Amboy Bank marks milestone anniversary

Staff Writer

 Amboy Bank, headquartered in Old Bridge, is celebrating 125 years of service. A cashier from the early days is shown at top. Amboy Bank, headquartered in Old Bridge, is celebrating 125 years of service. A cashier from the early days is shown at top. Bank officials at Amboy Bank in Old Bridge once made deals with a handshake.

Although that type of management is no longer feasible, the bank has managed to stay the course through good and bad in the nation’s economy following the credo established 125 years ago — that the bank is about people and relationships, and about providing ongoing value and consistency.

Amboy Bank is celebrating 125 years of service in the area. With its roots in South Amboy, the bank was founded in 1888 by a group of prominent businessmen, according to Greg Scharpf, senior vice president and chief retail bank officer.

He said the bank now has 22 branches in Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties and employs 263 people.

The bank began as the First National Bank of South Amboy in rented quarters on Broadway, South Amboy, with Harry C. Perrine as its first president. The bank moved to its own building at 10 Broadway, South Amboy, in 1921. That building remains the South Amboy branch.

The bank became Amboy Bank in 2008, when it converted to a commercial bank.

Scharpf, who is the son of current president George E. Scharpf and the grandson of Ernest J. Scharpf, who served as the fifth president of the bank, said he is constantly hearing stories from bank customers who remember the “handshake deal.”

“I have been told by more than one person who knew my grandfather that my grandfather would sit down and talk with them, look them in the eye and then shake their hand, sealing the deal. It has always been our goal to maintain that person-to-person relationship with our clients. It has always been about maintaining relationships and keeping our clients’ interests in mind,” he said.

Scharpf said today’s regulatory environment makes it more challenging to maintain that type of person-to-person relationship.

“The regulatory burden involves the way we market, our application process, and all our documentation. Our responsibilities are very different than they once were,” he said.

But those challenges do not stop bank officials from following the goals and philosophy set down decades ago.

Scharpf said that in his grandfather’s time as president, there were 280 community banks. That number has dropped to fewer than 75.

He said a community bank must do something to differentiate itself from bigger banks. To that end, over the years Amboy Bank has offered services that customers may not get in a bigger bank, such as the Half-Pay Mortgage in the 1980s, which allowed homeowners to save thousands of dollars in interest, the Choice Home Equity Loan program, and the Home Equity Program for Seniors, which is a type of reverse mortgage.

The bank operates the Amboy Foundation, which donates funds to charitable organizations such as Declarations Inc., Manalapan — which provides recovery and rehabilitation to individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities — and Collier Youth Services, which provides services to at-risk youth.

“It’s about helping people,” Scharpf said. “We focus on the communities we serve and we benefit from their successes and feel we have been a part of that success. We like to keep things simple. Our goal has always been local decision-making. That is what differentiates us from bigger banks. We have the best interests of our clients in mind and provide ongoing, consistent value.”

He said 18 percent of the bank’s employees have more than 20 years of service with the bank, with some employees topping 50 years of service.

“We hire people who want to help people and we put them in a position to do that,” Scharpf said. “The bank empowers our employees by offering them ways to help others. Our employees really believe in the bank and are proud we provide such great service.”

Scharpf said Amboy Bank is a rewarding place to work and that his employees’ work ethic is a reflection of that.

“It’s all about people and relationships,” he said. “That’s what we are about.”