Sections Supplements

Something to Celebrate

On Its 20th Anniversary, This Institution Is Looking Forward, Not Back
 Tim Crimmins and Marilyn Gorman

Bank of Western Massachusetts President Tim Crimmins and Marilyn Gorman, the bank’s vice president of Marketing.

The Bank of Western Mass-achusetts recently turned 20.

April 1 was the official birthday, but this will be a year-long celebration, said Marilyn Gorman, the bank’s vice president of Marketing, whose office is now cluttered with anniversary trappings, including display boards covered with the headlines and news stories that relate the institution’s first two decades in business.

Those boards will be part of the bank’s display at the Market Show, said Gorman, but the 20th birthday will be just one of the many pieces of news the bank will be relaying to booth visitors. Others include its new ‘no ATM fees anywhere, anytime’ campaign, some of the bright yellow signs for which also decorate Gorman’s office — and will adorn the bank’s booth at the show.

“It’s very new to our marketplace, and we’re pretty excited about it,”she said, adding that she expects the policy to provide a boost to the bank’s retail division, which is one of many growth areas, along with its bread-and-butter commercial banking operation and a wealth-management component that has seen steadily rising volume since it was launched a decade ago.

Keeping its target audience abreast of developments in all of its businesses has been one of the many motivators for continued participation in the Market Show, said Gorman, noting that the the bank has been an exhibitor since the show was first held in the Springfield Marriott in 1990. And it makes the very most of its booth time and space, she said, adding that the display is used to relate new products and services, break news (such as the 20th anniversary), and provide some important visibility at a time of heightened competition within the banking industry — across the board, but especially in the commercial lending realm.

Of course, nearly every other bank that does business in the Greater Springfield area will also be at the show, she acknowledged, adding quickly that the obvious goal is to make sure that the traffic gets to the BWM display. Steps to ensure this include a large number of giveaways and prizes (one every hour), stacks of product literature, and a theme-based presentation: This year it’s the 20th anniversary.

Actually, the bank already stands out in many ways, said Gorman, noting that it was created by a host of local business owners and other Western Mass. investors to serve the specific financial needs of small to medium-sized businesses — and such ventures dominate the show floor.

“We have many customers right there at the show as exhibitors,” she said, “but there are many prospective new customers who will be there as well, and this is a great way to introduce ourselves to them.”

Among the pieces of literature that will be available at the bank’s booth will be a brochure chronicling the institution’s history and highlighting several milestones. These include:

  • 1987: the institution opens as an independent commercial bank at 29 State St.;
  • 1989: the first branch, in Holyoke, opens its doors;
  • 1994: the Amherst branch opens;
  • 1996: the Trust/Wealth Management department is established;
  • 1997: the bank ranks among Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 100 banks in the U.S. for commercial lending;
  • 1996, and again in 1999 and 2002: the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration names the bank the number-one small-business-friendly lender in Massachusetts;
  • 2003: the main office relocates to 1391 Main St., Springfield; and
  • 2006: the first branch in Connecticut opens its doors.

“We’ve come a long way in 20 short years,” said Gorman, adding quickly, however, that the trade show isn’t generally about celebrating the past. Instead, it’s all about the present and the future, and both retaining existing customers and attracting new ones. And Market participation has definitely helped in that broad mission, she said.

Indeed, while direct results are hard to quantify — the number of business cards in the bowl at the end of the day is often a good indicator — there is a return on investment that makes the show more than worth the price of admission.

“This is a business opportunity,” she said of the show and the way in which it allows the firm to reach out to customers — and be reached out to. “That’s why we keep coming back every year; if it wasn’t worth our while, we wouldn’t be doing it.”

While the 20th anniversary celebration will be perhaps the loudest message sent by the bank on May 2, what the bank will be trying to convey is that is that the best is still to come, said Gorman.

“We’re not resting on our laurels,” she said, citing the ‘no ATM fees’ campaign as one example of how the bank’s focus is on the next two decades in business. “We’re always looking ahead.”