Community First
Bucks County icon First Savings stands apart with a customer-centric commitment to being “more than someone’s bank”
by Phil Gianficaro


First Savings president and CEO Frederick E. Schea will not simply be a name and an impressive title on a bank statement.


Schea assures current and future customers of his bank in Bucks County that whenever they have a concern, however large or small, they will not be bounced from person to person and phone extension to phone extension, much like a ping pong ball in a lottery drawing.


If a First Savings customer is unhappy, Schea says that person will have an opportunity to speak with one person in particular if they so choose: the man in charge.


“I think that’s what sets First Savings apart from the large mega-banks,” Schea says. “If a customer has a concern, he or she can talk to me. I will greet them in the bank, shake hands with them, see them eye to eye and help them. They’re not going to get that same access at a mega-bank.


“That’s the significant difference between First Savings and banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo,” he continues. “We want to be more than someone’s bank. We’ve been in business in Bucks County since our founding in 1922; we’re celebrating our 90th anniversary in 2012. Our headquarters is in Perkasie. We’re involved in the community now and since we began. We want to continue to be a long-term fit in this community.”


First Savings isn’t simply talking the talk when it guarantees Bucks County residents the most-complete banking services available. Over the last decade, it has made a concerted effort to expand its portfolio to mirror the myriad services touted by larger banks.


According to Peter Brown, director of sales and marketing at First Savings, the company has become a full-service bank while at the same time retaining its community-first philosophy.


“Over the first 75 years, we were really a traditional savings bank,” Brown says. “We primarily offered mortgages, certificates of deposit and helped with savings accounts. But now we have a commercial lending group, as well as investment and trust management services that include managing retirement plans, 401Ks and pension plans. We can provide life, property and casualty insurance, and commercial cash-management services. Now we can help a customer with anything, from getting their first savings account for their children, to a first mortgage, to getting financing for a commercial entity.”


Over the past five years, First Savings has invested heavily in commercial lending; it has the ability to offer multimillion-dollar loan packages for construction projects, equipment financing, permanent mortgages and working capital. “We have an asset base of just over $1 billion,” Brown says. “We’re very capable of meeting the needs of the businesses in our market area.”


But what truly sets First Savings apart from other banks, according to Brown, is how it delivers those services.


“We have a lot of experienced managers and team members who are heavily engaged in the community,” Brown says. “They’re not just bank employees. They do a lot of volunteer work. They’re part of the community. They are likely to be your neighbor as well as someone you deal with at the bank.”


Branching Out

First Savings continues to grow in Bucks County. In September, it opened a Buckingham branch, bringing its total number of branches in the county to 11. That branch is the bank’s third to open in the greater Doylestown area over the past three years, joining one in New Britain (2008) and Poole’s Corner in Buckingham Township (2010).


“Prior to 2008, we didn’t have a branch further south in Bucks County than Dublin and Bedminster,” Brown says. “We made a decision several years ago to expand in Central Bucks to help service the needs of that part of the county.”


In addition to the 11 branches in Bucks County, First Savings also has three insurance offices, three investment offices and one administration, insurance and loan center in the county.


While First Savings continues to expand its branch locations, it also continues to expand its services.


“Last year, we did a major upgrade to our online banking for business and consumers,” Brown says. “Now we’re looking to implement mobile banking in 2012. There’s no question the consumer demand is changing, so we’re changing to accommodate it.”


Schea recognizes the channels that customers use to do their banking have changed dramatically, including the use of Smart Phones to make transactions.


“There’s clearly been a movement away from coming into the bank to make a transaction,” Schea says. “More and more, the reason people will come to the bank is not to make a transaction, but for a need, like applying for a loan for a business or a home.”


And when a First Savings customer does enter a branch office interested in a loan, they will find plenty of friendly, attentive team members prepared to offer them the highest level of customer service.


Earlier this year, consumers expressed discontent with larger, national financial institutions that assessed monthly fees for debit-card usage and checking accounts. First Savings, which offers free checking, hopes to attract customers who have grown tired of what many interpret as corporate gouging.


“That’s a significant part of our strategy, to let people know we don’t and won’t assess those types of fees,” Brown says. “Those fees were the straw that broke the camel’s back in the minds of many customers. Some of those banks actually pulled back on those fees after customers complained. But what it did was impact the level of trust they now have in that bank.


“But in addition to free checking and other accounts, we don’t use a computer credit scoring model. Instead we use sound judgment of individual circumstances; we factor in more than credit scores into how we do lending. With First Savings, a customer is going to get a commitment to service they will not get from a larger bank.”


Switching banks can be time consuming and problematic. That’s why First Savings has begun a customer care center to assist prospective customers in the change.


“We have all the products the larger banks have, but we’re delivering them with a higher level of service,” Brown says. “Customer service is the key. We’ve operated that way at First Savings from the day we started almost 90 years ago. That will never change.”


Interested in talking with First Savings about your financial goals and dreams? Stop in at any of the bank’s three Doylestown area branches, visit its website at, or contact Kevin Banks, Doylestown area market manager, at 215-257-5035.


Phil Gianficaro is an award-winning writer based in Doylestown.

Alison Dunlap is a freelance photographer based in New Jersey.