Bank on These Guys

“It’s not personal, it’s just business” is an unfortunate cliché in the American lexicon. Few things in life are more personal than business or one’s money. Business is built on strong personal relationships.

The exchange of money between a bank and their patron is one founded on trust.  A trust that you and the bank will meet the obligations mutually agreed upon in this exchange of money. A trust that your product or service will do good for the community.  A trust that ultimately means that the bank believes in you.

Trust is very personal.

Trust is at the heart of how The Citizens Bank approaches their work. “Over the years, we have been very successful in building relationships with and meeting the business lending needs of many Wheeling-area businesses” says, Scott A. Everson, CEO of The Citizens Savings Bank.

The bank has recently expanded into Wheeling with the opening of a new Loan Production Office located at 1131 National Road, on the corner of National Road and Edgington Lane. The new office will provide a wide variety of commercial lending services including SBA and equipment loans, commercial lines of credit, and commercial real estate loans.

The office is led by two experienced commercial banking executives, Zack Blair and Tanner Russell. Both gentlemen are firmly rooted in the Wheeling community and come from banking families.

Tanner Russell, a native of Princeton, married into a Wheeling family. He takes joy in watching his children follow many of the same paths and activities their mother did growing up in this community.

Blair is a native of Glen Dale, and his father ran One Valley Bank in Moundsville and Wheeling. He grew up with people telling him how his father helped grow their business or helped their family get through tough times. It’s those experiences of watching his father being invested personally in the community that has guided his work in banking and economic development.

Russell, a Princeton native, also learned from his father’s 42 years in community banking. His father impressed upon him the joys of working in a local bank and also the struggle of lending to friends and neighbors.

“He told me it will be difficult at times because you get emotionally invested in your clients, you know them, you know the families that depend on them and you will want them to succeed, but it doesn’t always work out that way.” Russell reluctantly adds, “My father was right, being personally invested in clients can be a tough aspect of working in a market like Wheeling, but it is more often a rewarding aspect to know your client.”

Founded in 1902, The Citizens Savings Bank is a subsidiary of United Bancorp based in Martins Ferry. It is a publicly traded company with eighteen branches across Eastern Ohio and now in West Virginia. Its growing footprint is built upon personal interaction.  They believe that a bank’s decision-makers should be accessible, and that decision-making should be prudent and timely.

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Zack Blair, a Glen Dale resident, says his personal relationship with family and faith shape his approach to banking.

“One of the things we pride ourselves on is turnaround time,” says Blair. “When you’re dealing with small businesses you are dealing with people’s livelihood and we take that very seriously.” He noted that small business owners juggle a lot of roles. “They are often the end of the line for bookkeeping, payroll, sales, and product delivery; and then at the end of the day responsible for putting food on their own family’s table. Delivering timely solutions to their financing needs is essential”

“Our CEO is second generation in this bank. His father was CEO before him. Our board is comprised of local members of the community. A business owner is never more than a person or two from the decision-maker,” adds Russell.

When asked what someone can expect when they walk into the Wheeling office, both gentlemen turned to humor. “Oh about six-foot-five,” laughs Blair. “We just ask that they park the basketball jokes at the door,” quickly quips Russell. Both men are imposing in stature at 6’5” and 6’7”and both were college athletes. Blair played basketball at Waynesburg University and Russell was a stand-out offensive lineman and team captain on Don Nehlen’s West Virginia University Football team in the late ‘90s.

Joking aside, the duo stresses that patrons can expect to be treated with respect and dignity from the minute they walk through the door of the new Edgwood office. “Respect, dignity, and accessibility are part of the bank’s tradition and culture,” says Russell.

The culture of banking has changed a lot in the last decade. When pressed on the image of banking since the recent Great Recession, both acknowledge that the reputation of the industry has suffered.

“It’s unfortunate for local and regional banks like ours, when you peel back the layers and see what drove the damage to our country one sees that it was wild investment structures and complicated banking products which had little oversight. Community banks don’t deal with practices that are foolish, the kind that would damage our customers or share-holders in that kind of way.” states Russell.

Blair adds, “That goes back to trust and relationships. We live here, our kids go to school here, and we go to church with you and your family. We want to help our neighbors and want to be involved in the community.”

The Wheeling Loan Production Office had its official ribbon cutting on Tuesday, November 15th. Members of the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce, City of Wheeling staff, City Councilors Wendy Scatterday and Dave Palmer, along with Delegate (and Chamber President) Erikka Storch,were all on hand to welcome the new office to Wheeling.

Zack Blair and Tanner Russell can be reached by phone at (304)-233-LOAN.


Cover Photo Credit: Don Feenerty, Wheelhouse Creative