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By Fred Stabbert III
Orville G. Aarons has nearly 40 years of experience in the financial world.
He has worked at big banks like Chase and Chemical and also helped consumer product companies restructure their businesses.
“I was hired about a year ago [by Catskill Hudson] initially as a consultant,” Aarons said.
Then in September Aarons was named President and a member of the board of directors of Catskill Hudson, a community bank based in Kingston which services the Catskill, Hudson Valley and Capital District markets.
“I put 40,000 miles on my car last year, that says it all,” Aarons laughed. “We have a very spread out branch network, which has led to our success.
“The bank’s legacy market – the Catskills – is very important to us,” Aarons said.
“The Catskills” includes Sullivan County, including its main branch in Monticello and seven of the bank’s 12 branches.
Does Aarons see Sullivan County ready for growth?
“Absolutely, absolutely,” he said. “On the tip of everybody’s tongue is the casino. And only good can come from that.
“It will certainly be a boom to the area,” he said.
But Catskill Hudson’s branches reach far beyond Sullivan’s borders, into Ulster County, with branches in Ellenville and Kingston.
And Kingston is also where the bank’s Corporate office is now located, at 95 Schwenk Drive.
Add to that branches in Middletown, Poughkeepsie and Malta, and Catskill Hudson’s footprint begins to grow.
“We also acquired a branch from Community Bank N.A., in Half Moon, NY which will open on April 25,” Aarons said. “It will help us to focus our efforts in that market.”
Aarons said that while Catskill Hudson has focused on keeping up with technology, good-old fashioned banking is still in vogue.
“The more things change the more they stay the same,” he said. “The fundamentals of banking never change.”
He said the big three questions are always:
• Who are you lending to?
• What are you lending for?
• How do I get paid back?
“We strive to build a solid portfolio that is strong in that regard,” he said. “The fundamentals have not changed.”
And while competition over customers has become fierce in many markets, Aarons believes community banks still have a big advantage.
“If anything, we execute better,” he said. “We cross our proverbial Ts and dot our proverbial Is.
“We know our customers and that is the trademark and hallmark of what we do,” he said. “You do much better when you know your customer.”
Aarons said that knowledge of their customer base allows them to act quickly on loan decisions and also deliver exceptional customer service.
“My goal and the goals of the board to whom I report is to deliver superior service to our customers,” he said. “That’s why we’ve been successful and how we plan to grow.
“We make our decision right here in our headquarters,” he said. “We are responsive to our customers needs, from borrowing to timing to structure We are very responsive.
“It all comes back to knowing your customers – from your lenders to branch managers,” he said.
“I would like to thank the community for welcoming me,” he said.
“Everybody has been very friendly. I went to every branch and met nearly every employee and have gone to events in Sullivan County.
“I feel very comfortable and it makes me feel good.”