The Success of a Cohesive Working Group Goes beyond the Uniform in Belleville
Rubenstein, Jim, Independent Banker
Spending $13,000 a year for employee apparel might seem extravagant for some institutions, but not for West Pointe Bank and Trust Company in Belleville, Illinois.
At West Pointe the expense underscores a special service and image culture that seems to work.
Indeed, West Pointe, founded less than four years ago with $5 million in capital, has already surpassed $88 million in assets, a rather nice start for an upstart institution located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
"We've always felt that if we put the emphasis on professionalism and personal service--unlike what you find at big city branches--you could bring in new business," says Harry E. Cruncleton, chairman of West Pointe, the only independent bank in Belleville, a community of 43,000 residents.
The idea of the bank picking up the tab for female employee uniforms--a different outfit four days a week--was just one element in the bank's emphasis on building staff morale to enhance service quality, according to Cruncleton.
"We've always been fortunate in having a loyal, hardworking staff that has a natural camaraderie which seems to spill over into the workplace," says President and CEO Terry W. Schaefer.
Schaefer and Cruncleton represent a core group of 20 executives and employees who in 1990 broke away from a subsidiary Belleville bank of the Magna Group Inc., a large St. Louis holding company, to form West Pointe.
In fact, Schaefer and Cruncleton admit that a considerable chunk of business followed the pair to West Pointe. But they contend that success wouldn't be possible without the satisfactory performance of the 43-member staff in servicing both commercial and retail accounts.
Capping off the bank's expansion this June, West Pointe moved into a newly constructed two-story, $3.2 million headquarters building with more than 23,500 square feet of space.
The building, now a landmark on Belleville's west side, contains a number of special service features attached to its drive-up window, making it easy for business customers to drop off large currency loads.
"We have a 25-pound payload at the drive-up designed so a customer can make a drop off simply by reaching out his car window," Schaefer says.
In addition, the lobby area of the main bank is spacious and open, which fosters "an ease of employee communication with our customers," Schaefer says.
All of the bank's senior officers can be found on the main floor lobby area, which further emphasizes "openness and accessibility to our staff," Cruncleton says.
As for the uniforms, "we get lots of favorable comments from customers who tell us it makes us all look quite professional, which is exactly the image we want," says Kathleen A. …