In a Nutshell: Mutual savings banks share some similarities with credit unions, including their commitment to quality customer service and to the communities they serve. Norway Savings Bank in Maine is no exception. Since 1866, the bank has served Maine residents by providing valuable financial services while also making the community a better place. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented some unique financial challenges to people in 2020. Whether Norway Savings Bank was helping people avoid debt or secure loans, it stayed true to its commitment to its customers. The bank also donated $600,000 to charitable causes in 2019 and encourages volunteerism among its employees.
Most folks have recently had to deal with financial ups and downs for one reason or another, whether credit card debt got out of hand or the paychecks just weren’t enough to cover expenses.
It’s nice to know that your bank is working for you, protecting your money, and helping it grow in good times and not so good times. When things are down, it’s even more important to have a financial institution on your side.
Traditional commercial banks are certainly capable of helping customers manage the ebbs and flows of their financial lives, but mutual savings banks often deliver something extra.
The latter are banks, but they function more like credit unions in some cases.
“Mutual savings banks are chartered by local or regional governments and do not offer capital stock, but rather the bank is owned by its members, and any profits are shared among its members,” according to Investopedia.
Oftentimes, this also translates to a strong focus on customer service, financial products designed for all types of budgets, and a priority to improve the community.
And Norway Savings Bank in Maine encompasses all of these qualities.
Melissa Rock, Norway Savings Bank’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications, recently discussed some of the bank’s products and services with us as well as its efforts over the years to help its customers and the Maine communities where it operates.
Rock said Norway Savings Bank has nearly 60,000 customers, 24 branches, and maintains around $1.4 billion in assets.
“We’re headquartered in Norway, which is in Western Maine,” Rock said. “But we also have a fairly large contingency in Portland, which is the largest city in the state. We also have branches in communities to the south and north of Portland as well as Lewiston-Auburn, the second-largest metro area in Maine.”
Providing Financial Literacy Resources and Products to Improve Financial Standing
Rock said that Norway Savings Bank maintains a robust mortgage business and a robust commercial loans department.
“Then, we have a really broad swath of deposit customers and some have been with us for ‘years and years and years,’ as they like to tell us,” she said.
Serving these loyal customers — as well as new ones — remains one of the bank’s top priorities. And that means helping them understand how to reduce debt, boost credit scores, and handle future debt responsibly.
Rock said the bank has always emphasized financial literacy for its customers and partners with Banzai to help deliver valuable educational tools and resources to them.
“Banzai has been making special, curated content specific to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rock said. “‘Have you recently lost your job?’ ‘How to make a budget on less money.’ We have been doing a lot of outward communication with our customers from the beginning of the pandemic.”
Even in pre-COVID times, Norway Savings Bank made a point to check in regularly with its customers with a monthly newsletter containing financial literacy tips and bank news.
The pandemic brought on a renewed connection between the bank and many of its customers as they communicated about changes in branch hours, PPP loans, and other relief options for those who may be struggling with debt or other financial issues.
“At the end of all of those communications, we mention that Norway Savings is here to help,” Rock said. “We’ve had a ton of mortgage adjustments and things of that nature. It’s so much better to keep people in their homes than the alternative.”
Of course, Norway Savings Bank also offers a full range of financial products and services, again, with the customer’s best interest in mind, whether it’s obtaining a line of credit or a checking account.
“Living your life in color. You don’t do it because it is easy. You do it because it’s how you’re wired. And sometimes that life needs a little extra money,” according to the bank. “And sometimes you just need the money now. Look into our personal loans and credit lines — we offer solid rates and honest terms. It’s just another way we help you to be you.”
Helping People Bridge the Digital Divide
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for people everywhere for a variety of reasons. For those who depend on in-person visits for their banking needs, lobby closures and shifting hours just added another layer of obstacles.
And Rock said that Maine has the oldest average population in the country, so many of Norway Savings Bank’s customers still like to do things the old-fashioned way.
But Norway Savings Bank saw this challenge as an opportunity to help its customers become familiar with its digital services.
“All of us are dealing with these unforeseen circumstances that are making the internet and mobile banking something that is kind of a necessity now,” Rock said. “Some customers used to say, ‘Oh, no I don’t need that. I love to sit at my table and get my checkbook out and have my coffee, and I’ll get my bills stacked up and spend Saturday morning paying bills.”
But things are different now, Rock said. And bank customers are really recognizing this.
“We’ve done something that I think most banks really should do, which is encouraging our employee base to use our products because then they can contextualize it for whoever is standing in front of them,” Rock said.
This means Norway Savings Bank employees can not only relate to customers their experience using things like the bank’s mobile app and other digital services, but they can also explain how those apps and services can benefit customers.
“We really do try to make sure our employees are using our products,” Rock said. “We do a lot of inner promotion of our products. These may seem like small steps, but boy they really do make a difference.”
Serving Maine Communities for More Than 150 Years
“For 154 years, Norway Savings Bank has been here in the background supporting generations of Maine families and business owners live unique lives,” according to the bank website. “With locations throughout Maine, we live, laugh, work, and play with you.”
The bank has shown its support in a number of ways since 1866. Rock discussed some of its recent community-oriented efforts, which are a huge part of what the bank does, she said.
“Last year, we donated in the neighborhood of $600,000 to local charities which is a big number for us, and we really take pride in it,” Rock said. “And community giving is an every-year kind of initiative for us.”
Rock said Norway Savings Bank also encourages its employees to volunteer in their communities.
“Norway Savings Bank is a mutual savings bank — a true community bank. We are perceived as the bank that does the right thing by contributing to the growth and betterment of our communities,” according to the website. “Our commitment and accountability is to the people, employees, and communities we serve.”
The bank has been recognized for its community commitment.
“We have a system where we keep track of all these efforts for the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act),” she said. “We get tested on it every couple of years or so, and we’ve had an outstanding rating, which is only what 10% of banks get.”
Financial literacy plays a huge part in the rating as well, Rock explained.
“We know that each community has its own ebb and flow, its own way of getting things done,” according to the bank. “But most of all, we know it’s our great good honor to provide the financial support you need to achieve your colorful life.”