The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 22, 2013

First Community’s new guard

Bank’s management team is ready to better serve customers and take the bank to new heights

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

— With new management in place, the team at First Community Bank said it is ready to focus on the core banking operations and taking care of customers.

Senior Vice President Jason Belcher said a lot of changes have taken place over the past year, but the bank is moving forward in a very positive direction.

The Board of Directors recently appointed a new CEO, Gary Mills, who has been with the bank since 1998. Mills first served as city executive of Princeton, then was appointed to chief credit officer in 2006.

Belcher said the chief credit officer before Mills was Sam Elmore, who was recently appointed to the bank holding company board of directors.

Elmore ran Citizens Southern Bank, which is the bank that First Community acquired in 2000 to develop its presence in Beckley.

“When First Community Bank came to Beckley, there was the Citizens Drive office and the Brookshire office,” said Hazel Burroughs, vice president of sales and service leader. “We were probably a $60 million institution at that time. We’ve since built a branch in Daniels in October 2007, then we were also assigned a branch in Hinton.”

Burroughs said now in the Raleigh/Summers division, First Community Bank’s assets are over $100 million.

“It’s been exciting to watch it grow. When we built the branch in Daniels, we knew we were on the right track.”

She said they attribute their success to the dedication of local management and the staff.

“We have a very dedicated staff and our customers enjoy banking with us in the Beckley market. They think we’re very friendly and customer-oriented. When they walk in the door, someone speaks to them and calls them by name nine times out of 10.”

Burroughs has been working in banking for 33 years, first as a receptionist, then as a loan officer and as a branch manager.

Her position now is to supervise all the branch managers and everyone who works under them, all the way through the teller line.

“Interestingly enough, I’ve worked for six different financial institutions, but I only changed jobs once.”

She’s lived in the Shady Spring are her entire life and she enjoys getting to know her customers.

“We’re dedicated to customer service and taking care of our customers first and foremost. If not for the customers, there’s no need for us. That’s pretty much what our philosophy has been.”

Jeff Miller, commercial lending leader, is also a local, born and raised in Beckley. He handles all the commercial lending responsibilities now, but he actually got his start as a teller at FCB, working part-time on evenings and Saturdays.

Miller started his education at Concord University, but finished his finance degree at Mountain State University.

“I started as a teller, which I completely attribute to me understanding banking. It’s not easy. It would be hard to walk off the street and be a lender and not have any experience from the ground up.”

Belcher, originally from Princeton, also worked as a teller while he was in college at West Virginia University working on his accounting degree.

He went on to work for a number of years in public accounting, and then joined FCB in 2005 at the corporate office. He spent some time as the treasurer and another portion of his time there in commercial lending and branch management.

Belcher’s job now is to oversee day-to-day management of the Beckley market: “I’m responsible for the success or failure of our efforts here.”

Belcher, Miller and Burroughs were all promoted from within the company and Burroughs said that’s something the bank prides itself on.

“We do pride ourselves that we try to promote from within,” Burroughs said. “We try to train and utilize the talent we have.”

Miller said he is especially glad he started his career as a teller, because he is now able to better understand the other employees’ jobs.

“You understand what they do on a day-to-day basis because you’ve been there.”

From the ground up, FCB is all about the community.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being a community bank and I think even more so you’re going to see that community coming forth with our new management,” Miller said.

Belcher added, “Anything that we run into that prevents us from taking care of our customers, these guys are just right down the road in Bluefield and we can pick up the phone and share with them the challenges we’re having. They’re very responsive and quick to help us.”

He said the new management team is focused on giving them the tools, resources and flexibility to be a successful bank.

“The regulatory environment we face just becomes more complex and more challenging all the time. That stuff’s not going away, but we have to do everything we can to focus on the process and make sure we still comply with regulations. The company is determined to streamline our process and meet the customers’ needs in a way that is safe and sound banking process.”

Belcher said whether it’s a home equity loan, an auto loan or a regular checking account, FCB wants to be able to give customers whatever they need to “do life.”

“We want to be there to fill that need for them from a financial standpoint.”

Miller said that of the multiple banks in Beckley, what makes FCB different is its customer service and employees.

“We are the community bank, but we can offer all the service from top to bottom.”

Burroughs added, “We have a bigger bank on a more personal level.”

With Beckley being the biggest growth market in the state, all three FCB representatives say they expect great things for the future.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com