A visitor standing in the reception area of Capitol National Bank’s headquarters in downtown Lansing will notice a framed photograph of the late Bob Carr who was the original bank president. Alongside his photo is a quote for which Carr was widely known among his colleagues at Capitol National.
“Banking always has been, and always will be, a people business.”
In many respects, that declaration by Bob Carr has always reflected the core values of Capitol National Bank (CNB), which was formed by Lansing area business leaders in 1982 to fill a void in the market. Capitol National’s mission was to meet the needs of small and mediumsized businesses that many felt were not being
met by the larger bank holding companies.
Fast forward to 2012, as Capitol National Bank celebrates its 30th anniversary. Capitol National Bank remains steadfast in its mission as a true community bank. It’s all about local people serving local people.
“That’s the tenant of our success,” said Paula D. Cunningham, president and CEO of Capitol National Bank. “We don’t look at how many accounts we’ve opened. We emphasize the building of relationships and knowing people by their name, not by their account number. We want to add value to every relationship and we think Capitol National does that better than anybody.”
Over the past three decades, Capitol National’s steadfast commitment to its community banking mission has been most evident in the quality and longevity of its staff - starting with its leadership. Cunningham is only the third president in bank history, following John Smythe, who like Bob Carr was a long time, respected local banker. Capitol National has also prided itself on the fact that it is not only managed daily by local people, but has always maintained a local board of directors.
“Our board members are local entrepreneurs, and business people who know this community,” said Cunningham. “They aren’t just making lending decisions based solely on financial statements, but they also consider the character of the individuals involved. It also means that assets that are coming into our bank are being reinvested in the Greater Lansing region and not being diverted to other communities.”
The commitment to Capitol National Bank’s mission can be seen throughout the organization, as 20 percent of the bank’s employees have remained employed there for at least 25 years.
“It’s rewarding to come to work every day with people who want to make a difference in the community,” said Ronda Thompson, who has worked at Capitol National since 1985 and serves as vice president of development. “Our customers know and trust us and we truly enjoy helping them succeed."
Like all financial institutions, Capitol National Bank had to fight its way through difficult economic times in recent years. Cunningham is proud of the fact that Capitol National is one of very few banks that refused to accept government bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, instead fighting its way out of the down times in what Cunningham refers to as “the old fashioned way.”
“We made tough decisions and reduced staff,” says Cunningham. “Nothing beats hard work. If you work your way into it, you can work your way out of it. Now, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, without having to pay back the government.”
There are many reasons for optimism as the economy starts to improve. Loan requests are increasing and have been bolstered for Capitol National by the Small Business Association (SBA) loan programs that are fueling growth for small businesses in the region. Cunningham predicts CNB will increasingly be involved in collaborations that connect one business to another, such as the Pure Michigan Connect initiative to which CNB has committed to providing at least 20 loans to Michigan businesses in the next calendar year. Another example Cunningham cites is the Gillespie Group’s project to develop the Marshall Street Armory into a home for area non-profits. Capitol National was one of five financial institutions that joined together to provide financing to make that project possible.
There is something else that is very unique about Capitol National Bank. In 1982, there were eight banks in Lansing. Today, only one of those banks is still located here with the same name, the same location, and some of the same great people…
Capitol National Bank.
Capitol National Bank.
The rest of the world may have changed. However, Capitol National Bank’s focus on being a community bank that helps build relationships and helps local businesses grow continues to be as strong today as it was 30 years ago.