Checking Accounts For Heroes

Outside of George Bailey, we do not always put banker and hero in the same sentence. Yet, Boiling Springs Savings Bank, with a simple credo—“Local Values, Local Roots & Local Management”—is a community hero in many ways. Acts of heroism range from helping to restore the Fourth of July fireworks to Rutherford in 2013 to their Community Alliance Program (CAP), which reinvests more than $400,000 into the communities in which the bank has branches.

Recently, Boiling Spring Savings Bank introduced a new way to be a hero—by honoring heroes who are military, police, fire and emergency workers with a special Heroes Checking Account.

“Our focus, as a community bank, is on key components that support our local organizations and nonprofits,” says Kenneth G. Emerson, recently named executive vice president and chief operations and strategy officer at Boiling Springs Savings Bank. “Recognizing our heroes is a key component of how we serve the community, consistent with CAP. I’m very proud of the team that composed that product.”

Initiated as a suggestion from a branch manager, the Heroes Checking Account allows first responders and military personnel to earn interest on their checking account with a minimum investment of $100, unlimited checks and other perks. The program launched in May, Heroes Appreciation Month, with a Facebook “Show Us a Hero” campaign and advertising within the branches.

“Because this came from our branch managers, it addressed the customers’ needs directly,” says Andy Jones, chief marketing officer of BSSB. “The branches got excited, it caught on quickly. It was such a natural fit; it underlies the value in all our programs. Sometimes, some of the best things are the things you don’t even have to think about.”

The Heroes initiative fits a progressive plan of serving the bank’s customers by addressing how they bank, what their values are and what kind of access to their money they need. With the official slogan “Come Home to Better Banking,” Boiling Springs Savings Bank reinvests in the community through competitive mortgage and savings interest rates, free online and mobile banking and a variety of savings and checking accounts.

Because Boiling Springs Savings Bank is a mutual savings bank, it does not issue stock or have shareholders—its charter calls for profits to be redirected to the community.

Mr. Emerson, who has acted as both the bank’s chief technology officer and chief risk officer during his 14 years at the bank, assumed his current role in January. His focus shifted to maintaining the bank’s 77-year tradition in the community—while attracting and growing its customer base, most notably by expanding Boiling Springs Savings Bank’s online and mobile services.

“The challenges of the banking world take the electronic world by storm,” says Mr. Emerson, citing the use of smartphones, the scarcity of branch visits and the decline of ATM transactions as current trends. “People are more frequently paying bills, reconciling accounts and receiving alerts online, which gives us less opportunity to have conversations about their financial goals and provide customer service to them. The key is to provide all the online convenience they need but be able to reach out quickly and address any glitches or questions they have personally to serve them.”

Boiling Springs Savings Bank was the first New Jersey bank to use electronic check presentment and the bank continues to modernize and stay current on electronic issues. The new website, scheduled for fall 2016, will work across all devices and act as a virtual branch that can capture the customers’ attention and enable their transactions. With the ability to open accounts online and other procedures that were formerly differently regulated, customers will have more access and control, while the bank will still be able to address their needs. BSSB is currently evaluating the programs that automate these functions to make sure they fit the regulatory standards of their institution, migrating to a real-time solution.

“Customers are assuming a self-service role with the advancements of bank tech,” adds Mr. Emerson. “Younger customers avoid physical branches, so we have created a new community online that provides a reasonable level of visibility yet is vibrant and conducive to the multiple ways in which people can interact with our services.”

Another way Boiling Springs Savings Bank appeals to millennials is in reflecting the generation’s commitment to altruism and sense of service and value.

“We are that kind of institution,” states Mr. Emerson.

Since its founding in 1939, Boiling Springs Savings Bank has been deeply involved in its community as a benefactor and through volunteerism. The Heroes initiative is a natural extension of the bank’s own board of directors, management and staff volunteering as emergency responders and other roles within the community.

Just recently, BSSB’s president and CEO, Robert E. Stillwell, joined forces with the board and senior management to paint and install flooring through Habitat for Humanity of Bergen County.

The bank has a long tradition of sponsoring teams and organizations, as well as donating to community causes. In 2006, the bank introduced a new product to actively support the nonprofit organizations within the bank’s marketplace. The Community Alliance Program (CAP) went beyond the scattered donations of the individual branches to really encourage local involvement between the bank and nonprofits. About 400 organizations are signed up, with about 140 actively receiving funds amounting to over $400,000 annually.

CAP encourages organizations to direct their supporters to open accounts and designate their organization as a recipient of CAP benefits, allowing them to receive a quarterly check if enough participants (20) are involved, with no effect to the accounts or cost to the participants. The more accountholders who choose a nonprofit, the greater the funds the nonprofit receives. CAP makes outlying branches relevant as active participants in their community, not just sponsors of occasional events and sports.

In addition to CAP funds, the bank supports local organizations by sponsoring concerts, holiday celebrations, sports teams and many other local events—as well as with straight donations to many organizations. The bank also has a history of supporting organizations with deep ties to the community, such as housing-related and low-income causes, as well as senior centers and educational institutions.

In Rutherford, where Boiling Springs Savings Bank is headquartered, the bank has also stepped in to support local events when other donors have bailed. Similar tales emerge from other branches.

“Everything we have done, from locating our headquarters in Rutherford to our CAP program, shows we are a local bank with deep commitment to our community,” adds Mr. Jones. “Because of our mutual savings bank status and history in this area, we try to support as many organizations as we can and will continue to be deeply involved and supportive of our local neighbors.”

With assets of nearly $1.5 billion and 17 branches in Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic counties, Boiling Springs is big enough to offer comprehensive banking services, yet small enough to give customers personal, friendly attention.

BSSB has been named “One of the Best Places to Work” by NJBIZ magazine, as well as “One of the Best Banks to Work For” by American Banker magazine. Many of the employees at Boiling Springs have long tenures, developing careers, not just jobs. Customers have the ability and security of working with senior officers who are their neighbors.

For more information about Boiling Springs Savings Bank, please visit

Pamela Tully is a freelance writer, editor and marketing professional. She can be reached at

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