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Cascade: No. 59, Fall 2005

Bank Leadership in Consortium Builds on Tradition of Community Involvement

Univest Corporation tries to maintain the traditional beliefs and community involvement that dates back to its original bank, founded in 1876, even as it has expanded into financial planning, insurance, investments, and brokerage services.

Univest Corporation, with assets of $1.7 billion, is a financial holding company that owns Univest National Bank and Trust Co. (UNB), a primarily commercial and home-mortgage lender in Bucks and Montgomery counties, Pennsylvania. Headquarters of Univest Corporation and UNB are located in Souderton, Pennsylvania (population 6,730), which was settled in the 1870s by Mennonites who left Germany seeking religious freedom.

Karen E. Tejkl, vice president of compliance and CRA at Univest Corporation and UNB, said that Univest’s core values of tradition, integrity, excellence, community, and spirituality are derived from Univest’s long history of service.

At least 50 Univest Corporation management and staff are participating in approximately 70 community development activities, Tejkl said. In addition, William S. Aichele, chairman, president, and CEO of Univest Corporation, serves on the boards of directors of seven educational, art, and hospital organizations and has had a prominent long-term leadership position with the North Penn United Way.

In examples of its community involvement, Univest Corporation provides speakers for community-organization events, and some employees teach budgeting and credit counseling in many different settings. The corporation’s public relations and marketing department organizes Helping Hands, an annual event in which the staffs of 30 nonprofits promote awareness of their activities and recruit volunteers.

A preferred SBA lender, UNB recognizes outstanding area businesses through an annual small business achievement award. Branch managers regularly meet with small-business lending prospects as part of Univest’s OneOnOne™ banking program.

UNB made 687 small-business loans totaling $117.3 million in 2003 and 769 small-business loans totaling $109.4 million in 2004, Tejkl said. Patricia J. Kratz, vice president of SBA administration and commercial lending at Univest Corporation and UNB, received the SBA’s financial services advocate of the year award for the SBA’s Philadelphia district in 2001.

In perhaps the best example of Univest Corporation’s community involvement, it took a leading role in organizing the Community Lenders Community Development Corporation (CLCDC), a multibank CDC. Different staff members were active in CLCDC’s management, credit administration, and business development. Univest Corporation has donated office space for CLCDC since the consortium’s inception.

Diane Koehler, executive vice president and chief risk officer at Univest Corporation, said: “Univest was already active with the affordable-housing nonprofits in our communities. Through my involvement with Community Housing Services, Indian Valley Housing Corporation, and others, I was aware of how difficult it is for these organizations to obtain the financing needed to develop transitional and long-term affordable-housing facilities.

“Along with several other bankers I knew well, I began to talk up the concept of establishing a CDC that would help these nonprofits and for-profit developers by providing lower-interest, fixed-rate loans with 20- and 30-year terms. Others became interested, meetings were held, and the concept evolved into reality.”

Univest loaned Kratz to serve as CLCDC’s executive director during the consortium’s first 18 months. She formulated application and underwriting guidelines, obtained servicing software, met applicants, analyzed applications, and made recommendations to the CDC’s loan committee. Kratz, who currently chairs CLCDC’s loan committee, observed that “starting a consortium was like starting a bank!”

UNB’s money and time investment in CLCDC helped increase UNB’s visibility and reinforce its community focus, Kratz said.

For information, contact Karen E. Tejkl at (215) 721-8397 or tejklk@univest.net; www.univest.net.