Looking back, leaping forward: F&M celebrates 100 years
By Steve Huffman
GRANITE QUARRY ó Paul Fisher reminded a crowd gathered Tuesday outside the original F&M Bank that the business opened its doors 100 years ago to the day.
Fisher, F&M’s chairman and chief executive officer, said that before that first day of business was out, the founders likely questioned what they’d gotten themselves into.
He noted that the bank opened with two employees who took just two deposits ó one for $10 and another for $200 ó their first day of operation.
“At the end of that day, they were exhausted,” Fisher said, chuckling as he spoke. “They were concerned. Did they make the right decision?”
Turns out, they did.
Today, F&M (the name was long ago shortened from its original Farmers and Merchants) has assets of almost $700 million. In North Carolina, F&M ranks among the 30 largest banking companies and has 150 employees. Close to 80 percent of the banks in the United States are smaller.
Tuesday was a day of celebration at all of F&M’s 11 branches, the day when bank employees celebrated their company’s centennial with a word of thanks to their customers. Customer Appreciation Day culminated with a customer at each branch winning $100 through a drawing.
The centennial celebration kicked off on April 29, which was the 100-year anniversary of the decision by F&M’s founding fathers to create a bank. It took less than three months to turn the dream to reality.
At Pocket Park, the picturesque, shaded plot beside the original F&M, members of the bank’s board of directors and their spouses, retired directors and their spouses, as well as members of the bank’s executive team and planners of the 100-year celebration gathered Tuesday.
They ate a picnic lunch and watched as members of the board of directors unveiled a statue of a boy leapfrogging a girl. The statue is titled “Leaping Forward” and is, said Steve Fisher, who will become F&M’s president at the end of the year when Dan Williams steps down from the position, indicative of the bank’s outlook on the coming 100 years.
“There’s no more bold step than a leap, a leap forward,” Steve Fisher said.
He noted that the tough economic times the county, state and nation are experiencing will test F&M, but not break it. Fisher compared the current economic turbulence to the First World War, the Great Depression and the Second World War, all of which F&M weathered.
“I think this group is just as tough as that group,” Fisher said, motioning to the bank’s current board of directors as he spoke.
Earlier in Tuesday’s festivities, Paul Fisher, Steve’s father, spoke of his own father, J.E. “Jake” Fisher. The Fisher patriarch, Paul said, started as a bank teller and rose to the rank of F&M’s president.
He lived in a house that stood alongside the original bank, in the very spot where they enjoyed Tuesday’s picnic lunch.
“My father had a long walk to work, 43 feet,” Paul Fisher said, laughing again.
He recited a common saying that he said addressed well F&M’s attitude toward business and its attitude toward dealing fairly with its customers.
“Yesterday’s history,” Fisher said. “Tomorrow’s a mystery. Today’s a gift, that’s why we call it the present.”
Fisher then paused before summing up all that Tuesday’s celebration meant to him and his family.
“This is special,” Fisher said. “A hundred years ago, people had a vision, a vision for their little bank. I’m convinced we upheld their original thought, their original purpose and their original intent.”