When the press release went out that WesBanco was purchasing Ellwood City’s hometown bank, ESB, there was apprehension on all sides. Customers worried that they wouldn’t get the same friendly, personal service that they’d received for years. Employees worried that the transition from one system of banking to another would be difficult or impossible. And Mike Mooney, President of WesBanco’s Western Pennsylvania Market, was concerned about whether the transition would go smoothly for everyone. Fortunately, Ellwood City residents and former ESB customers quickly had their fears allayed. WesBanco is doing its best to remain a hometown bank and it seems to be working.
A Smooth Transition
In the banking world, it can take months for one bank to purchase another and put all of the needed changes into place. When WesBanco purchased ESB, the acquisition was remarkably smooth. The announcement was made on October 30, 2014 and the formal name change and data conversion took place in late April of this year. WesBanco retained nearly 90% of the ESB employees and retrained them, while others took a retirement option. The transfer was relatively seamless because so many of the employees live in the area and nearly all of the former ESB customers stayed on during the switch.
Continuing a Tradition of Community Involvement
Daniel Swartz, Vice President and Regional Marketing Officer of WesBanco, explains, “We worked closely with people like Terrie Krukenberg, who had been with ESB for decades, in order to make sure the switch from ESB to WesBanco was a smooth one. She and several others were instrumental in helping us establish a friendly presence through community involvement. We continue to be committed to Ellwood City and the surrounding areas. There are not many community banks left and WesBanco continues the long-standing support that ESB Bank provided to the community. This includes supporting the Ellwood City Public Library, the hospital, local schools, the Chamber of Commerce and so many more. It’s this level of community involvement along with the great service of our employees that makes the difference.”
A Successful Purchase Based On Similar Cultures
When asked what he saw as the most difficult challenge to WesBanco’s merger with ESB Bank, Mike Mooney replied, “A lot of people don’t realize that this was a conscious decision by ESB Bank to be sold to WesBanco. It wasn’t a hostile takeover. In fact, ESB chose WesBanco in part because we offer the same kind of commitment to supporting the community and all it has to offer. While WesBanco is still small by today’s banking standards, it has the resources to offer much more to our customers, including enhanced services, expanded commercial and mortgage lending capabilities, insurance, treasury management and wealth management services. At the same time, we were able to keep every single ESB branch open so that our customers weren’t inconvenienced in any way.”
WesBanco’s Track Record
WesBanco is one of the strongest regional banks in the country, with 8.5 billion dollars in assets in three states. Its biggest region is western Pennsylvania and it was recently recognized as one of the best managed banks in the country.
Mooney noted that WesBanco has a strong track record as a regional bank with hometown ties. “Just a few years ago, I actually went through the same adjustment that ESB employees are going through now. I worked at Fidelity Bank, which was purchased by WesBanco two years ago and went through the process of retraining that our Ellwood City employees have gone through in the last several months. It made me more aware of the potential challenges; I could tap into the feelings that I had when Fidelity was purchased and use them positively here in Ellwood City.
Honoring ESB’s Commitments
Since the completion of the transfer from ESB Bank to WesBanco in April, Mike Mooney and Daniel Swartz have met with many of Ellwood City’s organizations, community and municipal leaders and school representatives. Their goal? Making sure that WesBanco continues to support the many community events and programs that ESB had previously devoted so much of its time and resources to. Swartz invites Ellwood City organizations to get in contact with him if there is a need for sponsorship or support of any community programs that ESB has supported in the past. “We want to continue supporting those organizations and we look forward to finding additional ways to become involved in the community. We intend to be present in Ellwood City for a very long time as not only a community bank but as a community leader.”