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A Century of Giving Back

Coop Cornerstone: Always Put the Customer First

If philanthropy has been a hallmark of the bank’s business approach through the decades, then The Coop’s customer-first approach is the organization’s cultural cornerstone. 

When the First National Bank of Yarmouth, a commercial bank, reached its maximum statutory limit to write residential loans in 1921, a number of bank officials, led by Director Frank Howard Hinckley, formed Cape Cod Cooperative Bank to continue providing mortgages to the community. 

When The Coop first opened inside the First National Bank of Yarmouth, the new banks’s assets were a modest $1,611. Hinckley artfully guided The Coop through its infancy–which included surviving the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Great Depression and World War II–and oversaw the building of the bank’s first physical branch in 1949. By the time Hinckley retired in 1956, The Coop boasted $4.5 million in assets.

After the brief presidency of Roswell Nye, Nye Crowell was named bank president in 1961. During Crowell’s tenure, the bank steadily grew, opening branches in East Dennis and West Barnstable. Having worked summers at the bank as a co-op student from Northeastern University, Joel Crowell would go on to succeed his uncle as bank president in 1983. Other changes were implemented when 14 years into Crowell’s 34-year leadership term, The Coop began to offer commercial loans for the first time. When the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) was passed in 1999, it overturned the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, and the runway was cleared for The Coop’s financial takeoff. 

“Prior to the passage of GLBA, banks couldn’t sell insurance or investment products,” says Hartley. “The GLBA really opened the door for us to add to our existing suite of products and services.

CHAMP HOMES: Champ Homes was the recipient of one of the Bank’s pandemic relief micro grants in 2020. In addition to the grant, The Coop purchased new blankets and digital thermometers, volunteered to cook meals, raised money through The Gasp bike ride, and more.

“When I first started working for The Coop in 1996, we had $300 million in assets and three branches,” adds Hartley. “Now we have about $1.2 billion in assets, nine branches and a bank headquarters.”

According to Hartley, the one guiding question that has driven The Coop’s remarkable 21st-century growth is, “How can we better serve our customers and the community?” 

In recent years, one of the more visible ways that The Coop is serving the community–the Outer Cape, in particular–is by partnering with the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum (PMPM) on the Bradford Access Project.

An inclined elevator designed to transport passengers between Bradford Street and the PMPM campus, the Bradford Access Project aims to strengthen the commercial and cultural connection between the monument/museum and Provincetown’s bustling commercial district. 

“We needed to do something to rejuvenate the monument and museum, and bring more foot traffic to our campus,” says David Weidner, Ph.D., executive director of the Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association, the Cape’s oldest nonprofit. “We wanted to secure a long-term financial partner who supported our mission of acceptance, tolerance and truth.”

Initially, The Coop/PMPM relationship began as a typical business arrangement, with The Coop winning the bid to provide financing for the Bradford Access Project. But over the past year-plus, the relationship has evolved. 

“Working with The Coop throughout the pandemic, which was remarkable, we were able to secure tax-free state bonds that saved us about $800,000 on the project,” says Weidner. “Now, we’re working with The Coop on business modeling and fundraising initiatives, which will help our institution to grow.   

“We’re elated to have The Coop as our financial advisor and counsel,” adds Weidner. “The Coop has truly demonstrated that it’s a stakeholder in our organization and in Provincetown. Thanks to The Coop, the Bradford Access Project will allow more people to enjoy the gorgeous view of the harbor from our campus, and appreciate the beauty and energy of downtown Provincetown.”

Joe O’Shea is a contributing writer for Cape Cod Life Publications. 

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