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Responsible New York Banking

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Responsible New York Banking - by Stephen Lendman

Imagine - an honest New York banker. It's true.

Founded in 1882, the Bank of Cattaraugus (B of C) exception proves the rule. Located in Western New York, it's miles from Wall Street's cesspool of fraud, market manipulation, grand theft, bailouts, and influence peddling in league with corrupt politicians getting generous campaign contribution bribes in return.

B of C calls itself "one of the oldest and strongest banks in New York state. (It's) a full-service, independent bank that provides financial services with a hometown touch. Personal, friendly service is our signature trademark, and we're dedicated to give back to the communities we service."

B of C "operate(s) with the same belief that the needs of the local community and its residents are its business. Local deposits must remain available for local loans to sustain" Cattaraugus village. It's located about an hour south of Buffalo.

Imagine a bank anywhere operating honestly and responsibly, meaning what it says, and proving it. Grateful customers say so. More on that below.

With about $16 million in assets and $1.1 million in equity capital, B of C is microbank in size, well below the $10 billion small bank ceiling. It's business model stresses serving local community needs. About 80% involve mortgages to local residents.

It's the state's smallest bank with one location and eight employees. It's Cattaraugus' only bank. It doesn't base loans on credit scores. Knowing community needs well, it operates supportively to help.

In its history, annual profits rarely exceeded $50,000. In 2010, it earned $47,000 for a 0.3% return on assets. Despite its size and low profitability, President and CEO Patrick Cullen says twice weekly on average larger banks make buyout offers. No thanks, he responds. "There's nothing they can offer us that we can't do ourselves."

He prefers independence, sticking with his simple business model, operating like a public utility, avoiding high risks, reinvesting in Cattaraugus' economy, and helping local residents.

B of C doesn't operate parasitically. It doesn't speculate in financial derivatives and an alphabet soup of securitized garbage. It won't cheat customers, make liar's loans, bilk investors through fraudulent schemes, or engage in other manipulative, dishonest practices. 

It's worked for 130 years as the only bank in a community of about 1,000 residents. Operating privately, it replicates responsible public banking. More on it below.

On December 23, New York Times writer Alan Feuer headlined, "The Bank Around the Corner," saying:

Pensioner Carol Bonner is one of many grateful B of C customers. Needing a loan for car repairs, Cullen helped her like earlier.

"A few years ago, when (she) fell behind on her property taxes and was forced to sell her home, (Cullen as mortgage holder) had his son Thomas (a Chicago resident) buy it." As a result, Bonner and her sister stayed as renters.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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