The Story of York Traditions
Mike Kochenour built a local bank based on relationships, ‘the way it should be,’ he says.
Mike Kochenour gets a little sentimental when he’s asked about what will happen to York Traditions Bank when he’s no longer involved.
While he has no plans to leave as Chairman anytime soon, his legacy, he says, will live on in the values he and the other founders established when they started the bank.
“When we talk about the core values,” he says, his voice fighting emotion as he points to his chest, “right here is where it starts for me.”
The values aren’t just corporate speak. They’re engrained in his heart, in his soul, and in his mind.
He’s tried to share and instill those values with everyone he’s touched during the past 15 years, a span of time where he built a bank family that works each day to create an environment where associates and customers alike understand they’re part of the York community.
“I’m always going to be here in spirit,” he says. “I firmly believe that the strongest testimony for any person is if your presence can be felt when you’re not present.”
Starting a tradition
The drive to start a community bank struck Mike and the other founders around the turn of the century when they looked out over a local financial landscape they no longer recognized. Amid the flurry of bank mergers and acquisitions, something had gotten lost.
“We realized there was no longer a bank in York with the word ‘York’ in it,” he says.
Mike and the team made it their duty to do something about it.
Key stakeholders were gathered. A plan began to come into focus. And in the fall of 2002, after years of work, that vision became reality: York Traditions opened.
Imagine a hometown bank built on face-to-face talks where honesty and mutual respect drive financial performance; where growth stems from relationships; where your name means more than the numbers.
Here, impact on the community reaches deeper than the bottom line.
“We recruit the best of the best to work with our customers,” Mike says. “We made the choice to build this bank here, in York, and we never want to take that connection for granted.”
Roots of a community
Over the past 15 years, York Traditions has grown into a larger, broader financial institution, with five branches open in York and Hanover.
But the bank’s roots remain buried deep in a blue-collar town, still secure as a firm handshake.
It starts with associates who are committed to excellent service and who want to serve others. That passion permeates the banking experience, and it creates an environment in which customers’ needs come first.
“I think you’ll find here a real love for community banking,” says bank President and CEO Gene Draganosky. “We want to roll up our sleeves each day and have as much impact as we can.”
For Gene, who joined York Traditions in 2008, and to whom Mike has passed on the day-to-day leadership responsibilities over the past two years, a hometown bank is really about the smile that comes with your child’s first savings account; the blur and buzz of a small-business start-up; a family dinner in the perfect new home.
It means doing right by your neighbors, right down the street.
“At the end of the day we make a difference in people’s lives,” Gene says. “And that’s a pretty cool thing.”
‘What we’ve created together’
Not long after Mike Kochenour first envisioned a new bank, the twin towers fell in New York City. Financial markets first closed for days, then crashed and roiled.
Victoria Connor, president of York County’s Bar Association, knew of Mike’s plans back then and recalls thinking of all that could go wrong.
But she knew Mike, too, and she was beginning to understand York.
York Traditions wasn’t serendipity, Victoria says. Its success is a result of steadfast determination, not luck.
“This was about being prepared when an opportunity presented itself and being bold enough to take action,” she says. “To me, it’s a testament to the character of the founders and to the relationships the bank has built with the community.”
It’s a culture Mike envisioned that goes beyond himself.
You feel it in the bank lobby and the board meeting and even at community events where Mike, Gene, and the rest of the team are often found.
It’s family. Always there when you need them.
“That’s the way it should be, the way it’s meant to be with a community bank,” he says. “That’s what we’ve created together here in York.”
-Story and video produced by Our York Media, June 2017