Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Investing in People and Communities Pays Dividends for Lyons National Bank

Lyons National Bank Logo - Banking. It's all about people.

There was a time when virtually every small town in America had the benefit of a local bank focused on supporting its community. In the Finger Lakes, Lyons National Bank, commonly known as LNB, has endured for more than a century and a half and stayed true to that civic-minded mission. LNB’s commitment to helping local businesses and communities thrive has been key to its success as one of the longest-serving community banks in the region.

Though Lyons National Bank is 167 years old, its major growth period has occurred over the last 25 years, under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Bob Schick.

In that time, the bank’s assets have grown by a factor of 20—from $60 million to $1.2 billion. Employment has increased from 26 people to over 226, with an annual payroll of nearly $15 million.

Originating with two branches in Lyons, LNB broke ground on its 16th branch, in Farmington, last month. Today, it serves customers across seven counties in the Finger Lakes.

Rendering of LNB's new Farmington branch opening this spring

People are LNB’s most valuable asset

Bob Schick attributes the company’s growth to its people.

“All of the successes that we’ve had, you can point back to the employees,” he said.

While larger institutions put shareholders first, he said, LNB places a premium on its employees.

“Our philosophy is our employees come first,” he said. “We’re very employee-centric.”

Two years ago, the federal corporate tax cut resulted in $1.2 million in savings to LNB. Schick said the bank was among the few companies nationally that used those savings to provide employee raises.

“Most corporations in America gave a one-time bonus,” Schick said. “We built it into the base salary.”

LNB dedicated one-third of its tax savings to employee raises. Another third went to shareholders, and the remaining third was used for technology upgrades to improve the customer banking experience.

Bob Schick, LNB Chairman and CEO

Bob Schick, LNB Chairman and CEO

“We believe in our employees and we go to great lengths to make sure that they have better than a livable wage and that they have all the tools they need to provide the most professional service to our customers,” Schick said.

The bank has what it brands a “WOW!” culture.

“When you walk into one of our branches, or you deal with one of our mortgage originators or commercial loan officers for the first time, our goal is to have you walk away and say ‘Wow,’” Schick explained.

At LNB, a standout customer experience results from interpersonal skills, not technical skills.

“When we hire people, we look for a positive attitude first,” said Schick. “We need somebody with personality and drive. Technical skills are okay. In some areas, you need more technical skills than others. But if you like people, and you’re willing to help people, then you’re our kind of employee.”

From stock boy to chairman of the board

Bob Schick celebrated his 25th anniversary with LNB last fall. He was recruited to the company in 1994 as chief financial officer.

“I accepted the role, thinking I’d probably do it for a couple years,” he recalled. “I had no idea where Lyons was before I got the call.”

On January 1, 1998, Schick was elected president and CEO. In 2017, he was named chairman of the board and CEO, and Tom Kime became president.

Hard work helped Schick rise from humble beginnings to career success.

He grew up in the inner city of Buffalo and lost his father at an early age. He wasn’t very interested in school.

“I wasn’t much for school,” he said. “I loved my independence and I couldn’t wait to get out. When June came, I was a happy fellow. When September came, I wasn’t so happy.”

After graduating high school, Schick took a job as a stock boy at Liberty National Bank (now Bank of America). At that time, banks printed their own forms, envelopes and other supplies. When a branch placed an order, Schick boxed it up and brought it to the loading dock.

With the U.S. draft in place, Schick joined the Naval Reserve and served two years in the Navy.

He then returned to Liberty National and entered its management training program. At night, he went to college on the GI Bill.

When the bank was looking for fresh-faced managers for its expanding investment department, it chose Schick.

He later went on to manage the investment portfolio for M&T Bank and then KeyBank. Schick helped grow KeyBank’s investment assets from $200 million to over $12 billion.

Growing Finger Lakes businesses and homeownership

LNB serves numerous business customers throughout the Finger Lakes, with a special focus on small businesses.

That’s one reason the bank opened its second Auburn branch a year ago. According to Schick, Auburn has over 1,500 small businesses.

“Some of them are one or two person shops, but some have 50 to 100 employees,” he said. “Those are the types of businesses that we can really work well with.”

Wine production, agriculture, hotel and commercial real estate are among the bank’s most-served industries.

DeFisher Fruit Farms in Williamson, Wayne County and the Solar Home Factory in Geneva, Ontario County, both profiled by Locate Finger Lakes, are examples of local businesses that have grown with support from LNB.

On the residential side, mortgages are the bank’s lead consumer product. Schick said LNB is the number one or number two mortgage originator in the communities where it operates.

Giving back to the community

LNB employees are encouraged to be of service to their communities. LNB is, after all, a community bank.

“If our communities thrive, we thrive,” Schick said.

LNB employees record thousands of volunteer hours with area non-profits.

Schick noted that in one year, employee-volunteers donate two full years of time to community projects and organizations.

In addition, each LNB branch built in the last decade has a fully-equipped Community Room for non-profits to use as meeting space.

In Penn Yan, the room is used about 200 days out of the year, Schick said.

“A lot of the smaller communities that we go into, and even some of the bigger ones, they don’t have a gathering place, where the Boys Scouts or Daughters of the American Revolution, for example, can come in,” he said.

“That’s goodwill on our part,” Schick added. “We hope that when these people are looking for a bank, they’ll think of us. But in the bigger scheme of things, that’s just what businesses are supposed to do.”

Youth organizations, such as the Seneca Waterways Council-Boy Scouts of America and the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva, are among the many beneficiaries of LNB’s philanthropy.

Together with Locate Finger Lakes, LNB is a founding sponsor of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) chapters at Finger Lakes Community College and Cayuga Community College. Schick is a Locate Finger Lakes board member.

One of the programs he is proudest of is the Elenbe Awards, which recognize excellence in drama and musical productions in Wayne County high schools. It’s described as the “High School Tony® Awards of Wayne County.” Schick worked with Bob Christmann, then-superintendent of Newark Central Schools, to establish the program in 1997. It is managed by the Wayne County Council for the Arts.

“It grew out of an idea Bob Christmann and I had, and it was so popular that Monroe County schools picked up on it,” he said, referring to the Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s Stars of Tomorrow program.

Invested in the future of the Finger Lakes

The bank was founded in 1852 as the Palmyra Bank of Lyons. In 1857, the name was changed to Lyons Bank. Seven years later, in 1864, the bank obtained a national charter and “National” was added to its name.

With over a century and a half of success, LNB knows a thing or two about business.

It encourages companies looking to expand or locate in the Finger Lakes to consider the bank a helpful partner.

“We have the expertise to help them put a business plan together,” said Schick. “We’re always willing to sit down and listen to an idea, and find a way to get it done.”

With its 16th branch opening in Farmington this spring, LNB is planning for the next location.

“We’ll continue to grow because we believe in the Finger Lakes,” Schick said. “I think we’ve shown people what we can do over the last 25 years, and the best years are still ahead for this bank.”

Lyons National Bank

399 Exchange Street
Geneva, NY 14456

Main Branch
35 William Street
Lyons, NY 14489

Krista Gleason is a contributor to the Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal. She is a freelance writer and owner of Gleason Writes in the beautiful Finger Lakes.

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