Reyno A. Giallongo, Jr.
At First County Bank - The Feeling Is “Mutual”!
by Peter J. O’Connell, Editorial and Research Associate
Hezekiah Satterlee in 1851 and Reyno A. Giallongo, Jr., today are linked by something important, despite the passage of so many years. That something, Reyno Giallongo told Senior GO TO Guide in a wide-ranging interview, is “mutuality.” The mutuality stems from the fact that both men became part of First County Bank. Satterlee was the bank’s first depositor, when it was founded as Stamford Savings Bank. Giallongo joined the bank in 2002 and became its Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer in 2011.
For Giallongo, mutuality means a number of things. First County began as what was known as a mutual savings bank, whose purpose was to safeguard and invest the money of Stamford’s residents as well as make loans for the construction and purchase of homes. The mutual was to have no stock, and its profits were to be paid to depositors in dividends or held in reserve for their greater security.
This definition still holds true today, although the bank’s name has changed, and it has grown from the one office that Satterlee patronized to 15 branches throughout Lower Fairfield County, offering an array of products and services to individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. Yet the bank is still closely oriented to its depositors, employees and community rather than to “outside,” possibly distant, shareholders. This orientation has allowed the bank to flourish as an independent institution, without having to close down or be taken over by another bank or be “bailed out” by the government.
Neighbors going the “extra mile”
Rey Giallongo animatedly points out that First County’s mutuality is not just an inheritance of institutional definition but a consciously promoted feeling that permeates the bank’s culture and operations. “We’re not afraid to be ‘touchy-feely,’ he says. “We believe in adding a personal touch to everything that we do. We’re not just bankers. We’re also your neighbors. And we’ll take the time to go the ‘extra mile’ to help you make smarter banking decisions.”
The Chairman/CEO goes on to point out that First County specifically recruits and trains its employees to have interpersonal skills, to be able to function “like friends and family and, especially, to be trusted advisors. We’re tailored for the retail customer. We want that customer to feel comfortable. That’s why we, so to speak, overstaff our branches. We have the latest technology, so as to provide a variety of service delivery channels, but we want our customers, particularly senior citizens, to be able to talk face to face with people right here, if they want to, not just to machines or functionaries in distant places. In other words, we emphasize listening rather than pushing products and services from the get-go. That way we can ascertain which of our products and services is actually best for any given customer.”
He adds: “I go out to our branches a lot, and when I do, I always ask our staffers, ‘What are the customers asking?’ By probing for the customers’ needs, we can respond by adding the right products and services. Because we follow that kind of approach, customers will tell me, with surprised delight, ‘I’m glad to learn that you had what I need. Thank you!’”
The long view
In discussing its Mission and Value Statement, the bank declares that “as a mutual First County Bank operates under a set of core principles for the benefit of its customers, the community and its employees rather than shareholders.” These core principles are “personal service, financial stability and a conservative investment outlook.”
Rey Giallongo elaborates on this description. “We know who we are, and as a mutual we can take the long view of things. We’re in what we consider a ‘sweet spot.’ In size we’re between the large money center banks and the smallest community banks. We’re a community bank but well-capitalized so we are able to offer all the products and services that we do.”
First County’s Chairman/CEO is quite proud of First County Advisors, the bank’s trust and investment division founded 18 years ago, making First County Bank the only bank headquartered in Lower Fairfield County with a full-service trust and investment division. First County Advisors is particularly oriented to family-owned businesses and investors from the $250,000 level on up. “This is a nice niche,” says Giallongo.
Serving seniors and the community
First County Advisors is often called on by seniors, and Giallongo cites as examples of going the “extra mile” the fact that in times of crisis, folks from the division have gone out to help clients whose persons or property were endangered. “The senior segment is very important to us,” he says, “and we’ve been rolling out products and services of interest to them. Co-op lending is an example. It has appeal in a time of downsizing. We know that seniors often need to generate more income on a fixed income, and we’ve developed options for them.”
Another way that the bank helps seniors and the Lower Fairfield County area in general is First County Bank Foundation, Inc. The bank’s description of the Foundation reads: “As a mutual community bank with no shareholders, First County Bank considers contributions made by the Foundation as a means of paying dividends back to the communities it serves.”
Rey Giallongo puts it this way, with a sense of great pride: “The success of the bank comes from our customers. The Foundation’s 650 grants, since 2001, are a return to the community for the bank’s success.” Among the many organizations to which First County Bank Foundation has donated are the following of particular interest to seniors:
• Old Timers Athletic Association of Greenwich
• Senior Services of Stamford
• Stamford Senior Center, Inc.
The community consciousness of First County Bank’s employees also can be seen in the fact that not only do they work and live in Lower Fairfield County, but they also personally—including the Chairman/CEO—engage vigorously in volunteerism in the general area. Rey Giallongo’s own volunteerism has encompassed work with the United Way and the YMCA, among other organizations, and he very much enjoys his work for Puppies Behind Bars, which arranges for service dogs to be raised by inmates in correctional institutions for use by injured veterans.
Asked about the future of First County Bank, Rey Giallongo uses some metaphors: “We’re going to grow, and there will be additional branches. We’ll succeed by hitting singles and doubles, not necessarily by swinging for the fences every time. Slow but steady will win us the race. We are modest, but I definitely can assert that our motto will continue to be true.”
That motto is:
First County Bank™ — It’s where you belong.
Hezekiah Satterlee would agree.