Thomas J. Shara
President and Chief Executive Officer
Lakeland Bancorp, Inc. and Lakeland Bank
Our Bank was founded in 1969 by Bob Nicholson, John Fredericks and Bruce Bohuny—three local businessmen who recognized the need for a local bank that could conveniently service the area and support the community. Their combined vision has not only served the banking needs of the community, it has also served all of us who have worked at the Bank, all of the Bank’s shareholders and many community service initiatives that help support and build healthy, vibrant neighborhoods. We sincerely thank them for the foundation upon which we have built one of the best and most respected banks in N.J.
A few weeks ago I did some research to see how significant a 50th anniversary is for a company….and learned it’s a big deal! To put it in perspective, consider that:
- Only about 36% of companies make it to 10 years; about 21% celebrate 20 years
- Less than 55 companies have been on the Fortune 500 list since 1955
- Today the average life span of companies listed on the S&P 500 is less than 18 years
I think Lakeland has done something right and has strong longevity because:
- Our growth has been consistent and steady from organic growth and well-timed acquisitions
- We have invested in the right markets, the right technology, and the right people
- And we continue to attract new investors which is critical for our future
To mark our 50th Anniversary, we produced a time-line video to highlight some of the most prominent milestones, innovations and relationships that are a part of our history. It wasn’t easy to fit a half century of accomplishments into one short video, but we hope you enjoy it!
- In 1969, our founders founded this company based on the philosophy that success is based on doing business fairly, clearly and honestly. And 50 years later, we are still being commended for that founding foundation.
- In the 1960s, In Oak Ridge, Newfoundland there was no bank.
- I'm in the propane business with thousands of local customers. John Fredericks was in the fuel oil business who, again, thousands of local customers. And we all needed a bank.
- So we tried to get these banks to open branches in the Newfoundland, Milton, Oak Ridge area. And we could not get a bank in the Oak Ridge, Milton area because there were already banks in those municipalities. So the bank at Butler said to me, the only way you folks are gonna get a bank, young man, is to start your own.
- Now we're gonna start a bank. How do you do that? We all started to experiment and do research.
- Bob and I and Bruce Bohuny drove to Trenton. We probably made eight or 10 trips to the banking department to get a charter. Their Deputy Commissioner there recognized that we were young guys who wanted genuinely to have a bank in the community. And we're not forming this bank just to sell it out to someone else. So he said, you do exactly what I tell you do, step by step, and we'll get you the charter. The commissioner said that we could not have a private family bank. It had to be a public entity. We had 500 share holders, now in that area who own their own bank. And we thought that was really cool. We brought on Ed Steadman, who had a history of starting small community banks. Ed Steadman really taught me the banking business. We started in a trailer on route 23 in Newfoundland with a million dollars.
- If we were gonna build a building, it would take a minimum of a year. So we had some foresight. And one of the directors, Bob Deboe and myself, went to Pennsylvania and we heard there was a manufacturer that just made bank trailers.
- I've been a customer since the original trailer was here. Got the ad in the mailbox about the opening of Lakeland Bank and enjoyed it ever since.
- [Bob] Our trailer had a drive in window. Now we knew that drive in windows were not really used by the local banks. So we were really very capable of handling things in a trailer. We built a new building there about two years later. And then hooked the trailer to a truck and dragged it over to Hewitt and put a bank in there. We built that and then with the trailer we hauled it down to Wanaque, and did the same thing. Then we gave up the trailer and decided we don't need a trailer anymore, we'll just put these things up.
- I couldn't believe it when Karen Sabyan called me and said one of the original customers. And I said, well I guess that's true because we were around when the bank started.
- 50 years of Lakeland Bank means that they are here and they will be here to service the community needs and to know that we can always count on Lakeland Bank, that they will be our neighbor, our friend and our trusted partner.
- To be a customer for over 50 years. That's a long time. Impressive.
- I felt we needed good will ambassadors in each community to ask them to help us get new business. Tell us when there's new construction. Also to inform the board or the officer when we're lacking in some type of service. And it has been an extremely successful in allowing us to have a local image in keeping track of that community. We felt that the people want to do their banking on Saturdays when they're off from work.
- And none of the banks, anywhere in North Jersey has Saturday banking.
- We opened up Saturday morning and we were very successful.
- So this was a big innovation.
- And now they're all open Saturdays because Lakeland set the precedent.
- I recently helped a long time customer, I assisted her with her stock. And she told me she was an original stock holder, she received the offering in the mail. And she wanted to do it, and her husband told her oh, you're crazy. And she said no, she said I went to school with Bob Nicholson and John Fredericks, and I believe in them, and this is gonna be a good thing.
- We've paid out regular quarterly cash dividend all of those years. And the local people who had never owned or even thought of owning bank stock really made a lot more money than they thought they ever would.
- Her stock is worth over $100,000 today.
- The partner ship with Lakeland Bank has been very successful and that's because we believe that Lakeland Bank approaches their community from a sense of humanity.
- Lakeland is a very generous company. They are involved in many non-profit organizations.
- One of our core values is giving back to the communities we serve. And we thinks that's critically important. It's something we've done from the beginning of time, since 1969, and well continue to do as long as I'm in the seat.
- The partnership that we have with Lakeland Bank is unique because we are both very committed to our community. The community that we serve. We live, we work in this community. We serve people in our community, and we give back to our community. The people of Lakeland Bank, the employees, they've all embraced our mission and we are very, very grateful for all of their help along the way.
- The thing is, the way they opened another office was to offer incentive and a prize for the first hundred people. So that particular prize and reward makes a line of a hundred before you open up. I said there's a captive audience.
- 50 years is a long time and it's a point of stability in the community. A company that can last 50 years is stellar in our opinion.
- When I started with the bank we were Lakeland State Bank and then in 1997 we changed our name to Lakeland Bank.
- We put the name Lakeland State Bank in the beginning because most of our competitors were national banks. But after some years we thought it would be more modern to just drop the state and call it Lakeland Bank.
- Roger Bosma came from a much larger bank and brought expertise that we did not have as a small community bank. And really changed the shape, the style, and the manner of operating the bank virtuously, because the bank needed it at that time.
- For Lakeland Bank to be listed on NASDAQ in 1999, it was a very, very exciting day for myself and our fellow board members. We went into Manhattan, we had our photographs taken and our individual photographs, as well as group photos were posted on Times Square. So it was a big day.
- Tom Shara brought us to another new level that which you see the bank today.
- We're building a franchise that has standing power that's going to be around for a long time. And as we come out of our 50th year, it gives the infrastructure and the strength to continue for hopefully another 50 years.
- The most important aspect of Lakeland Bank to us is the customer service.
- I can walk into a branch, and our local branch, and the tellers give me the same service that the senior executives give me. And it really makes the community member or the organization have easy access. And easy access is what it's all about.
- It was really refreshing to come to a small bank that knew your name. And made good coffee by the way.
- I have to say that we've always had wonderful employees. We were fortunate to bring in the right people.
- I think I had an advantage, because my husband and I had a construction and a building business. So I was in a male dominated career before I came into the all male board room at Lakeland Bank.
- And she's just a person with a personality, with an education, and she became very proud of becoming a director. And she fit Lakeland Bank like a glove.
- And I have to say that I was accepted into the board room and treated as an equal right from the beginning, and it's been a great experience.
- Sparta is a total change in the branching environment. There's a lot of digital aspects here. So what we've done is we've really worked on the ways we can deliver to the customer, the things that they need with the tools that they're using themselves, whether it be mobile phone, iPad, online banking, or in the branch.
- Being selected twice in a three year period as Forbes top 50 most trustworthy financial institutions in the United States. That's pretty darn impressive. There's a lot of banks, there's a lot of financial institutions. And to be recognized not once, but twice in a three year period. That was very, very satisfying.
- And it instilled tremendous confidence, and still does, in our company and for our customers, our employees, and our shareholders.
- [Karen] When I started we had eight branches. We now have over 50 branches. So the bank has tremendously grown.
- In the 11 years that I've been here we've seen our growth from a asset perspective go from 2.5 billion to nearly 6.5 billion, which is just incredible.
- I don't think out mission statement, I don't think the legacy, I don't think my personal desires have changed at all. It's to serve the community, to serve the population, to serve small business people, to serve the charities.
- 50 years of Lakeland Bank to me means consistency of purpose.
- I think the legacy of Lakeland Bank will continue to be providing excellent customer service and being a hometown bank.
- Continue to grow our franchise, continue to be one of the largest community banks in the state of New Jersey.
- Seeing legacy employees and partnership employees coming in in, working uniformly as team members. Seeing younger employees fulfilling their goals professionally, and from a career stand point. That stuff is really good.
- I don't know what to predict. But I can tell you that if what I would like to foresee, that I would like to see this kept as a community bank.
- And I hope that never changes.