A community bank serving the communities of resort towns in Cape Cod since 1852
Like we’ve discussed in several recent articles, sometimes a community bank doesn’t set out to be one, but becomes one as a result of effectively and faithfully fulfilling the banking needs of the communities they work in. This happens often in smaller, more rural towns, as these communities tend to be more isolated and often neglected by banking institutions that move in from outside areas. Banks that were founded in the neighborhoods they serve that still primarily only work in those areas are much more likely to end up looking like a community bank, especially if the households they work in are generally lower income or the needs of the community are particular in some way.
The towns Seamen’s Bank works in generally tend to have a higher average income level than many places; the bank’s hometown is Provincetown, MA, a resort town on the tip of Cape Cod. Resort towns can be extremely difficult places to live and work full-time, as many jobs are lower-paying service jobs related to the tourism economy, but the costs of living are high, driven up by seasonal residents.
Seamen’s didn’t originally intend to support a tourist community. In fact, they’ve been around much longer than the tourists. In 1852, the bank was opened to offer more personal service than the only bank in town, which was headquartered in Boston and was more focused on its stockholders than the people of Provincetown.
Now with $350 million in deposits and branches in Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, and Eastham, MA, the bank still maintains a focus of exceptional customer service and building lasting relationships with the members and organizations of the communities they serve. This approach is essential as the banking needs of a resort town are exceptional, in the way that small tourism economies are exceptional. The year-round population of Provincetown is just under 3,000, while the summer population can be as high as 60,000.
Provincetown began developing as a haven for artists and writers, as well as a tourism destination, around the 1890s, but growth didn’t really ramp up until there was an influx of hippies moving into the area in 1960s, as the town had earned a reputation of being artistic and forward-thinking. This reputation also appealed to many gay individuals on the East Coast throughout the 20th century and being a harbor for the LGBTQIA+ community is now one of the things Provincetown is best known for; they have the highest rate of same-sex couples of any town in the country.
However, as much as the tourism fuels the economy of this small town, steadily rising housing prices corresponding to the growing popularity of the town as a summer hotspot make it difficult for the residents to continue living there year-round. This makes the lending statistics of Seamen’s Bank all the more impressive, with 62% of their lending being devoted to housing and 90% of that going to low- and moderate-income housing. They also managed to locate all of their five branches in low- and moderate-income census tracts, even while the area is fairly affluent in general. They also do a significant amount of small business lending, making up 14.3% of their lending and particularly important in an area with so many small businesses catering to the influx of summer tourists. These kinds of lending keep the area functioning, as it keeps the year-round residents in their homes and able to run their small businesses, even when it’s not tourist season.
Seamen’s also contributes greatly to the community organizations and cultural events in the area, having their own donation foundation which recently gave $15,000 to maintain a meeting place for those suffering with drug addiction and having sponsored the centerpiece in the 2019 Provincetown pride festival. It’s clear that this bank is a great choice for anyone looking to invest a community dedicated to acceptance and culture, and specifically the part of that community which makes the tourism economy there possible. We have to remember that to keep tourism towns as our vacation spots, we have to make them viable places for people to live and work. Seamen’s Bank is doing a fantastic job of supporting year-round residents, while also celebrating the unique culture that has arisen because of the tourism economy. They offer online banking and some telephone banking services, so it’s possible for anyone interested in this area to invest today. Check out their website to get started.