Fred Henrich, President & CEO of Coatesville Savings Bank, speaks to COATESVILLE Today about growing up in Reading within walking distance of First Energy Stadium where the Reading Phillies play, his first job washing dishes, the best piece of advice he ever received, and going to college while holding down a full time job at a local bank.
Henrich discusses the reason why his bank remains in Coatesville, his organization’s hopes and expectations for the city’s revitalization initiative, and how an inspirational video about the bank went from a one-minute commercial to a seven-minute documentary.
Where were you born and where did you grow up, Fred?
I was born the oldest of five children and a twin in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1960. My father was employed at Reading Brewing Company until they closed, then went to work at Carpenter Technology; my mother was a stay at home mom except for the occasional cashier’s jobs she took.
What memories do you have of growing up?
Walking places. We walked to school through 8th grade, walked to church, the bank, the drug store. I grew up about a mile from what is now First Energy Stadium in Reading and walked to see the Reading Phillies many times.
Have you always been a baseball fan?
Since the time I was a kid. While I could walk to the Reading Phillies games, my father took me to see the Major League Phillies play at Connie Mack Stadium and Veterans Stadium.
What was your first job?
I was a dishwasher at a restaurant named Pappy’s in Muhlenburg Township just outside of Reading. It was job I held during my junior and senior year in high school.
What lessons did you take away from that experience that remain with you today?
Washing dishes taught me responsibility as well as the fact that every job or role or task in a business is important and contributes in some way, shape, or form to the business model. I remember doing the best I could at that job so that nobody else on the staff had to worry about dishes, pots, pans, or whatever. They had other responsibilities and babysitting the dishwasher wasn’t one of them.
Did you play any sports in high school or college?
No, I didn’t make the cut on the high school baseball team. I liked basketball and was a big fan of the Sixers when Dr. J played back in the 70’s and early 80’s.
What music were you listening to in high school and college?
Classic Rock – Rush and Queen were my favorites. We made quite a few trips to the Spectrum for various concerts.
Where did you go to college?
Alvernia College which is now Alvernia University. I was working at Bank of Pennsylvania after high school. They offered to pay for my education, so I took them up on the offer. It took a while working full time and going to school at night, and by the time I was done, they had been sold to Dauphin Deposit, and I had taken a position at the First National Bank of Leesport.
What did the Bank of Pennsylvania see in you?
They needed someone who could type and file. I took typing in high school, and filing was a piece of cake. It was a good starting job.
When did you start to notice your own leadership ability?
First National Bank of Leesport brought me in as their internal auditor. For the first time in my career, I was my own boss. I made my own schedule and set my own priorities. As I worked with other people and departments, I began to understand how a bank operates, how it makes money, and how it fits into the local and national economy. As my knowledge and understanding grew, people at the bank started to listen to what I had to say.
How would you define your leadership style, Fred?
I’m a big picture guy who is always trying to figure out how people’s roles and talents fit into the bank’s overall strategy. I’ll make a short-term sacrifice for a long-term win.
For instance, when PC’s first came on the scene in the mid-1980’s, I took a week or two to teach myself how to program LOTUS 1-2-3 macros, automated the process of printing quarterly dividend certificates and saved the bank countless hours in dollars.
Who gave you your big breaks?
There were a couple of guys who took chances on me. One of the individuals who comes to mind is Dale Henne at Bank of Pennsylvania. Dale took me out of the loan accounting area and gave me a shot in the internal audit department.
The other person who impacted my career was Gary Krick at First National Bank of Leesport who approached me at Alvernia College and asked me to join him in Leesport as their internal auditor. A year later I was named the bank’s controller and eventually CFO. Gary and I became close friends and still get together for a beer now and then.
Years later, when a new president at Leesport told me my services were no longer needed, I took a general manager position in a small restoration company before getting back into banking using my background in internal audit. That position led to the CFO role at Coatesville Savings Bank before being named bank president in 2009.
Why did Coatesville Savings Bank Remain in Coatesville?
Over time, management has considered moving the bank out of Coatesville several times. We stayed in Coatesville because this is the town where the bank got its start and grew up.
There are a lot of possibilities in Coatesville, and our board has always factored those possibilities into the decision to stay in Coatesville.
The other banks and a credit union who got their start here in Coatesville decided they couldn’t wait for the redevelopment and left town. We stayed not only because we want to be part of the redevelopment but because the people of Coatesville need banking services. For many institutions, the business exists for the stockholders. We’re a mutual institution; we exist for our customers.
Any thoughts on changing the bank’s name?
We’re proud of our name! This is where we grew up; the City is part of our history. Regardless of what businesses are in town, the name of the City isn’t going to change. We considered one of those alphabet names a while ago. In the end, we decided a new name took away from that sense of community we’re trying to foster. We could be XYZ bank anywhere in the country, but nobody would know where we came from, our history or how long we’ve been in business.
What plans do you have to celebrate Coatesville Saving Bank’s 100th anniversary next year?
We’re developing and finalizing our plans now and hope to make them public in the next several months. It’ll be a celebration 100 years in the making.
Do your customers appreciate the bank’s presence?
I think they do. Of course, some of our clients see us as the sleepy little savings and loan we once were. We’ve evolved as Coatesville has evolved and has banking has evolved. We’ve expanded to five branches and over forty employees.
Our job is to let our customers know about the full menu of deposit and loan products we offer. With mobile, telephone and internet banking available to our customers, our customers now have the full service of a regional or national bank at their disposal. Without the hassle.
Looking forward, what challenges and opportunities are you focused on?
We hear more each day about the many projects and plans in and around Coatesville. The city is on the verge of taking off as the next up and coming place to be. There are talks of commercial and retail space, residential opportunities, restaurants, and the train station. Certainly, the success of the Marriott Courtyard is a tribute to the varied industries already here.
Coatesville’s streetscaping project has already begun, and some empty buildings have been leveled in preparation for the next phase of redevelopment.
Coatesville Savings Bank recognizes this momentum and is committed to helping promote the City and its efforts at renewal. As the only bank located in the city, we enjoy a strong relationship with many of the city’s residents and business owners. We do what we can to sponsor and promote the City and its businesses.
The Trustees and Employees of Coatesville Savings Bank are committed to providing outstanding customer service, competitive products and services, and unbeatable involvement and support for the communities we serve. We’ve been doing it since 1919. It’s how we define community banking. It’s how you can define Coatesville Savings Bank.
How did this video of the bank come into being?
I’m involved with the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers. This is a statewide organization dedicated to promoting and protecting community banks through advocacy efforts in Harrisburg and Washington.
That association includes in its mission ways to help effectively promote community banks; many community banks have difficulty telling their stories.
One of the ways that PACB was going to do this was by creating videos of the community banks around the state. I was chairman of the organization at the time, so I agreed to let Coatesville Savings be the guinea pig for the program.
The original intent was to create a 60 second commercial for the bank which we could use on TV or our website. The film crew got to town, loved our story and the city’s history and architecture, and they kept filming and filming. About ten hours of film later, they decided they couldn’t slim the film down to 60 seconds.
The final seven and a half minute video is too long for TV, but its length has given us a wonderful opportunity to reach out and share the video with local community groups, chambers, and such. It’s available on our website, too.
Finally, Fred, What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
I volunteered with cub scouts for many years and their motto, of course, is “Do Your Best.” It was good advice for them, and it was good advice for me, too.
I’ve always tried to give 100% to whatever I’ve been involved with. I’m very active in various church activities, neighborhood homeowners’ association, and I’m on the Board at Coatesville’s Art Partner Studio.
I recently completed a year as the chairman of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers and had an opportunity to meet many like-minded community bankers across the state. They, too, are doing their best to help serve their communities.