Hometown Banker

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Mike Kochenour has built a thriving career and bank from deep local roots

By Ed Avis

When Mike Kochenour was a kid growing up in York, Pa., his father, the chief of police, spoke highly of the bank presidents he formed relationships with. Kochenour came to see those bankers as role models, and he admired the well-dressed, professional environment they inhabited and the impact they made in the community.

Little did he know that decades later he would launch York Traditions Bank, now a $398 million-asset community bank with six locations.

“I grew up in York, my parents were born and raised here, and we raised our family here,” says Kochenour, who has been married to his high school sweetheart, Vicky, for 43 years and has lived in York throughout his 45-year banking career. “So York has always been a part of my life.”

Kochenour funnels that love of his hometown into his community bank. York Traditions has established itself as a place where customers are known by name, and Kochenour is known as a leader who is always willing to give back.

“Our marketing slogan is, ‘Because we live here, too,’” he says. “It’s not rocket science, but it is truly what we stand for. It’s authentic, not just a phrase. When we lay that over our value proposition, it all comes together. It’s really been a super way to convey who the organization is.”

Six core values
Kochenour was executive vice president in charge of trust and investment banking at Drovers Bank when the 119-year-old York institution was sold to a larger bank. That prompted him and three other Drovers executives to launch York Traditions Bank in 2002. He was designated chairman, president and CEO from the outset.

“It all started with those core values.”
—Mike Kochenour, York Traditions Bank

One of the first things he and his partners did was develop a set of six operational principles, or core values. “They are the hallmark of our success from day one,” Kochenour says.

Adhering to those values, which guide relationships, teamwork, decision-making, financial performance, the customer experience and other factors, has helped the bank thrive, Kochenour believes. “In 14 years we’ve grown from 13 associates to 113, from zero assets to approaching $400 million, and our hallmark is our people who are renowned for exquisite customer service,” he says. “It all started with those core values.”

York Traditions Bank’s six core values have provided a foundation for success, but a focus on community needs and an openness to innovation have powered the growth.

“From the very beginning, Mike has kept to the theme of the need for community banking in our area,” says Paul Kilker, CEO of GGS Information Services in York and a charter member of the bank’s board. “He is constantly bringing us back to the fact that community banks bring health to communities.”

Innovatively reaching out to potential customer groups has also helped. Suzanne Becker, the bank’s director of marketing, cites programs such as Her Traditions, which focuses on the unique banking needs of women, as one of the reasons the bank resonates in the community.

“Mike had the foresight to recognize the need and initiate the concept,” Becker says. “He just has a lot of amazing insight about what’s next, and how we can serve the community as the local bank.”

Personal touch
Another element of the bank’s success is Kochenour’s generous interactions with up-and-coming young business people in York. If a business owner asks for advice, for example, he’s been known to invite him or her to lunch to share ideas.

“One thing that’s really cool about Mike is that the young professionals in the area think the world of him,” Becker says. “Word has gotten around that you can call him and he’ll answer! He wants to serve as a resource to help everyone reach their potential.”

Most at peace alongside his family with his toes in the sand at the beach, Kochenour is a sports lover who holds season tickets to Penn State and the Baltimore Ravens football seasons. He is also known for developing relationships on the golf course. “Golf is good for friendships and business,” he says.

Kochenour spends much of his personal time helping to guide organizations as diverse as the United Way, the Byrnes Health Education Center, the York College Community Opportunity Scholarship Program, and the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center. In 2013, he and his family were devastated by the loss of his first granddaughter just five weeks before she was expected to be born. It inspired him to lead the 2016 York County fundraising campaign for March of Dimes, forming his own team—“Team Brooke”—and outperforming surrounding counties.

He also frequently helps in less conspicuous ways, his friends and colleagues point out. “Mike doesn’t feel that just because he’s the CEO that he’s beyond cleaning up after an event,” Becker says. “He’ll stay and help until everything is put away and the doors are locked.”

For Kochenour, who is retiring in December, that kind of hands-on commitment just comes naturally. “I was born and raised here, and I feel it’s my responsibility to serve my community,” he says. “The quality of life here, the cultural opportunities, everything can only be sustained if we all take ownership and responsibility.

“That’s what mom and dad taught me. That’s my personal philosophy.”

Meet Mike Kochenour

Mike Kochenour inspires his colleagues during a United Way fundraising campaign on the 10-year anniversary of York Traditions Bank. Under Kochenour’s team leadership, charity donations by the bank’s employees have increased every year since it began operating in 2002.

Mike Kochenour inspires his colleagues during a United Way fundraising campaign on the 10-year anniversary of York Traditions Bank. Under Kochenour’s team leadership, charity donations by the bank’s employees have increased every year since it began operating in 2002.

  • Family: Wife Vicky of 43 years, daughter and three grandchildren
  • Birthplace: York, Pa.
  • Birthday: August 1952
  • Education: West York Area High School, York College
  • Best career advice: Be confident in who you are, and always strive to be the best that you can be
  • What he enjoys most as a community banker: Relationships with people
  • Personal interests: Golf and football
  • Favorite vacation spot: Hilton Head, S.C.
  • First job: Gas station attendant
  • First car: 1969 VW bug (yellow)

Ed Avis is a writer in Illinois.


shaz-logo-cmyk-hi-res-jpgAs the exclusive sponsor of the ICBA Community Banker of the Year Awards, SHAZAM is proud to recognize this year’s winners for their passion for community banking and commitment to truly making a difference in the markets they serve.

For more information about SHAZAM, visit their website at www.shazam.net

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