2006-08-16 / Business

Greater Buffalo Savings Bank expands

Customer service a priority
by JESSICA L. FINCH Associate Editor

B o ro w i a k B o ro w i a k Greater Buffalo Savings Bank started in 1999 with one branch on Court Street in downtown Buffalo and has rapidly expanded to 14 Western New York branches. It was the first new bank chartered in the Buffalo area in more than 50 years.

Four of the branches are located throughout Amherst, offering many services for both residents and businesses.

Marylou Borowiak, executive vice president and chief banking officer, said the most important key to building the bank has been culture.

"We focus on recruiting and developing employees. The bank is very customer service driven, and we work really hard to hire the right people," she said. "We train our employees to provide the service level customers want."

There are approximately 300 employees, and Borowiak said as the bank grows, it will focus on the challenge of maintaining quality customer service.

Although the bank clearly lists savings in its name, each of the 14 branches are full-service, according to Andrew W. Dorn Jr., president and chief executive officer.

He also said the bank offers amenities from the "old fashioned" passbook savings accounts to Internet transactions.

Greater Buffalo Savings Bank also has locations in Depew, Buffalo, Fredonia, Jamestown, Kenmore, North Tonawanda, Town of Tonawanda and West Seneca.

For more information, call, 1-877-261-8450 or 961-2265, or visit www.gbsb.com.

The Amherst Bee sat down recently with Keith Parwulski, vice president and regional manager of Greater Buffalo Savings Bank, to discuss the bank's progress. Since being founded in 1999, Greater Buffalo Savings Bank has claimed the title of fastest growing new bank in the c o u n t r y.

The Amherst Bee: What services set Greater Buffalo Savings Bank apart?

Keith Parwulski: Everyone has a savings and checking account, but there are so many different things we do. We offer free accounts for nonprofit organizations. Greater Buffalo Savings Bank has accounts with six nonprofit organizations from the area.

We also have an exclusive CDAR product, where customers can deposit up to $25 million and have it all FDIC-insured (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). It is a benefit for the customers. They don't have to max out at $100,000 and can still keep one account, one statement, one rate. It is a peace of mind. More than $100,000 can be insured, and the customer doesn't have to run around to different banks.

Another neat service we have is a free coin-counting machine that is free to all customers and non-customers. They are virtually in all of our branches. I see people come in with buckets and containers of coins and dump them in the machine, and it counts the money. It's been great; customers love that advantage. When customers who don't know about the machines come in with rolled coins, I tell them that was the last time in their life they will have had to do that. Now they can just dump them in the machine.

AB: Any unique promotions being offered at the Amherst branches?

KP: We are continuously running campaigns and promotions so we can compete better than other banks. When we opened the East Amherst branch we thought, "What can we do a little bit differently?" We advertised a pet photo day, because people love their pets, and knew it was either going to be feast or famine, and people lined up. During the two-day program we took 90 pet pictures. People were absolutely thrilled.

Also, we are open seven days a week. Other banks can't begin to touch the hours we are open. So we ran a special CD (certificate of deposit) offer just on Saturday and Sunday (July 15-16) and it was standing-room-only. We opened 680 accounts totaling $15 million in two days at the banks that have either Saturday or Sunday hours.

AB: Are the branches offering different banking hours?

KP: Yes, hours are based on customer feedback. We added Sunday hours to the extended evening hours and Saturdays.

One of the top reasons to choose a bank is convenience.

We know ATM use is a concern when choosing a bank. Any Greater Buffalo Savings Bank customer can use a Key Bank ATM in New York State to withdraw money free for them.

AB: Is the Internet traffic what you expected?

KP: The Greater Buffalo Savings Bank's Web site receives 1,200 hits a day. I think the Internet traffic has been fantastic. I am amazed by the number of hits on the site. The most hits are on our home, career, personal banking and other products/services pages. Anyone interested in a job opening can post a resume on the career page and see all the openings at the bank.

The East Amherst branch, at 8550 Transit Road, is one of four branches in Amherst. The East Amherst branch, at 8550 Transit Road, is one of four branches in Amherst. We see more and more people getting used to online banking. We didn't see that before, especially with older customers, but now they want to know how to use it for their banking.

The bank offers free online banking and bill paying. We can reach out to customers at the branches, by phone and online. The Internet has become the growing trend, but when you want to get answers, you want to talk to someone about it, and you want to know who is giving those answers. When you call your branch, you get us, the people who know you. No call centers; that is what is neat about the bank.

AB: What steps in security, both in-house and in regards to identity theft, are you taking?

KP: Customer privacy is important to us at the bank. Everything is locked; nothing can be left out. That is drilled into all our employees. During orientation we tell employees what to watch out for. If someone thinks their identity has been compromised, we take time to direct them how to start correcting things.

We also deal with different Internet topics, such as phishing (the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft). We tell customers what to watch out for. Customers are also alerted to out-of-the-ordinary, suspicious activity on a credit card, debit or ATM card.

AB: Are there plans for additional Western New York branches?

KP:There are 14 Greater Buffalo Savings Bank branches and two under construction - Connecticut Street in Buffalo and leasing one in Lockport.

When the bank opened in 1999 it was a brand new bank, and now in 2006 it's unbelievable where it is. We are just shy of 38,000 accounts. It is the fastest growing de novo (new bank) in the country.

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