Richard J. Green, the grandson of founder Samuel A. Green, joined Firstrust Bank in 1978 as General Counsel, becoming President and CEO in 1995. As Firstrust’s Chairman and CEO, his primary responsibility is overseeing the overall strategic direction of the company. During his tenure at the helm of Firstrust, assets have grown to $3.3 billion and is considered one of the strongest, best capitalized banks in the country. Among the accolades Richard has been honored to receive, he was selected as Drexel LeBow’s Business Leader of the Year in 2017 and the region’s Most Admired CEO by the Philadelphia Business Journal in 2015.
Q: Firstrust Bank is Philadelphia born and bred, having operated in the region for more than 85 years. Why is that longevity and those community roots important today?
A: My father, Daniel B. Green, wrote a book chronicling our family’s history. In it, he shared an anecdote that I think perfectly summarizes why it’s so important for us, as an institution, to rely on and constantly strengthen our local roots in Philadelphia.
In the early seventies, when Firstrust Bank was still First Federal Savings and Loan, my father adopted the idea of a travelling office after seeing the method in action on a trip to Scotland. A mobile branch – literally, a bank branch in a van – would pull into towns too small for a brick-and-mortar location to allow customers to handle their regular banking business more conveniently.
When my father realized the practice was not catching on, he visited the mobile branch to see it in action. During his visit, a man came to close his account, withdrawing $10,000. When my father inquired about his reasoning, the customer’s reply was simple. “Well, when I came in here last week, I opened an account. Then later, I saw the van drive off with all my money and leave town.” Simply put, this customer did not have confidence in us if he couldn’t see us, we weren’t part of his every day community.
The lesson my father learned here is a lesson I know to be true, too: customers have faith in us when we are an integral part of their communities. This means more than just operating our business here; it means becoming a fixture in the community, understanding local trends, and providing insights that can only come with experience in specific neighborhoods within the Philadelphia market. We take that responsibility very seriously, especially as the fifth-largest privately owned business in the Philadelphia region. Remaining local means our bankers understand their customer’s local economics, their housing markets, local retail trends, and the perspectives of local consumers and business owners. They understand the challenges and opportunities of a specific area, because they too are working and experiencing life here every day.
Q: Today, Firstrust is the largest family-owned commercial bank in the region. How does this positioning shape your approach to continued success in the market, and what does it mean for customers?
A: We are – and it is a designation that we are grateful for. Thanks to the strong foundation built by my father and grandfather, Firstrust has been poised for this type of local leadership for decades. We have stewarded the bank into this position by humbly following the guiding principles set out by Samuel A. Green around that kitchen table in South Philly 85 years ago – integrity, reliability, and passion for serving our customers.
It also helps that we have made sound judgements when times in the market got tough. We have endured the ebbs and flows and sustained our business through various market-based challenges since 1934. Ultimately, we know the fortitude needed for a small, family-owned business to thrive in Greater Philadelphia because that is our story, too. When businesses come to us, we bring to the table all the learnings of those tumultuous times and all of the keys to success that have enabled us to prosper here in the region. We don’t just talk the talk; we have walked the walk, surmounted the obstacles, and zeroed in on the ways in which we can enable others to do the same.
Over the years we have been privileged to help thousands of businesses write their own success stories in the same region where we fostered our own growth. This is the legacy my grandfather set in motion, and we are honored to continue it today.