The idea to create a local bank in Oakdale began in 1990 where a few local investors sat at a table and began the process to capture that old spirit of one on one relationship banking. They raised approximately $3 million in capital to start Oak Valley Community Bank and today it is worth over $80 million.
Celebrating 25 years in the banking industry Oak Valley has come a long way since the beginning and has grown with 16 locations throughout the Central Valley, including a branch location in Escalon.
Chris Courtney, President and Chief Executive Officer, explained that the original concept was to be a small community bank that understood the community and their needs with the grand plan to have only one bank.
“The idea is that we can lend out better and smarter and help the community grow in Oakdale,” said Courtney. “Anytime you say we are going to be stagnant in any organization or business you can’t really do that, you have to keep moving, you have to keep growing or else you die or get run over.
“So as time went on we opened up Sonora next, that was in 1996.”
A few years later after the Sonora branch opened a new branch was opened in downtown Modesto, then Bridgeport, Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Dale Road in Modesto, Turlock, Stockton, Patterson, Ripon, Escalon, McHenry in Modesto, Manteca, Tracy and last year Mother Lode in downtown Sonora was purchased.
Rick McCarty, Senior Executive Vice President, explained how the bank has grown from the original building to so much more over the years.
The original branch on Third Avenue in Oakdale housed the entire company within 5000 square feet that had about 15 employees. Today there are 165 employees bank wide and the operations have expanded in Oakdale to 35,000 square feet of space with over 60 employees. With the bank’s expansion the executives moved into the second floor of the iconic clock tower building at the corner of F Street and Yosemite Avenue, which is owned by the bank.
This year Oak Valley purchased another building on East F Street and moved the credit department into it.
“So we have come a long way over the last 25 years,” expressed Courtney. “Community was really important in the name because we wanted to emphasize the importance that community plays in our brand and who we are and what we are trying to accomplish.
“The very cornerstone of what we do is relationships, service, rapid loan turn around and really understanding the needs of that client and not a product that we want to sell them to make money for next quarter but really what is the right thing to do for that client and if we do the right thing that is going to spread by word.”
With service and community being Oak Valley’s style of business they participate in fundraisers, dinners, and different organizations.
The executives established a 10 year rolling plan around 2000 to 2001 that included having a billion dollar in assets and 20 to 25 new locations.
“We really do support the community and we do it for two reasons: one, it is good business, and two, as an organization it is the right thing to do to get involved and give back to the community,” expressed Courtney. “We believe that if we do give back and do the right thing by the community, they will reward us and help us grow and I think we have seen that over the last 25 years.”
Courtney and McCarty explained that Oak Valley is different than other banks because of their commitment to service and community. Their one on one connection and relationship they have with their customers is demonstrated through their actions. Neither Courtney nor McCarty have a secretary and they both go out on calls to visit customers which they said is a personal style unlike any other in the banking industry.
“Overall the difference with us is that you will be able to pick up the phone and talk to anybody within the bank but yet you have the technology when you want it,” stated McCarty. “So it is a pretty good success story for those folks that had the vision and not the vision of what it has become but really for a quality investment in a local bank.”
When other banks lost money during the recession Oak Valley held strong and they have achieved financial awards throughout their years in business that they are very proud of like making the KBW 2014 Bank Honor Roll based on a 10 year record out of 400 US banks with assets over $500 million.
Courtney has been with Oak Valley for over 20 years and grew up in Turlock. McCarty has been with the bank for 17 years and grew up in Copperopolis which he states his family has been in since the 1800s.
Hiring the right people and making sure they are in the right positions has also contributed to the bank’s success, according to the executives.
Oak Valley is a NASDAQ traded company which Courtney expressed to be the only one in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, or Merced counties.
“The (original) idea was good to provide good service to our community and help the community and those principles have not changed nor will they ever change because that is our very core,” stated Courtney. “We really focus on making sure we are executing and respecting our founding fathers’ desire of being a good relationship community bank … we think we are pretty good at it.”