Customer service and personalized attention are the hallmarks of Astra Bank’s steadfast quality over the years. We scout great talent to bring the best people on board our team, so they in turn can offer the best service to customers. We really do care about our people and our customers. The bank has a great vision and directors/managers are setting the stage for success and willing to pay for talent.
We asked Richard Campbell, Astra Bank Chairman, what kind of customer appreciation efforts the bank has in place to help thank people for selecting Astra as their bank of choice? He gave us one example of the bank’s “Free Gift” program, which provides new account holders something useful (and fun) as a thank you for opening an account with the bank. The bank has given away personal Proctor Silex grills, Coleman first aid kits, coolers, camp chairs, bakeware, sleeping bags and even gave away digital cameras. Additionally, with the bank having expanded to different locations and now having many branches, getting everyone together is difficult and cannot be done too frequently. However, each branch organizes team events and activities locally with staff to keep the “fire burning” for the bank.
Unlike the bigger, national banks that try to offer the same brand feel and experience across all branches (regardless of location), the goal for a community bank like Astra is a little bit different. Our vision and guiding principles are commonly emulated by staff in every location; and yet, we try hard to maintain the feel of each “individual location”. That’s what offers our customers the friendly, “community bank” bank feeling that is so unique—it’s the Astra Way and we aim to communicate this effectively in everything we do.
Does employment with a community bank hold your interest? A great work-life balance and the opportunity to serve customers in your local community is available to you at Astra Bank. Be sure to check our home page for a We’re hiring! link and maybe you’ll be the newest addition to our team.
Change is inevitable, change is good, change fuels innovation. But if there was “one thing you would never want to change at Astra Bank, no matter how many technological and industry-specific changes take place, what would it be?”
That was one of the questions we asked Richard Campbell, our Chairman in our recent chat with him. His answer was, “The personal service that we give to our customers and the community. That will never change at Astra Bank. Typewriters, ledgers, computers and smart phones can all change and become faster, better, smaller perhaps; but the commitment to customer service that our staff display will be a constant. It is the reason we are here for so many decades and if we were to change that, it could be the reason to fold up business. So that is not going to happen.”
Recruiting the right people for frontline staff is critical since this is where the customers have the most interaction. The Tellers at Astra Bank are known for superb service and all of us here are very proud of what they do. Customers love how caring, kind and gentle they are, always aiming to help meet their needs.
In a world where the customer has so many choices, people make the difference. We really think we have the best employees for the markets we serve. We have the best Loan Officers, the best Tellers and all employees at the various levels do what they can to take care of the customer. They all are at the top of their game, which gives the bank the ability to offer the best service to our customers. In many cases customers walk in the door and everyone in the branch knows their name. Then no matter how many different choices they may have, these customers want to come back to us because we know them, we understand them and we make it our priority to continuously improve the way we meet their needs.
Mr. Campbell says, “We know the speed and efficiency that technology brings, so we are making every effort to ensure that Astra Bank offers the same level of technology as other big brands. We want to be able to offer our customers the best of both worlds—new technologies, same great service!”
Do you have any suggestions on how we at Astra Bank can enhance our banking technology and service to better serve your needs? Please tell us by making a comment below or Contact Us today.
Community banking at Astra Bank takes on a far deeper meaning beyond just serving the local community with banking products and services. We take our motto of “deep roots, deeper commitment” very seriously. It would be wonderful if we could centralize our community outreach efforts and manage everything in one place, but we recognize that this is neither feasible nor advantageous to the communities we serve. And that is why we place the onus of community involvement on our different branches and their staff. Location managers are empowered to scout suitable opportunities within their local community where the branch and its staff team can reach out, lend a hand and make a difference.
Our community service programs and initiatives run the whole gamut from helping to maintain local ball fields and parks, to charity golf tournaments, fundraising barbecues, food and clothing donation drives, helping out at retirement homes, and so on. Our branches also make sure that when doing business they support the local hospital bond issues and other economic efforts to help make things happen the way they should. We offer our help and support with general obligation bonds and also work closely with local governments and municipal corporations to help fund community initiatives.
We asked Richard Campbell, Astra Bank Chairman to comment on the bank’s community involvement and he said, “When you have been around as a rock solid institution for over a 100 years, you can’t help being deeply entrenched into the communities you serve. We consider ourselves an integral part of the community so making a difference and being a driver of positive change is what we take pride in doing every day, in many small and big ways.”
Has an Astra Bank community program or outreach initiative made a difference to your life? We would love to hear your story! Please feel free to share it on our blog and post a comment below.
Richard Campbell, our Chairman was talking to us about the significant changes he has witnessed in his tenure with the bank since the early 70’s. He strongly believes that the best thing that happened to the banking industry and to Astra Bank of course, is the technology that came along, and it only seems to be getting more advanced every day. Technology really has “leveled the playing field” and made life a whole lot more pleasant for the bank and its customers. It has allowed the little banks to take advantage of the changing environment and get caught up with the big banks.
Speaking about the regulatory environment, Richard told us how regulation was less stringent in the past and in recent years this has become much more burdensome. Many of today’s regulations didn’t even exist “back in the day”. He agrees that we need to have regulations, but feels that at times some of the new rules that are in effect make it difficult to really take care of the customers. One of the regulations, for instance, used to limit how much a bank could pay on a Certificate of Deposit (CD) or eliminate paying interest on Demand Deposit Accounts (DDA). Astra Bank was able to work within the regulation and yet keep customers happy (and pay customers interest) with Negotiable Order of Withdrawal (NOW) or checking accounts. Even the ways in which interest was calculated has changed over the years, which could have been disadvantageous to customers prior to the changes. The good news is that at Astra Bank, we have always made sure that customers come first.
Our products and services have evolved to keep pace with the changing environment. For example, the bank offers a “trade-a-rate” a program that allows the customer to not only get a better rate but also extends the term. While other banks also offered this when Astra Bank first started this innovative product, we were one of the only banks to spend time explaining “how” this type of product could really benefit customers. Richard remembers that the highest rate ever paid out was 15.65% on a 6-month CD! While rates likely won’t see those levels ever again, the bank prides itself on continuing to offer competitive rates for customers.
We have also tried to do away with service charges in as many areas as possible. The bank works harder to keep costs low, provide an attractive rate and use that model to make money. The loans are really where the bank makes money, so by not charging service fees on the deposit side, we can bring in the money to fund loans and ensure that rates are attractive for all types of loans—cars, houses, farms, businesses, etc.
If you want to know about the various products and services available to you through Astra Bank, please stop by one of our locations or call us during business hours at (800) 269-5009.
That’s the way the saying goes. And here at Astra Bank, we can tell you that it is true. We continue to share with you the insights and interesting stories we gathered from our Chairman, Richard Campbell a few days ago.
We asked Richard about some of the challenging times for the banking industry and how Astra Bank coped with those challenges. He recalled one of the toughest times during the 80’s when many banks failed very badly and were not able to bounce back. Astra Bank on the other hand, not only survived but managed to come out in very good shape. Rather than adopt an aggressive approach like some of the other “out on the edge” banks, Astra followed a conservative lending philosophy. Being an Ag bank (serving the agricultural sector primarily), Astra pulled comfortably through even the agricultural or what is known as the farm crisis of the 80’s. Farm debts from the 70’s had accumulated to enormous proportions and were battling the unfavorable economic climate of the 80’s. Interest rates were extremely high and many farmers who had been profitable until now had to fold their farms and move out looking for jobs. Even their agricultural land was not selling at good prices. The overall market sentiment was one of doom and gloom all around. Astra Bank too, like many other banks had its share of customers who did not quite make it through this tough period.
The bank officials played an advisory role helping customers make the right decisions whether it was about cashing out and liquidating to pursue a different career or suggesting other ways to maintain their net worth. Some customers, of course, were not happy at the time to be given forthright advice on what they should do, but the same people today are still banking with Astra and are very satisfied customers because they received valuable, timely advice from their community bank.
The philosophy of the bank, even today, so many years after the 80’s crisis is to look for ways to work with customers for the long-term. When customers are successful, the bank will be successful. “We never look at things from a short-term perspective”, says Richard. “In fact,” he adds, “I always tell our customers—the only thing I like better than us making money is you making money.”
Well said Richard! It motivates the rest of us at Astra Bank to always look for ways to help our customers make more money, save more money, and be successful today and into the future.
Technology has impacted every aspect of our lives. For us in the banking and financial services industry, it has been a journey of change and innovation at great speed in the last decade or so. We asked Richard Campbell, Chairman of Astra Bank to reflect on some of these technological changes he has seen over the years and how they have impacted the bank’s business operation.
Richard shared with us the progression from “everything done by hand” to using typewriters, then computers and now the dynamic world of Internet and mobile banking. He spoke about the time when bank officials had to do hand filing of checks using the Burroughs Sensimatic which was basically, a glorified calculator with ledger sheets. Compare those days of “manual labor” to digital check imaging today and it’s plain to see why life is so much simpler today.
Manual posting to ledgers used to be a laborious and time-consuming task. Lengthy loan documents had to be typed out and there were no copiers, only carbon paper. Yes, we know, it’s hard to find carbon paper today and aren’t we all happy about that—less carbon, more green! Richard fondly refers to his first typewriter as a real “heavy critter” and cringes when thinking about the times when a mistake was very costly. You had to type out loan documents in 3 copies using carbon paper. Trying to fix a mistake was not only difficult, it was often impossible so you had to start over. He’s “upgraded” to an IBM Selectric III typewriter, which has correction ribbon to help take care of the occasional typo, but still is one of the few individuals in the bank that continues to use a typewriter.
Today, with computers, the Internet and web-enabled mobile devices, speed and efficiency have both gone up tremendously. Does that mean customer service requires less attention? On the contrary, says Richard, the customer is on the go and expects and demands better service. So while transactions and documentation have become easier with technology, our customer service levels are continually put through the wringer with technological advancement. If we don’t raise the bar every day in small ways and big, our customers will move to other banks and we cannot let that happen. “We have had generations of families and businesses bank with us. It is a matter of pride for us and we won’t ever give that up,” promises Richard on behalf of all the staff at Astra Bank.
We're with you on that Richard!
We hope you are enjoying this series of blog posts covering excerpts from our recent chat with Richard Campbell, Chairman of Astra Bank.
We asked Richard to share with us some early memories of working with the bank. In response, he took a trip down memory lane to recount an interesting story. Back in the 70’s, his father-in-law was still with the bank and Richard was new on the scene, observing and absorbing the very strong and deep-rooted culture of customer service. A customer of the bank who was a farmer was really struggling with his farming operation and not making much money at all. He had been a long-standing customer but was starting to experience diminished net worth. Richard’s father-in-law advised him to consider getting a full-time job and move away from farming. The customer said he had thought about it but was honest about his genuine love and passion for farming which he felt would never allow him to stay away from it completely for too long. He was nervous that watching other farmers get busy in the spring time with new planting, he would kick up whatever else he was doing and get back on the farm. Seeing his determination to keep at it, his resolve to rise above the challenges of the times and his focus and perseverance to make things happen, Astra Bank went along and took a chance on this customer.
Things turned out well for the customer and he hit some good prices for his farming produce. The farming operation was back to being profitable. The customer still banks with Astra and is very happy even after all these years. That is the most important thing for us—we value relationships and aim to build customers for life. If that requires us to sometimes take a chance on a customer and win their trust, we are happy to go that extra mile. We know from our experience over the years that it pays to do so. It keeps our customers happy and they bring more eager customers into our branches!
Do you have an interesting story to share about your experience with Astra Bank? Has one of our team members gone above and beyond to understand your needs and help serve them? We would be very happy to hear from you and will be sure to pass on your compliments to our staff.
Astra Bank has been serving the community since 1911. More than a hundred years later, if there’s one thing that remains the same as it was back then is our commitment to customer service excellence. One of the questions we asked Richard Campbell, our Chairman in a recent chat was about what has helped the bank to be successful through the changing times and economic conditions. Richard’s answer was simple: “Good old-fashioned values.”
And what he means by that is even today, more than 100 years after the bank first started its operation, being true to serving customer needs has been and will always be the number one priority for every employee here. Richard himself joined the bank 41 years ago in September 1971. His father-in-law, G. Walter Boyles, had been with the bank for many years before that, having joined in February of 1929. Richard spoke about the tough times that the world faced with the economic crash, (in)famously known as the Great Depression of 1929. What kept Astra Bank afloat despite the challenges of that financial crisis was a balanced approach set on the foundation of strong ethical and business principles. The early insights he gleaned from his father-in-law (and mentor) played an instrumental role in shaping Richard’s perspective on following a conservative approach to lending. “We always made sure that people had the capacity to repay and provide collateral to pledge on their loan.”
Today, in an environment of increased and highly stringent banking regulation and disclosure norms, banks have no choice but to do their due diligence on every loan transaction. But even back in the day when we used to take care of all the record-keeping and documentation manually, our staff was trained to follow processes that made us efficient, customer-friendly and profitable.
The first lesson in customer service that Richard says he learned was that banking is not just about lending and borrowing money. It is about understanding customer needs—advising them on crucial financial decisions that would impact their life, their families and their business. With all the advances in technology, we have not lost sight of the fact that Astra Bank is successful because we help our customers to be successful. If we can show you a better way to save, invest, borrow or lend your money, we believe we can make a difference to your life—a positive one; and that is our ongoing commitment to each and every customer of Astra Bank.
The marketing team here at Astra Bank recently chatted with Richard Campbell, Chairman of our bank. We asked him a few questions and Richard spoke to us at length about the history and his times with the bank. In a succinct series of blog posts, we are excited to share with you some excerpts from this chat. You’ll read about interesting anecdotes and trace the traditions and roots of a bank deeply rooted in service to the community. We’ll take you through the significant changes that have impacted the banking and financial services industry and how you as customers have always remained the steadfast focus of our operations.
In this forthcoming series of blog posts we will share you with you the highlights of our chat and would welcome your questions, comments and any stories you would like to share with us as a customer of Astra Bank.We look forward to hearing from you!
As they say... "Tis the Season" and it's that time of year again. All of us here at Astra Bank are excited about our upcoming Open House events and hope you're able to make it. Depending on the location, you'll be able to enjoy hot cocoa or spiced cider along with a variety of holiday treats.
Below are the dates and times and you can download each location's own flier for more information. We hope you'll be able to join us and help to celebrate (and thank) all the wonderful customers like you for a great year!
Open House Schedule
- Abilene - Friday, December 7th (9 am - 3 pm) download flier
- Belleville - Friday, December 7th (9 am - 4 pm) download flier
- Chapman - Friday, December 7th (9 am - 3 pm) download flier
- Scandia - Monday, December 10th (9 am - 3 pm) download flier
- Sutton - Friday, December 7th (9 am - 3 pm) download flier
The bank will also be observing the following hours for all five of our locations during the holiday season.
Monday, December 24th Bank is Open Until 12 Noon
- Why Work at Astra Bank? Because we care about people... on both sides of the counter
- Commitment to Customer Service, Some things wil lnever change at Astra Bank
- Community Banking with a Difference. Reaching Out: One Branch, One City, One Community at a Time...
- "Change is the Only Constant" Evolving Product & Services to Suit the Changeing Environment
- Tought Times Don't Last... Tough People Do!
- From Typewriters to Mobile Banking, Technology Has Changed…Customer Service Only Gets Better!
- Winning Trust with Customers, Sometimes it Means Taking a Chance!
- 100 Years and Counting… Customer Service is a Tradition at Astra Bank
- Excerpts from a Chat with Richard Campbell, Chairman, Astra Bank
- Join Us For Our Christmas Open Houses This Holiday Season!