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Watertown Savings Bank is a Secure and Independent Community Bank

By S. Mathur

The Watertown Savings Bank is an independent community bank, with the mission to be "a safe, secure and independent community bank committed to delivering superior personal service, quality products, and banking convenience to our customers." If these values seem more in tune with Jimmy Stewart than Gordon Gecko, there's a reason for it.

Mutual banks are accountable to their customers rather than to distant shareholders, says Carole Katz, Vice President of Marketing: "As a 146 year old mutual savings bank, our customers know that we always have been and always will be Watertown Savings Bank. A mutual bank can't be bought and sold like a stock bank and instead of focusing on Wall Street or quarterly profits, we focus on our customers, our employees and the communities we serve."

Mutual banks usually invest very conservatively, which has enabled them to survive large financial crises over the years. The first mutual banks were founded in 1816, in Philadelphia and Boston, and are now largely concentrated largely in the northeastern states. They concentrated largely on making affordable home mortgage loans, as did Bailey Brothers' Building and Loan in the Frank Capra movie.

From personal banking to housing and business loans, policies and decision are made locally, with the interests of the customer and community in mind. Katz says that "As a community bank all of our decisions, whether a loan approval, deposit relationship or both are made right in Watertown Square. As a result, we can get to know a customer's circumstances and make the best decisions for all involved. Also, unlike most banks, we don't sell our mortgages, so no one outside of Watertown Savings can tell us whether to approve a loan or not." Customers who have any questions about the mortgage process can make an appointment to discuss their situation.

Personal banking is made easier by reducing the number of fees. Accounts are free, even though customers get the same state of the art technology and tools they would find at a big bank. The big difference, says Katz, is in how the bank relates to customers, who are "able to call us and have a human being answer the phone, or to come in and talk to someone face-to-face. We're local. We live here and our customers are our neighbors, and we treat them as neighbors."

The oldest bank in Watertown also makes business loans and there are commercial lenders who can advise prospective borrowers. The bank supports local community non-profits through contributions and volunteer hours. The Customer Choice Awards give customers a voice in how the donations are distributed, and have awarded over $1 million dollars to local organizations so far. Overall, the bank represents a model which recalls why, once upon a time, the words "bank" and "trustworthy" were closely associated.

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