Valley Bank Has Big Plans to Grow Assets and Expand in Polk County
This year, Valley Bank is celebrating its fifth year in Lakeland and hoping to grow and expand throughout the County.
Founding in 1927, Valley Bank moved into Polk in 2017 after buying USAAmeriBank. After five years, they are ready for their next venture, according to Stephanie Colon, vice president and market manager.
“The goal is to expand, maybe in Winter Haven within the next year or two,” Colon said. “We’ll grow from there. We have offices on both coasts of Florida, so it would be great to bridge the gap between the two.”
Colon, a veteran banker with 25 years of experience, said she joined Valley Bank because it offers opportunities for strategic growth.
“The bank has a strategy, a benefit of longevity in the business,” she said. “I have the opportunity to be part of that growth and help them build into something and be known in our market. A lot of people don’t know about Valley.”
Services Offered at Valley Bank
Valley Bank offers personal and business bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, ATM machines, mortgages and more. Because of its local management, they’re making decisions quickly.
“The way we behave is like a community bank, even though we have a big footprint,” Colon said. “Growth strategy is needed in community banking because we have to have things in place to grow at the level we want to grow.”
Much of its offerings are typical, but it does offer ATMs in English and Spanish. “We have clients who come in who are non-native English speakers. The accessibility and ability for them to have a resource is priceless.”
Being inclusive comes naturally at the bank, she said. “It’s something we consider and think through and not assume everybody is like us. We recognize we’re not all the same. Because we’re not, the bank gives us the opportunity for a diversity of opinions.”
Valley Bank has a number of groups that create a level of inclusivity within its footprint, Colon said. She’s involved in WISE: Women Influencing Support and Empowerment.
To be inclusive, the bank offers different levels of accounts to fit clients’ needs. For instance, it offers teens accounts giving them a debit card and rewards for using mobile banking, teaching them responsibility.
It also offers accounts to people who do not have stellar banking histories, something many banks decline to do, Colon said.
“We have an account that we can let them be in for a period of time that will give them the ability to have a checking account, but not all the frills,” she said. “If they prove they can maintain it and not abuse it, they are promoted into an account with fewer restrictions. We try to be understanding and sympathetic to people who have fallen on hard times.”
Learn more about Valley Bank’s services HERE.
Changing Nature of Banking
People still go into banks, but not as much.
“I’ve been in banking 25 years, and it has been a steady decline because of technology,” she said. “We still have clients who want to do business face to face. I go to them or they come to me. I think that’s always going to be relevant. They want to know who they are doing business with, and they want to be able to trust.”
As more and more people bank online or use a mobile app, services improve. Now, you can have a text sent to you if a large withdrawal is made from your account. “You set the parameters – when you want to be notified. It keeps everyone in line with their finances. It’s another tool for people to have.”
Colon’s Goals and Work Ethic
Colon thinks about her job at the bank as if she were running her own business.
“I take good care of all of our clients,” she said. “I tell them: ‘Let me be the banker, let me do my job. I’m trying to make it so you can do your job; I’m getting paid to do this.’ Having that level of service.”
That means she meets clients wherever works for them, whether at the bank or someplace else.
She’s sticking by her personal motto: “Just doing what you can to get the job done. Be able to service the client and work toward building a relationship. Be genuine and honest. Don’t lie. If you don’t know, it’s OK; you can find the answer. A lot of what we do is in-house, so it’s very touchable. We have access to people who can make decisions.”
Her goals? “By the middle or end of 2023, I’d like us to have $100 million in deposits. If we can get to $75 million, maybe we can get that office in Winter Haven.”
She also wants to expand the bank’s presence in the community and is ramping up ways for it to give back. Holding events for the WISE group ensures personal growth and a woman’s perspective, Colon said. They also network with others in the bank’s footprint.
In addition, she holds financial education classes with the Chamber of Commerce.
For now, she’s focusing on the most important thing: “Building relationships with our clients. From that, growth will come. We always want to grow deposits and loan portfolios. That’s going to be key to that.”