By Katie Martin, Savannah Morning News
For Carver State Bank president Bob James, commitment to the community, a strong work ethic and strong moral values started long before he was named to head the bank in 1971 at the age of 25.
“I grew up in an environment that had an enormous appreciation for the value of education and training as well as community involvement, so we’ve tried to incorporate those values into the culture and routine operation strategy of Carver State Bank,” James said Wednesday at the quarterly Business in Savannah luncheon at the Savannah Morning News.
A graduate of Morris Brown College and Harvard business school, James is only the third president in the bank’s history and, with 44 years of service, is the president with the longest tenure at the same bank in the state of Georgia. The bank, which was founded by Louis B. Toomer in 1927, also is the oldest bank with headquarters in Savannah.
“Carver has a tremendous heritage. It has been and still is a financial services leader and a source of pride for those who are within the institution,” he said. “Carver State Bank has enjoyed stable leadership from the board of directors and senior management… The leaders of Carver have maintained a tradition of community involvement since it was established.”
There are about 7,000 commercial banks across the country and only 28 are owned and operated by African-Americans, according to James, who said the bank is constantly working to respond to changes in the financial market and cultivating new sources of revenue, which has allowed them to remain strong through the Great Depression and the 2008 recession.
“The fact that we have not only survived but thrived during the past 89 years is certainly a remarkable accomplishment,” he said.
Carver is the only bank with headquarters in Savannah that is certified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Community Development Financial Institution and is the only one in the area with an Outstanding Community Reinvestment Act Rating, which he said is confirmation of the organization’s commitment to provide services to all sectors of the community.
“It is my hope that in years to come people will look back at the history of Carver and say that we were truly responding to the needs of the people in our market,” he said.
Throughout his life, James said, he’s benefited from the involvement and commitment of local and civic leaders, and he aims to instill the same principles at Carver for present and future customers.
“We have remained true to the core values of the institution that were established in 1974 when we concluded our very first comprehensive strategic plan. At that time we identified several values, but two of them were staff development and community involvement, and we have remained true to those values over the years,” James said of the bank’s success and legacy.
“And these are the same values that my mother and father used to put their family on a path out of poverty.”