seth (1)

A few months ago, as the end of my first year in the William & Mary MBA program was approaching, I was taking consulting and marketing courses and looking for a graduate internship. I got an email back from Chesapeake Bank, a company that, in all honesty, I had not heard of before. A few weeks later, I was at the bank’s HQ in the small town of Kilmarnock, VA (tucked away in the most easterly corner of Virginia’s Northern Neck) speaking with the heads of IT/OPS and Marketing about a special project. Suffice to say that the project would have me doing research about the bank’s products and services and how well they served young people.

After considering some other opportunities, I opted to work with Chesapeake Bank for the summer to lead the research for this project. Over the course of the 12 weeks I worked there, I came to understand why Chesapeake Bank is much more than just a small community bank:

  • Chesapeake Bank is in the business of helping businesses: a large portion of the business done by the bank is for commercial customers, meaning much of the service on offer is in a B2B framework, this is unique from many other local banks.
  • Chesapeake Bank has a Factoring business called Cash Flow: This is a type of commercial lending where the loan is secured with receivables. Factoring can help businesses make it over hurdles and expand by giving them access to cash when they need it. Most other factoring businesses are standalone or owned by the largest banks in the country, Chesapeake Bank’s entrance into this market is unique.
  • Chesapeake Bank has a sister company known as Chesapeake Wealth Management (“CWM”), which combines investment advisory and trust and estate services.  Part of what makes CWM unique is that all of their expertise is in-house as opposed to outsourced, they do not sell any proprietary funds, they provide highly personalized trustee and wealth management services, they do not profit from trades or transactions, and are singularly focused on clients’ customized needs and best interests.
  • Chesapeake Bank also has a merchant services division called Chesapeake Payment Systems: While other banks provide merchant card processing services through a third-party provider, Chesapeake Bank does it internally. This means that customer issues aren’t forwarded on to another business; they are dealt with internally by the staff who can respond to issues much faster than the competition. Additionally, Chesapeake Payment Systems is able to provide industry-leading solutions that match every business’s merchant card processing needs.
  • The President and CEO will also be the Chairman of the American Bankers Association: Jeff travels frequently around the country to meet with bankers in every state; deeply familiar with the regulatory framework around banking and the spectrum of banks across the United States, he is an invaluable asset to Chesapeake Bank.

“Okay, Seth,” I hear you say, “This organization is unique and that’s cool but what about your impressions.”

I’m glad you asked. For my job I spent a lot of time pretending to be a customer and walking through what they experience on a day-by-day basis with the bank (opening new accounts, calling branches for help, applying for a home or business loan). I also spent lots of my time interviewing staff, reaching out to firms that offer technical solutions, creating (and distributing) surveys, watching people work, and speaking with customers. There are lots of impressions:

  • All companies talk about their “great customer service” but these guys are on another level. They go above and beyond to fix problems for their customers because that’s just what the culture is.
  • The company culture is about relationships, big and small. Whether you’re a business, newly married couple, or retiree, there are more than just products here, there are people who want and will try to make your life and financial-wellbeing better.
  • The company cares about more than just customers. In 2017 there were 123 organizations served by the bank’s volunteers over 5,200 volunteer hours, with 38% percent of staff participating in volunteer work.
  • It is an organization focused on how they can improve. When I spoke to people throughout the organization, many of them recounted to me how Chesapeake Bank was already moving to make improvements where needed. They respond to criticism not with being defensive but by figuring out a solution.
  • The bank represents a wealth of experience (pun intended). Chesapeake Bank hires the best and trains their staff. You find people throughout the organization who have so much you can learn from and they all bring years of experience and unique perspectives.

I would recommend to anyone interested in getting a mortgage, a commercial loan, investment advisory services, a point-of-sale system, a receivables-based loan, a job, or even an internship that they consider Chesapeake Bank. My experience this summer has been fantastic; I was able to invest so much of the skills that I had developed in the MBA program and my previous experiences into my work. I know that I made an impact at Chesapeake Bank, but I also know that Chesapeake Bank had an impact on me.