Full-Service Lending

Allen Kramer | Phoenixville Federal Bank & Trust | Phoenixville, Pa.

On top of fostering teamwork, Allen Kramer generates results by going the extra mile

By Susan Thomas Springer

Providing superior customer service is an almost universal competitive edge for nearly all community banks, and that’s precisely the strategy Allen Kramer has used to achieve outstanding lending success at Phoenixville Federal Bank & Trust in Phoenixville, Pa.

“There have been times in my career when we didn’t have the most competitive rates, but our service sold the customer,” says Kramer, senior vice president/manager retail lending at Phoenixville Federal.

Central to his success has been the consultative approach he’s used with Phoenixville Federal’s customers. While many consumers, for example, may ask for a loan that they read about online, that particular loan might not be the best match for their individual goals and circumstances. In those cases, Kramer spends time finding those borrowers better matches.

“We’re not order-takers here,” he points out. “We really try to navigate customers to a product that’s going to be best for them.”

“It is the clientele who comes to us because of our reputation that results in a retail loan portfolio that’s praised by examiners,” notes Phoenixville Federal’s CEO Dick Kunsch. He adds that surveys of Kramer’s customers read like a “fan club.”

Beginning as a teller at Phoenixville Federal 24 years ago, Kramer worked his way up the career ladder. Following his CEO’s community-minded example, he regularly pursues ongoing education opportunities, including a Dale Carnegie leadership course. He also adheres to “very conservative underwriting standards” that safeguard his customers and the bank.

Serving a marketplace with many wealthy households means Phoenixville Federal’s customers usually have good income-to-debt ratios and high credit scores. So, Kramer’s challenge is volume. Through a high referral rate, his lending department generates an average of 35 loans a month, mostly residential mortgages. He leads a four-person team—three loan originators and one assistant vice president—by holding weekly meetings. In those meetings, he resolves problems head on while offering praise and honest, sincere appreciation.

As a byproduct of this approach, Kramer’s team also is successful at cross-selling. If a customer wants a $10,000 home equity loan to fund a vacation, for example, the team calculates if the customer would save money by refinancing and bringing his or her mortgage to Phoenixville Federal. Often, “we get the whole package [this way],” Kramer says.

Consistent with his hands-on management style, Kramer took an active role in a recent challenge. His team had to review three years of files for federal examiners on a tight timeline, which he says “felt like a huge mountain to climb.” He reviewed half the files himself, dividing the rest among staff. The result was a clean review with a zero percent error rate. Kramer took his team out to dinner to celebrate.

“He’s a good team-builder,” Kunsch says. “A lot of times that’s missing in a leader, but it’s inherent in Allen’s makeup.”

Susan Thomas Springer is a writer in Sisters, Ore.