Letter to the Editor: Lamenting Community Bank Changes

This is a letter to the editor written by Kitty Hall-Thurnheer. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, send them to Matt Butler at [email protected]

Friday the 13thand Local Ithaca bank, Elmira Savings Bank, to be purchased by Community Bank NA This is a big win for the top brass at Elmira Savings Bank, some of whom will walk out with a golden parachute, but a huge loss for our community.

Elmira Savings Bank has grown into a hometown personal bank with 12 local branches in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier. Customer service was fantastic. Phones were picked up before the third ring and staff knew customers by first name. Their product portfolio was diversified for personal and business needs, and they remained competitive among regional banks in the region. Their online platform was easy to use and they often took proactive steps for customer service, such as increasing daily deposit limits during the pandemic. The culture of Elmira Savings Bank is what made the bank so attractive.

Once acquired by Community Bank, NA, based in Canton, NY, with 250 branches spread across New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Massachusetts, our small town will simply be one of many. Customers are now forced to navigate the arduous process of changing automatic payments, reprinting checks, validating new debit cards and learning a new online platform, none of which is fun.

The consumption of Elmira Savings Bank, known as a merger, was the brainchild of Chairman and CEO Thomas Carr; Chairman of the Board Michael P. Hosey and Vice Chairman and Corporate Secretary John R. Alexander, who met on May 4, 2021 and started the conversation about a merger. They are “three of the Bank’s largest shareholders” according to page 15 of the “Proxy Statement Special Meeting 12-14-21”, a 172-page document on the Elmira Savings Bank website. Shortly after this meeting, they consulted with an investment bank who helped facilitate the merger with Community Bank, NA. When the vote went to shareholders, the bank hired Regan & Associates to help secure votes which were solicited with a letter that included a bolded sentence: “The Bank’s Board of Directors recommends you to the unanimously to vote “FOR” the Merger Proposal, “FOR” the Merger Compensation Proposal, and “FOR” the Adjournment Proposal.” See page 1 of the Proxy Circular.

While the Elmira Savings Bank branch staff that customers see will remain mostly the same, many office workers who worked in the background are being laid off. Meanwhile, CEO Thomas Carr and CFO Jason T. Sanford will drive their Golden Parachute to handsome pay totaling over $2 million.

To learn more about the merger, visit here for the proposal.

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