By Robert Levey
Editor’s note: In part 1 of this two-part series, leaders at Piscataqua Savings Bank discusses their upcoming renovation project and their history, which extends back to 1877 in Portsmouth.
October 9, 2017 – Portsmouth, NH — Roughly a decade ago, the board of trustees at Piscataqua Savings Bank began a discussion about their four buildings, which required substantial updates to improve customer access to services and create space for current and future growth.
Ten years later, the future is now for the bank, which will soon break ground on a construction project that will include an elevator and new rear entrance featuring a conservatory that opens directly into the lobby. Upon project completion, the bank will additionally feature enhanced teller stations designed for privacy and one-on-one customer service and a community gathering room with a separate entrance for use by area nonprofit organizations as meeting space.
CEO Rick Wallis said the vision behind the renovation is the culmination of input from many sources.
“We held a town hall-style meeting two years ago that included trustees, corporators and staff to find out what should change and what should be kept,” he said. “It was very important to receive this feedback and incorporate it into the final design.”
Noting it will take roughly 15 months to complete through six to seven phases during which there will be no service interruptions, Wallis said the project balances 21st century technological innovation with 19th century tradition.
“We are creating a place where people will feel comfortable and welcomed,” he said. “It will be easier for customers to get to the services they want while staying true to our traditions.”
According to Joan Gile, executive vice president/operations officer, these traditions include easy access to senior staff, including herself, Wallis and others — all of whom will remain on the main floor and in plain sight of customers.
“When you come in here, you will find Rick, me and other decision makers in the building,” she said. “We are right here.”
Wallis said it is essential that he personally remain accessible by both the public and staff.
“It’s my job to be available and to make sure needs are being met,” he said. “If I’m far removed from customers, I cannot hear about their financial needs.”
In addition to keeping senior staff accessible to the general public as well as staff, Gile said the project will also retain several key architectural and design elements. These elements include the “River of Time,” a wall sculpture created by local blacksmith Peter Happny with hand-blown glass inserts by David Bellantone, and a mural of Portsmouth by Robert Charles Haun.
“It doesn’t look like a bank here,” she said. ‘It’s not cold and sterile with shiny counters and a bland atmosphere — and that is not going to change with this renovation…It will have a lot of character.”
According to Wallis and Gile, some of this character will be retained in the new teller counters themselves as well as some office flooring, which will both feature reclaimed boards from the building’s upper levels.
Employed by the Bank for 16 years, Tony Cabral, vice president/information technology officer, said the project also reflects a need to respond to and anticipate changing technologies.
“Technology is booming, which has led to new services and new positions here in recent years,” he said. “It requires a different use of space that allows us to grow, but still provides that personalized service in a comfortable atmosphere that defines the customer experience here.”
According to Wallis, the new elevator, Trust Department space and community gathering room should be complete in the spring of 2018. He said they are also restoring the old bank marquee to help “bridge the 21st and 19th centuries.”
“We are not moving away from the traditions that have made us who we are for 140 years,” he said. “We are improving our ability to deliver our services and meet the needs of people today and in the future.”
For those unfamiliar with what makes the bank unique, Wallis likened the customer experience as one akin to what one might find in “Cheers.”
“We are like a family here and treat our customers like family,” he said. “Everybody knows your name here.”
“We probably knew your father’s name, your mother’s and your grandparents’ names, too,” Gile added. “We know the people who bank here.”
In part 2 of this two-part series, staff and those involved in the renovation project at Piscataqua Savings Bank will discuss some of its more technical aspects, while customers also provide their thoughts.
Read the original article from the Seacoast Online on October 9, 2017.