The principles of stewardship have its origins in biblical writings, which define the concept as comprising four basic fundamentals: ownership, responsibility, accountability and reward. Today, stewardship also refers to how companies develop a “best practices” model of doing business while maintaining those same basic tenets.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see that Atlantic Stewardship Bank is living up to its name.
Established in 1985, ASB is a full-service bank serving both businesses and individual customers. Today it operates through 12 conveniently located offices in Hawthorne, Midland Park, Montville, Morristown, North Haledon, Pequannock, Ridgewood, Waldwick, Wayne (2 locations), Westwood and Wyckoff. Headquartered in Midland Park, ASB’s President and CEO Paul Van Ostenbridge has been with ASB since day one.
“Our main focus from the beginning was to open a bank that provided quality financial service,” said Van Ostenbridge. “But we made a conscious decision to give back to the community, as well.”
Unique from the rest
What really sets ASB apart from other banks is its commitment to tithing, or sharing, 10 percent of its taxable income annually with nonprofit, educational, charitable and/or evangelical religious organizations.
“Tithing was part of our original bylaws,” said Van Ostenbridge. “Our founders said, ‘Let’s incorporate the tithing concept so we can truly help individuals flourish.’ Even when banks were riding in rough waters during the financial crisis of 2008, we remained committed to this practice. It’s our mission.”
Van Ostenbridge explained that requests are received throughout the year and are reviewed by the Board of Directors that meets annually during the first quarter. The board considers the requests and also brings knowledge to the table about new opportunities that may have arisen on behalf of local organizations.
Recipients are categorized in three groups: missions, including local and international programs that provide food, shelter or career training, as well as organizations that serve underprivileged nations with agricultural, educational, health and spiritual needs; Christian schools, including day care and pre-school programs to grade school and college programs; and health care facilities, such as Christian nursing homes and programs for people with special needs and hospitals.
In addition, ASB offers financial support to libraries, ambulance corps, fire departments and civic organizations that are local to the bank’s branch offices.
“ASB’s motto is ‘Faithful to our customers.’ We live that every day,” Van Ostenbridge added.
Business of banking
ASB also prides itself on its commitment to its customers. Last year, the bank extended its lending practice and added a Small Business Administration Department as another lending solution for small businesses.
Senior Vice President/SBA Director Rahbar Ameri said the SBA component was designed for customers who might not meet the traditional lending requirements.
“The benefit of the SBA is to help those customers who are new entrepreneurs, or third generation business owners who are looking to re-invent themselves,” said Ameri. “Perhaps they are looking to purchase real estate for their business and can only afford 10 percent down. There are many scenarios, but our goal is to make it more affordable for those individuals who want to give business a go.”
“Of course, there are parameters to be met,” he said. “Is the credit history satisfactory? Do they have experience or enough knowledge in whatever business they’re looking to open? We look carefully at their business plan and make sure they’ve done their homework and are targeting the right customer base. These are good, sound business ingredients,” Ameri said.
ASB works with Small Business Development Centers throughout the state, local economic development offices and SBA industry professional organizations. Ameri’s role as SBA Director is to oversee the entire process from establishing products and policies to cultivating, underwriting and closing loans for business customers.
Ameri added, “ASB also services and lends to veterans who often do not have prior business experience but have varying types of skill sets that make them qualified to become a successful
entrepreneur. Everyone should have a chance and we do our best to make it happen for them,” he said.
Not so traditional lending solutions
“For the last two or three years, the lending environment has been user friendly,” said Executive Vice President/Chief Lending Officer William Clement. “Interest rates have remained low so the ability to repay a loan has been good.”
“However, sometimes the lending process can take time – time that potential borrowers might not always have,” he added.
Senior Vice President/Chief Credit Officer James Shields stated, “ASB has created an Express Loan Approval process that is designed to help small business customers move more quickly into
the business of doing business.”
“Express Loan applicants who are looking to borrow $250,000 or less can be approved in a few days and close on the loan within a week,” said Shields. “The process is based on local decision-making, not having to go through an office in another part of the country for approval. By comparison, many of our competitors have customers wait 60 to 90 days for a decision. We want the lending experience to be simple, fast and easy for our customers.”
“Again, this is another way Atlantic Stewardship Bank shows the community we are here to help them,” he added.
Investment in tech
ASB offers a full line of e-services for individual and business customers, making banking available 24 hours a day.
“In addition to outstanding personal service, we have invested in technology that makes it easier and convenient for customers to conduct their personal and business banking. We offer everything—all the touching points—that the larger banks offer,” said Van Ostenbridge. “Customers can choose to use mobile apps, mobile web banking or text banking for ease—along with remote deposit capture as a convenience—in managing their financial needs.”
While more and more people are opting to do their business on handheld devices, ASB never stops emphasizing its commitment to good old-fashioned personal service.
“Every bank will tell you that customer service is important, and it is,” said Van Ostenbridge. “But at Atlantic Stewardship Bank, personalized customer service is critically important.”
He noted that ASB employs “professional bankers” who have longevity with the company and understand its mission.
“Our bankers are dedicated to the customers. It’s really their strong suit. They understand the community and understand their customers’ needs. It’s what continues to set us apart from the rest.”
Van Ostenbridge related that he still receives letters from new customers who are pleased with the service they received. “It’s rewarding for me but also for all of us,” he said.
The good works of Atlantic Stewardship Bank have not gone unnoticed by the community at large. Last year, ASB was named one of the “Champions of Good Works” by the Commerce and
Industry Association of New Jersey and COMMERCE Magazine, which pays tribute each year to the kindness and generosity of the business community.
ASB was recognized for its involvement and support of Paterson Habitat for Humanity, which provides housing to families in dire need. ASB has contributed more than $242,000 to the organization through the bank’s Tithing Program and also donated proceeds from their 2016 Charity Run/Walk to the cause. ASB also underwrites mortgages for the new homeowners.
Being a good steward has been ASB’s mission from the beginning, and one that will remain an integral part of the company.
“It’s ingrained in everything we do,” said Van Ostenbridge.