F&M looking forward to next 100 years in banking
By Steve Huffman
Theyíll be celebrating 100 years of business Tuesday at F&M Bank branches throughout the area.
Theyíll be giving away $100 at each of the 11 branches as part of Customer Appreciation Day. Good times and good cheer that kicked off in April as part of the opening of the celebration will be drawing to a close.
But the festivities, said Paul Fisher, F&Mís chairman and chief executive officer, are about much more.
ěItís about closing the past,î he said. ěBut itís also about opening our next 100 years.î
F&Mís history of success is a story that has been repeated often in Rowan County over the years. The bank was founded in Granite Quarry by local businessmen, opening its doors as Farmers & Merchants Bank on July 14, 1909, with capital of $5,000.
The first day of business, there was one employee. Two deposits ó one for $10 and another for $200 ó were made. It wasnít a very grand beginning to a business that has grown larger than its founders likely dared dream.
Today, the bank has assets of almost $700 million. In North Carolina, F&M ranks among the 30 largest banking companies. Close to 80 percent of the banks in the United States are smaller. F&M has 150 employees.
Fisher said he and his family remain fiercely proud of the fact that the bank remains largely local. The Fisher family owns 50 percent of the bankís stock. Of the remaining half, 90 percent is owned by Rowan County residents.
Fisher said that over the years there have been numerous offers to buy the bank. Thanks, but, no, Fisher said he and members of his board of directors have replied.
ěWe have tried to repay the peopleís trust by investing in the community,î Fisher said. ěIf people show they can improve the quality of life in this area, weíll invest in them. Building a better community is what itís all about.î
Fisher noted that F&Mís growth hasnít come without struggles. Over the decades, numerous area businesses have opened and closed. Some thrived, others didnít.
Fisher said that when President Roosevelt ordered the nationís 622 banks closed during the height of the Great Depression, more than 400 didnít reopen.
That wasnít the case with F&M.
ěOur bank reopened quickly,î Fisher said.
He said that was indicative of the faith that residents of Rowan County placed in the institution. Fisher noted that while many banks elsewhere in the nation had droves of customers demanding their money during the unsettling early days of the Depression, that wasnít the case with F&M.
ěNo one came and drew out their money,î Fisher said. ěPeople had trust in us and we had trust in them.î
Fisherís father, J.E. ěJakeî Fisher Sr., came to work for F&M in 1914 as a teller, joining a staff of two. He remained with the bank for almost exactly 50 years, rising to the rank of president. He died in 1964.
Paul Fisher said he drew from his fatherís faith in the community and in F&M.
ěAs far as Iím concerned, every community needs a community bank,î Fisher said. ěThey understand the goings-on of the community better than others.î
The 100-year celebration that concludes Tuesday kicked off in April. F&M held a homemade ice cream party in Granite Quarry in May and a celebration in downtown Concord in June.
F&M was also one of the primary sponsors of Pops at the Post held at the Salisbury Post in early June, and Faithís Fourth of July celebration. At that latter event, F&M sponsored the grand marshalís float and employees passed out 11,000 popsicles on a hot summer day.
The Customer Appreciation Day thatíll be held Tuesday starts at 9 a.m. and continues until 5 p.m.
Fisher noted that the dayís activities will be about far more than F&M employees patting one another on the back for what theyíve accomplished. Sometime Tuesday afternoon, a statue of a small girl leapfrogging a little boy will be unveiled at Pocket Park, the park beside F&Mís original office in Granite Quarry.
The statue is titled ěLeaping Forward.î Fisher said itís an indication of the companyís faith in the future.
ěThis is our way of saying, ëThank you,í to people here and not here,î Fisher said. ěWe want to remember those who have passed for all their contributions.î
Post staff writer Mark Wineka wrote a book, ěF&M Bank, A Century Strong,î that details the companyís 100 years of growth.
Fisher said that while many consider F&M a small bank, thatís not the case. He said that of the 8,000 banks in the country, 6,000 are smaller than F&M.
Still, he said, F&M is small enough to be considered anything but a banking conglomerate, but large enough to look after the needs of its customers.
ěSmall business is the fabric that holds the world together when the world is screwed up,î Fisher said. ěSmall entrepreneurs are there through thick and thin.î