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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2007

Banking on Women

BY LESLIE WHITAKER
CTW FEATURES

Dear Readers,

Maye and Faye are two women who have earned a place in America s financial history, but they are little known outside their hometown of Point Pleasant, W.Va. Twin sisters, they just celebrated their 84th birthday and still are missed at the savings and loan they retired from running 12 years ago. Maye Smith and Faye Hudson started out as tellers with high school degrees at the Point Pleasant Federal Savings & Loan in 1952 and 1960, respectively. They worked their way up the ladder until Maye was appointed president in 1975; Faye became vice president several years later. Customers who gave up on telling the twins apart resorted to addressing them as MayeFaye.

During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s, when bank officers were fond of taking risks with their customers money in hopes of enriching themselves, these women stuck to conservative investments to safeguard their neighbors accounts. As a result, they ran the most profitable S&L in the state. In 1981, when the savings-and-loan industry as a whole lost money for the first time, Maye and Faye s association ranked 30th nationally in return for S&Ls with assets between $25 and $50 million. In 1988, when Columbia Savings & Loan of California lost $600 million and paid its top executives $4 million, Maye and Faye s banking association earned $462,000, and their combined salaries were $75,000.

The only thing outlandish about Maye and Faye was their customer service. When a customer got too old to come to the bank, for example, they would dispatch a teller to pick her up and drive her there and if she had to do an errand along the way, they would take care of that, too. Many male customers, typically the ones in charge of money in the family, asked Maye, a trusted confidante, for financial advice. Sometimes they d tell me things they didn t want to tell their wives, she says. Maye says her favorite customers were the ones who started with small accounts and grew them over time. We saw little amounts grow to sizeable amounts, she says.

A strict boss, Maye wasn t afraid of hard work. I told my employees, I did not ask you to do anything but what I would do, and I ve done it all, and I expected them to be able to do it. Even after she became president, Maye did everything from working as a teller when requested by long-time customers to shoveling snow and cleaning toilets.

Even in retirement, Maye counts money. She keeps all of her grocery receipts and adds them up at the end of every month. But she does not need to. In 1993, the association went public. It was an extremely popular offering because the balance sheet was so strong and the community reputation so solid. Both Maye and Faye bought as many shares as regulations and their savings allowed and ended up as millionaires.

What can modern businesses do to emulate their success? One thing is to restore customer service as a priority. I think courtesy is important and you should show some kind of appreciation, says Maye. Good morning, good afternoon, and all that stuff. I think it still counts.

Got a problem at work? Leslie Whitaker, co-author of "The Good Girl's Guide to Negotiating," would like to hear from you. Send Leslie an e-mail at leslie@ctwfeatures.com or write to P.O. Box 11156 Shorewood, WI 53211.

Copyright CTW Features



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