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Crews Bank & Trust’s Unified Brand Showcases New Name for Local Customers

November 16, 2023 News

Wauchula State Bank has a new name, Crews Bank & Trust, but you’ll still see the same familiar faces at all its branches, and you’ll still experience its “customer first” culture. 

So why did it change names? It wasn’t bought by a larger bank, which is what some people ask, said Andrew Foreman, senior vice president and senior commercial banker. Foreman, who has been with the banking company for 11 years, works out of the Lakeland office. 

Instead, the bank – and three sister bank brands – were unified by their owners, the Crews family, and are now known as Crews Bank & Trust. 

“Unification under the Crews Bank & Trust name blends the trust of our banking services while having the capability of larger institutions,” Foreman said. “We capitalized on technology to better serve our customers. Before we were doing four reports, four audits, four everything. We all had our own way of doing things. When you get large enough, it makes sense to unify, especially for our customers.” 

The bank is committed to servicing its customers’ needs. “They are our business,” Foreman said. That’s one of the bank’s sayings.

Two others they use:  

  • “First thought,” referring to what they want customers to think of Crews banks – the first ones to come to mind. 
  • “The magic,” one brand, one culture, one bank, making customers feel pride banking under the Crews Bank & Trust brand. 

THE LEAD UP TO CREWS BANK & TRUST UNIFICATION 

The family spent several years waiting for the perfect time to unify its four bank brands, which collectively have 19 locations:  

  • Wauchula State Bank, founded in 1929. That bank now has a branch each in Lakeland and Winter Haven, which are doing very well, Foreman said. The Polk County branches are growing quickly, and “unification is helping that move faster.” Even though the brand Wauchula State Bank worked in Polk County, the Crews family knew it might not work in Tampa or other nearby cities – and the Crews brand is well known in Florida. 
  • Charlotte State Bank. 
  • Englewood Bank. Though heavily damaged from Hurricane Ian, the bank is being completely rebuilt with an updated look. “It’s a benefit because we are able to build a branch more associated with our Polk County branches, which are open and much more transparent. You get a good feeling when you go into those banks.” 
  • First State Bank of Arcadia. This bank received flood and roof damage from Ian. “It’s undergoing a sizeable reconstruction to update and modernize it,” Foreman said. “It also will look more like the Polk County branches, with more glass and office space.” 

Even with the changes, things are still the same, Foreman said. “We’re still here – the same culture, the same employees, the same feel. We want to make sure that the community that knows and loves us understands we are the same – just under a unified name.”  

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 

Foreman said the bank helps with economic development in Polk County and Central Florida by offering loans to “small businesses and developers who are building anything from multifamily units to offices and retail space – anything that provides jobs. We offer lending to spur economic growth.” 

It also: 

  • Hires local employees and will continue to do so as it grows. 
  • Sponsors events by the local chambers of commerce and the Central Florida Development Council, First Fridays and, coming soon, the United Way of Central Florida. 
  • Provides financial literacy classes to high school students and retail literacy to small businesses, teaching everything from what it takes to open a deposit account to how to start your own business. “We teach courses at COhatch, which is our core target – the customers we want to go after in the small-business realm. We teach them what we look for and how we can help them succeed when it comes to financing.” COhatch describes itself as an “impact-driven shared work and social space.” 

The benefits of working with Crews Bank & Trust are several, Foreman said. “We have quick turnarounds because we make decisions locally. A lot of our customers have our cell phone numbers. That’s a difference-maker – we get a lot of compliments on that. We know our customers and have that trusted advisor role and ‘first thought.”  

BENEFITING CUSTOMERS AND EMPLOYEES 

The unification benefits customers by giving them 19 locations to do business and, thanks to partnerships, more than 50,000+ ATMs, Foreman said.  

Employees will benefit from the synergy of unifying.  

“We have the ability to learn together, seeing how our sister banks service our customers,” Foreman said. “We have the same culture, but maybe they do things better than we did and vice versa.” 

Employees can now also help customers who move throughout the region. “We didn’t have that ability before. If we receive a lead in Sarasota, we can now call a lender down there. That synchronization and synergy allows us to serve customers in the central and southwest regions to improve communities. Everyone is working together more cohesively.”  

WHAT’S NEXT? 

For now, customers are the main focus. “We want to make sure they feel the same magic, that we are their trusted advisers, that we come to ‘first thought’ when they need something, whether it’s buying property or cashing a check.” 

After that, “We do want to continue growing,” he said. 

GIVING BACK 

Along with their literacy classes, some of which are taught in the Lakeland branches lobby, the banks offer their customers free WiFi, coffee and soft drinks. They let small businesses use their community room. And, of course, they sponsor numerous events. 

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