CLOVER — Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series of profiles on Clover-area residents and their connection to the community, to mark the 125th anniversary of the town of Clover.
In October 1987, a group of about 40 organizers set about to establish a community-based bank. They envisioned a bank in Clover where decisions would be made locally.
Gwen Thompson has been with Clover Community Bank since those early days. With her technology and operations background, Thompson’s first task was to launch the bank’s in-house computer system. In 2001, she was promoted to become the president and CEO.
“When you’re a startup organization, you have to wear a lot of hats,” Thompson, 59, said about her role in the bank. “I touched every part of the organization at that point in time.”
The bank at 124 N Main St., Clover, which marked its 25th anniversary in 2012, has 32 employees and manages $120 million in assets. In 2002, the bank opened a Lake Wylie office at 5196 Charlotte Hwy.
Thompson said the bank is an integral part of the community, and shares in its successes as well as in its struggles.
“We have our core values, and No.1 on that list is caring service. Not far below that is family first,” she said. “We are just one big family, with the same struggles that any family has.”
Clover Community Bank aims to make its customers feel valued, she said. Employees call customers by name, and on Fridays customers enjoy fresh popcorn when they do business there.
“We try to create that family culture that makes you feel appreciated,” she said.
Thompson attended Winthrop University and graduated from the Graduate School of the South at Louisiana State University, which is recognized in the industry as a standard for bank executives. She also has attended various banking schools and training over 36 years.
Thompson, who was born and raised in the Western York County town of Smyrna, and still lives there, started her career in 1976 at First National Bank of Sharon. She came to Clover Community Bank when it opened in 1987.
“The organizers and directors wanted an in-house computer system, so they hired me to do that,” she said.
The bank had eight employees who worked out of a temporary facility that the bank operated from until its permanent quarters were complete in January 1988, Thompson said. She was offered the job of president and CEO in 2001, when former CEO Jim Harris left.
She said the bank grew along with the community until 2008, when the slowdown in the housing market and the overall economy required the bank to scale back its operations, like many other businesses. A York office that opened in 2008 closed in 2011 as banking reached a slowdown.
She said over the years, the bank has strived to help out the community. For example, bank employees hosted a fundraiser several years ago for the Lighthouse homeless shelter in Clover.
She said the bank has helped many people achieve their dreams through small business loans or mortgages. “I feel like we’ve been a very integral part of them owning their homes and keeping their businesses going,” she said. “We help when we can.”