Meridian Bank Gives Customers the VIP Treatment at Valley Forge Casino

Ike Reese (left) and Ray Didinger flank Meridian Bank President, Chris Annas.

Meridian Bank rolled out the red carpet for its business-owning clients and their guests, treating them to an evening of food and fun while appealing to their love for the hometown Philadelphia Eagles, last Thursday night at the Valley Forge Casino.

After the Malvern-based bank spared no expense with appetizers and drinks, CEO Chris Annas introduced two of the region’s most-esteemed sports personalities, Ray Didinger and Ike Reese, who spoke about the current state of the Eagles and answered questions from those in attendance.

“This is our third year doing this,” said Jessica Annas, Chris’s daughter and the head of commercial marketing for Meridian. “The first year, we had it at the Fox & Hound in King of Prussia, and we had 68 guests. We had more than 200 this time. It’s our way of showing our appreciation for their business, and it’s great for customer retention.”

For Meridian Bank, business is well, as it recently opened a new office in Media, with another on the way in Doylestown.

RayDidinger4“We’re a group of great people who care deeply about building the economics of the Philadelphia area,” said Chris Annas. “The American Bankers Association just ranked us, based on our asset size, in the Top 10 of growing banks in the country. It’s a great tribute to a bank of our size. We’re currently in the throes of raising $10-$15 million in common stock that will allow us to lend up to $200 million to our local community.

“In an era of mergers, that’s an affirmation that we’re here to stay.”

Ron Strobel – an award-winning filmmaker and the founder of VideoNet, Inc., a Corporate Video Production company located in Malvern – was one of the many entrepreneurs enjoying the evening.

For Strobel, who has worked as a freelance television cameraman for CNN, ESPN, and Disney, it was his first time in attendance.

Rick Slack, the president of Nail Systems International in Conshohocken, has been to all three of Meridian’s events. Sixty years ago, his father – Dr. Fred Slack, a leader in prosthetic dentistry – cut his thumb nail while working in a lab. Using aluminum foil, he created a platform to fix the nail with dental acrylic, which led to the patent of the industry’s first nail form.

Now, their products are distributed all over the globe.

When Didinger and Reese took the stage, a silence came over the crowd, revealing how many of Meridian clients are diehard Eagles fans. Each took turns commenting on the Eagles’ past season, while expressing shock that the franchise fired head coach Chip Kelly. Then, Didinger and Reese took questions from the guests.

“I certainly didn’t expect to see the lackluster performances that went on during the season, especially against Miami, Detroit, and Tampa Bay,” said Reese, the former linebacker who made a seamless transition into broadcasting once his playing days ended in 2006. “But I thought (Eagles owner) Jeffrey Lurie would give him one more season. On a scale of 1-10 (with one being the least surprised and ten being the most), I was an eight. It shows just how bad things were behind the scenes.

“I’m not sure Chip fully understood what it takes to be a head coach in the National Football League.”

Didinger reiterated his astonishment that Lurie relieved Kelly of his duties, particularly with one game left in the season.

“When people asked me before the season ended if he would get fired, I told them it was unlikely,” said Didinger, a former sportswriter and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I’ve been in this business for 40 years, and to have a team that went 10-6 in back-to-back seasons tear it to the ground like that, it was a huge mistake. The fact that people really believed in Chip shows you how optimistic they were. In my experience, that’s just not how you do it in the National Football League. When you turn a roster upside down like that, the first year rarely goes well.”

When the night had finally ended, and the conversations had died down, one thing became clear: While the Eagles may be trending downward, Meridian Bank is headed in the opposite direction.

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