After 94 years of community banking one way, a four-generation family bank is switching it up.
Since 1929, the Crews Banking family of banks have all carried their own legacy. Four community banks run by the Crews family, but all under different names: Charlotte State Bank and Trust, Crews Bank and Trust, Englewood Bank and Trust and Wauchula State Bank. The banks combine for nearly $2.5 billion in assets and more than 370 employees.
On Monday, Sept. 25, that all changes.
The 19 locations currently spread across those four banks will be united under the Crews Bank and Trust name. It's been a lengthy and expensive process — with an investment of over $10 million spread across myriad parts of the rebrand.
Vice Chairman Bill Crews, who represents the second generation of the family, was a community banker through and through. But when technology became more prominent in banking, that community model shifted.
“Consumers began to demand these other types of services,” Brad Ruhmann, marketing director says.
Around 2018, the family of banks began to make changes, starting with a core software provider switch. “I think of the core as the brain of the bank,” Ruhmann says. “We went through a brain transplant.” The core holds quite a bit of important information, including debit card transactions, deposits and client account information.
The investment also cut down on average wait times for calls, with the technology recognizing the number and pulling up the customer’s information immediately, allowing the bank’s call center representatives to confirm the client quickly. Now the average wait time is 11 seconds, Ruhmann says.
Other technological enhancements included online account openings, as well as online mortgage and heloc applications.
Prior to this, it didn’t make sense for the Crews family of banks to unify. “It wasn’t what our customers were asking for,” he says. “As consumers demand more options for technology, that’s when we began to look at what a unified brand (would) look like.”
And they found that, “it was less (about) what name was on the bank signage outside and more what products and services we had to offer.”
Now customers will have access to the bank's 19 branches across the 13 counties Crews Bank and Trust serves throughout Central and Southwest Florida, including Orange, Osceola, Polk and Hillsborough, then down the coast through Collier.
The expanded portfolio also now means expanded products and services. Before the unification, Wauchula State Bank customers didn’t have access to trust services, but the rest of the family of banks did. Now, the Wauchula locations will have in-house trust services team members.
The biggest question facing the band of banks: does the unification position the bank to sell?
“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Ruhmann says, acknowledging many clients have been concerned about this. Instead Ruhmann says the branding allows the marketing department he leads a chance to focus on branding for one brand, as opposed to several. That grants more time to figure out how the brand will grow from this point.
Looking back, he points to the opening of the Venice branch in 2022, Lakeland in 2021, Sarasota in 2019 and Winter Haven in 2016. The bank, he says, follows a “natural and organic growth model.”
Currently there are a couple of different areas the bank is eyeing for potential future locations, though no official plans to share as of yet.
Another potential growth market is job positions.
As the bank expands services and products, new roles are expected to come along too.
“(There are) positions that we don’t know we’re going to need in one, five or 10 years,” Ruhmann says.
Over the last two years, since the decision to unify, the company has been tasked with ensuring everything remains consistent. Even something as simple as changing all of the exterior signage in one weekend, which Ruhmann says is stressful to plan. A few of the cosmetic changes included installing screens that feature the weather as well as new products or services; ensuring music is playing at the branches; and installing the brand’s signature scent, which is a combination of lemongrass, tobacco and dirt that lends itself to an earthy smell, which pays homage to Wauchula State Bank’s roots as an agricultural bank.
A lot of the branches have new paint colors and branding going on the walls, as well as historical photos of each area represented. For the outside, a fresh coat of paint and new signage adorn each branch.
To say the Crews Bank employees have been busy would be an understatement. In addition to the unification process, the brand has been busy rebuilding after Hurricane Ian. The Englewood location has to be rebuilt entirely after the storm, which, after a long year of dealing with the insurance company, Ruhmann says they’re getting close to breaking ground. The Arcadia North branch is undergoing a gut remodel after flooding damage.
Crews Bank & Trust, based in Arcadia, DeSoto County, had $226.13 million in assets at the end of 2022, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data. Port Charlotte-based Charlotte State Bank & Trust had $670.4 million in assets, while Englewood Bank & Trust had $593.5 million in assets and Wauchula State Bank, based in Hardee County, had $972.3 million.
Amanda Postma is a business reporter covering Sarasota and Manatee counties. After graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 2018, Amanda was a reporter for a small-town newspaper in Missouri before becoming a marketing associate for a career resource startup in St. Louis.