Pioneer Savings Bank

652 Shaker Road
Albany, New York 12211-1125
U.S.A.
Telephone: (518) 730-3000
Web site: https://www.pioneerbanking.com

Private Company
Incorporated:
1889 as Pioneer Building Loan and Savings Association of Troy
Total Assets: $767 million (2013)
NAICS: 522120 Savings Institutions

Pioneer Savings Bank, doing business as Pioneer Bank, is one of the largest community banks in the United States, maintaining about two dozen branches in New York's Capital District. Pioneer's personal banking services include checking options, statement savings, money market accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), individual retirement accounts, and health savings accounts. Pioneer, based in Albany, New York, also offers electronic banking and debit cards, as well as credit cards, mortgages, home equity loans, and auto loans. Its wealth management services include investment advice, retirement income planning, and estate planning.

For business customers, Pioneer provides business checking, money market accounts, CDs, and sweep accounts that offer higher interest rates. Pioneer issues business credit cards, commercial mortgages, construction loans, term and equipment loans, lines of credit, employee retirement planning, and business succession planning. Pioneer also serves government and municipal organizations. Besides checking and money market accounts, Pioneer provides government entities with payroll services and a variety of short-term financing products, including bond, tax, and revenue anticipation notes. The Pioneer Benefits Consulting division provides employee benefits services.

TROY, NEW YORK, ORIGINS

Pioneer Bank grew out of the building and loan association movement that took shape in the 1880s as a way to promote savings and provide residential mortgages. In Troy, New York, in 1889, a group of printers who worked for the Troy Daily Press persuaded the paper's owner, Henry O'Reilly Tucker, to establish the Pioneer Building Loan and Savings Association of Troy. At the time, there was no bank in the community at which residents could make deposits and save money. The association was organized on February 25, 1889, incorporated on March 7 of that year, and five days later it began conducting business each Tuesday evening in leased office space. Membership was not limited to newspaper employees. Rather, anyone could join by paying a 50-cent initiation fee. By purchasing shares in the organization, members could borrow funds to purchase real estate. Pioneer issued its first loan, for $2,000, a week after first opening its doors.

Pioneer survived the Great Depression that spanned the 1930s, and then thrived during the post–World War II economic boom. By the end of the 1940s it increased assets to nearly $22 million, including about $19 million in first mortgage loans. Pioneer's more than 25,000 member savings accounts approached $20 million in value. The association's surplus now totaled more than $1.2 million. It was also in 1949 that a future chief executive joined Pioneer, Edward H. Nash, who was born and raised in Troy.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES

While other banks focus on returning value to shareholders and investors, we have held firm to our belief that the customer, our employees and our community should come first.

OPENING OF SECOND BRANCH: 1958

In 1950 Pioneer purchased the former headquarters of Troy Gas Co. on Second Street and relocated its office to the site. The following year, Nash's predecessor, Allen L. Gillett, was named Pioneer's president. In 1953 the association upgraded its operations by investing in an IBM data processing system. It was not until June 1958 that Pioneer opened a second branch, located in Latham, New York, a hamlet west of Troy. Nash served as branch manager. He subsequently became vice president and treasurer of the association.

In July 1972 Pioneer converted from a savings and loan association to a savings bank. Also that year, a branch opened in Watervliet, New York, a town located across the Hudson River from Troy, and a Savings Bank Life Insurance department was established. In the absence of Gillett, Nash was also filling in for the president during this period. In January 1973 Nash was promoted to executive president and he then succeeded Gillett as president, later adding the chief executive officer title.

Under Nash's leadership, Pioneer expanded as a savings bank and ventured farther from Troy. A branch opened in Rotterdam, New York, in 1973. Additionally, the bank upgraded its information technology in 1976, installing computer terminals that connected the bank to an off-site data processing center. As a result, Pioneer was able to keep track of customer transactions in real time. Also in 1976, Pioneer established a checking department. Consumer lending products were introduced in 1981, and in 1987 Pioneer began offering home equity loans. All the while, Pioneer avoided the bank failures that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

INSTALLATION OF FIRST ATM: 1995

Pioneer reported assets of $299.1 million in 1989 and continued to expand in the 1990s. It was not until 1995 that the bank installed its first automated teller machine (ATM), located in the Watervliet branch. (Pioneer's ornate, marble-trimmed lobby in its main office was not deemed suitable for an ATM.) A year later, Pioneer opened offices in Clifton Park and Malta, New York, both north of Troy. Nash also prepared for retirement. In September 1996 he turned over the presidency to John M. Scarchilli. Raised in Waterford, New York, Scarchilli had joined Pioneer in 1977 after completing a bachelor's degree in accounting from nearby Siena College. He worked his way up through the ranks, including stints in the auditing, accounting, and finance departments before becoming chief financial officer.

As Pioneer's president, Scarchilli spearheaded the launch of PSB Financial Services Inc. in 1997, expanding the bank's investment products and services. In September 1997 Nash retired, and Scarchilli became CEO as well. Nash left him with a bank with six branches and $465.9 million in assets.

Scarchilli told Alan Moorse in the Albany Times Union for a September 17, 1997, article that his primary goal was to “keep the bank as viable, safe and strong as Mr. Nash did.” He added, “We won't change the products and services we offer, but we'll change the delivery and how customers will use the bank for those products and services.” Change in delivery included the installation of ATMs in all new branches and the addition of internet banking. At the time, Pioneer maintained a website on which customers could only apply for loans. As the 1990s came to a close, Pioneer installed a new computer network and data processing system and introduced debit cards to checking account customers. Also in 1999, Pioneer opened an office in the hamlet of Wynantskill, New York, southeast of Troy.

A PERSONAL CHALLENGE

KEY DATES
1889:
Pioneer Building Loan and Savings Association of Troy is established.
1958:
A second branch opens in Latham, New York.
1972:
Pioneer converts to a savings bank.
2008:
Pioneer Savings Bank begins doing business as Pioneer Bank.
2016:
Headquarters moves to Albany.

Scarchilli remained alive well beyond the six-month forecast, defying the odds year after year, while continuing to expand Pioneer. In 2001 a branch opened in the hamlet of Glenmont, a few miles south of Albany. The following year brought an office in Scarchilli's hometown of Waterford, some five miles north of Troy. In 2003 Pioneer introduced online banking and opened an office in the Albany suburb of Colonie. A year later, the bank added branches in another Albany suburb, East Greenbush, as well as in the town of Green Island in Albany County. Finally, in 2005 Pioneer opened its first office in Albany itself, located in the downtown area. Overall, it was the bank's 14th branch.

In 2007 Pioneer opened a branch in Guilderland, a western Albany suburb. The following year, Pioneer shortened its name to Pioneer Bank. As part of the rebranding effort, it adopted a new logo and the slogan: “Where business is personal.” Pioneer did not, however, make a legal change of name.

In 2008 the world became embroiled in a financial crisis that led to the failure of some prominent financial institutions and a government bailout of banks that relieved them of so-called toxic assets. Pioneer was not in need of federal funds. Cautious in its approach to business, Pioneer was also not significantly affected by the resulting recession. As the decade came to an end, Pioneer was able to upgrade its capabilities, adding proof of deposit technology to improve check processing.

DEATH OF SCARCHILLI: 2010

In January 2010 Pioneer added a new branch in the hamlet of Delmar in Albany County. It would be Scarchilli's last opening. In the spring of that year, his condition worsened. Although no longer able to come into the office, he continued to work at home until he finally succumbed to cancer in June 2010, nine years to the month that he had been given only six months to live. He fulfilled his pledge to keep Pioneer a viable institution and maintain its independence. There had been no shortage of other banks interested in acquiring Pioneer, but he had dismissed all overtures.

Veteran Pioneer officer Eileen C. Bagnoli stepped in as president and CEO and led the bank as CEO until retiring in June 2013. In July of the previous year, the Pioneer board had chosen her successor, Thomas Amell, who then joined the bank as president and chief operating officer in August 2012. He brought 20 years of experience in the financial services sector in the Capital District. In July 2013, as the new CEO, he took on responsibility of a bank with $767 million in assets and 16 branches. Later that month, Pioneer opened its 17th branch, its second in Clifton Park. More than a bank office, it included a copy and shipping center, as well as a retail shop. Also in 2013, the Pioneer branch in Albany was relocated.

Under new leadership, Pioneer expanded on multiple fronts. In 2015 the bank opened its first branch in Schenectady, New York, which featured the Capital District's first interactive teller machine (ITM). Similar to an ATM, the ITM provided customers with the option of videoconferencing with a teller if needed. The following year, Pioneer acquired an area insurance agency, Anchor Agency, Inc., allowing the bank to sell insurance products to its retail and commercial customers. It also forged an alliance with Homestead Funding Corp. to expand the range of mortgage products. Pioneer acquired bank branches in Cairo and Greenville to expand into Greene County, New York. Moreover in 2016, Pioneer opened a $15 million, 60,000-square-foot building in Albany that housed a bank branch and became Pioneer's new corporate headquarters. Located at one of the busiest intersections in the Capital Region, it also included retail space for lease. The bank's former main office remained open as a branch in Troy.

Ed Dinger

PRINCIPAL DIVISIONS

Business; Government; Personal; Pioneer Benefits Consulting; Wealth Management.

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

Bank of America Corporation; Citizens Bank; NBT Bank NA.

FURTHER READING

Anderson, Eric. “Pioneer Bank in New Home.” Albany (NY) Times Union, September 29, 2016.

Benjamin, Ian. “Pioneer Bank President and CEO Preparing Her Successor for His New Role.” Troy (NY) Record, April 3, 2013.

Churchill, Chris. “New Name and Slogan for Troy-Based Bank.” Albany (NY) Times Union, January 8, 2008.

———. “Pioneer Bank's CEO Dies at 59.” Albany (NY) Times Union, June 6, 2010.

Moorse, Alan. “Pioneer Values Its Traditions.” Albany (NY) Times Union, September 17, 1997.

“Nash, Hotaling Promoted by Pioneer Savings Bank.” Troy (NY) Times Record, January 27, 1973.