CEO and President Bill Easterlin on Queensborough’s Past and Expanding Future
Wednesday, June 17th, 2015
Despite its brief heyday as Georgia’s first permanent capital, Louisville remains a small town in the rural county of Jefferson. Since 1902, when First National Bank of Louisville was established, the population has increased by only about 900 people. The bank was born into the country’s young national bank system designed to maintain the value of currency from location to location among other objectives. While First National Bank of Louisville eventually changed its name to First National Bank & Trust Company in the 80s and finally to Queensborough National Bank & Trust in 2006, over its 100-plus years it has maintained allegiance to the founding principles of integrity in practice and simplicity in product delivery.
Since William Wright Abbot, great-grandfather of current CEO and president Bill Easterlin and both a founding stockholder and the first hands-on operator of the bank, joined with others to organize and incorporate First National Bank of Louisville, his descendants have applied themselves to building a bank consistent with his original vision for what the banking experience should be. In a biographical sketch of Abbot in Cyclopedia of Georgia published shortly after the bank opened, the editors write, “The bank is fortified by ample capital and able executive control and has gained place among the substantial and popular financial institutions of this part of the state.”
From an early age, Easterlin knew for certain he would someday take his place in his great-grandfather’s legacy. “Having that history in a family is not uncommon in a small town,” he says. “It’s not an uncommon story.” But his early conviction about his path in life may be. He says, “I could spell collateral before I could spell Easterlin.” Always giving lessons in financial matters, Easterlin’s father would have him practice taking out a loan using his red wagon as collateral. His father also imparted the idea that the details in banking make a difference. On Saturday as a young boy, while his father attended to bank matters, Easterlin would clean the building. Then his father would write him a paycheck, which Bill took back to the bank on Monday to cash. “I’ve been a banker for a long, long time,” he says.
Its foothold in a community the size of Louisville has given Queensborough a knack for serving customers outside of Georgia’s metropolitan cities. “There’s very good business to be had in the rural areas of the state,” Easterlin says. Queensborough’s emphasis on integrity and simplification of the banking process appeals to this clientele. Queensborough’s impressive presence in Augusta and expanding presence in Savannah are rooted in the reputation built in places like Waynesboro, Metter, Wadley and Midville.
“We’ve had a significant impact on agribusiness in rural areas,” says Easterlin. “During the 80s as we moved into adjoining towns, we were willing to find ways to finance farmers.” Lending to agricultural entities, such as those dealing with equipment, fertilizer, chemicals and irrigation, solidified Queensborough’s specialization in commercial lending. “As we’ve moved into areas not in our home base, we’ve recognized that we need to expand our portfolio,” he adds. Today, agricultural concerns compose only a fraction of their commercial lending business. Easterlin says, “I hope that we add to the economic engine that is Georgia, the small business and entrepreneur business important to the state and particularly our region.”
Queensborough’s expansion from its Louisville roots has been strategic and methodical. Initial growth occurred in towns surrounding Louisville. Then it stretched to towns next door to those. Establishing branches in contiguous areas has resulted in a band of presence from Savannah to Augusta. Community banking relies on reputation rather than brand, thus Easterlin says, “We look for a good banker. Good markets with bad bankers don’t work for us. What drives our expansion is the availability of good bankers as much as anything else.” Queensborough’s future looks as strong as its past.