Photos by Super Source Media Studios (Unless noted)
With a philosophy of community development, The Adirondack Trust Company was founded in 1901 in Saratoga Springs, NY. Their purpose was clear and simple: to finance ventures in Upstate New York.
The bank leaders, who wanted a strong, locally owned Bank, opened their doors in 1902. By 1937, they took the initial steps toward automation and opened the region’s first drive-up window for banking.
Instrumental in the rebirth of Saratoga Springs, The Adirondack Trust Company lead the charge to build a modern, stock-holder-owned hotel, financed the construction of the Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center, and supported a brilliant expansion plan by Skidmore College.
By the end of the 20th century, they had financed some of the major projects of the period, including new commercial buildings downtown, adaptive reuse of a large mill, an expansion of the city’s senior living complex, and an elegant hotel restoration.
A lot has changed since those early days at the turn of the century, but one local family has guided the bank through decades of growth and honored the philosophy of the founders. This is their story…in their words.
The Adirondack Trust Company is organized and chartered
First Bank Branch opens. West Church Street Branch at the corner of West Avenue and Church Street.
Charles V. Wait elected Chairman of the Board and CEO
Main Office opens at 473 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Charles V. Wait joins the Bank
Charles V. Wait, Jr. graduates law school and joins law firm of Jones Day
Newman E. Wait joins the Bank
Charles V. Wait elected as a Director of the Bank
Charles V. Wait, Jr. joins the Bank as Vice President of Legal & Regulation
Newman E. Wait elected
President of the Bank
Charles V. Wait elected President of the Bank
Charles V. Wait, Jr. elected as a Director of the Bank.
Newman “Pete” Wait, Jr. elected President of the Bank
Jane A. Wait (Mrs. Newman “Pete” Wait, Jr.) elected as a Director of the Bank
Charles V. Wait, Jr. elected President and CEO of the Bank.
Q. A quick review of the Adirondack Trust Company website points to the bank’s commitment to community. What does community mean to you?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: To me, community is the place we call home and the people that make our lives meaningful. We live in a beautiful corner of the world, and we are fortunate to live in a very generous community where people not only look out for each other, but have a vision for growing the community while also preserving those aspects of it that make it great.
A. Charles V. Wait: Your first community is your family and your family is your highest responsibility. It is the necessary building block from which all other communities derive their existence and authority. The next most important community is the other families you have chosen to live with, be it your village, town, neighborhood or city, your neighbors.
A business such as a banking institution has three important communities: its stockholders, its employees, and the people within the area to whom it has chosen to provide services.
Q. What are the top business/banking lessons each of you learned from your fathers?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: There are three key values I’ve learned from my father. First, deal honestly and fairly with everyone. Second, support your local community, because it supports you in turn. And third, treat everyone with respect. That is how you build trust over generations.
A. Charles V. Wait: The best advice that both my father and grandfather gave me was to never have a customer that you can’t afford to lose.
Q. Did you ever consider a career outside of banking or outside of Saratoga County?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: Yes. Before I came back to Saratoga Springs, I was a litigation associate in New York City focusing on securities litigation.
A. Charles V. Wait: Yes, I was a government major in college and had thoughts of becoming involved in politics or the foreign service. A summer working in Washington D.C. cured me of that. I then thought I would become a lawyer but when I started working at the bank to earn enough money for law school I found that I loved the business of banking. 48 years later and I still have not regretted the decision.
Q. What is your take on the current economic climate?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: There are significant challenges our economy faces nationally. For instance, there are shortages of labor and goods. There is significant inflation. There are significant levels of government debt. And there are other challenges as well. I doubt that the next few years will be smooth sailing, from an economic standpoint.
A. Charles V. Wait: The current economic climate is quite dangerous in my opinion. As a country we have taken on unprecedented amount of debt. We have a divided congress with no spending discipline. Inflation is the result of this mismanagement and will not be cured by higher interest rates alone. We need to raise taxes and cut spending.
Q. If you weren’t in finance, what would be your ideal career choice?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: Well, when I was fourteen years old I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I was precluded from doing that for a number of reasons, but I still think it would be an exciting career.
A. Charles V. Wait: If I weren’t in finance, I would be a photographer.
Q. What are some of the most significant deals you have completed during your career?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: Of course particular deals are confidential information that I can’t discuss, but I am particularly proud of our work distributing over $163 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans to local businesses. These funds kept many of these local businesses from closing their doors for good. Another significant milestone for our company was our campaign to modernize our logo and rebrand our insurance agency as Amsure, which I oversaw.
A. Charles V. Wait: Well, there have been many, but most I can’t talk about without compromising client confidentiality. Having said that, the two most significant that I can remember and can talk about are the following:
The Saratoga Springs City Center. This project I was involved with for more than a decade. It involved working with an incredible group of people, and incredible number of people, and a project which has proved to be an important lynchpin to the success of downtown Saratoga.
The second and more recent business deal with our decision to purchase Amsure Insurance. It has been both the most significant investment in the Adirondack Trust Company’s history as well as being the best investment. It has allowed us to broaden the services we can offer our clients.
Q. Regarding financial markets and lending, what should business owners be prepared for in 2023?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: It’s always difficult to accurately predict what the future holds. That said, I think it’s important to be prepared for continued interest rate increases. The Fed seems determined to tame inflation, and that likely means rising borrowing costs. If the Fed is successful, that will likely mean lower demand for products and services, and it may also mean a recession.
A. Charles V. Wait: I think business owners should brace themselves for higher interest rates and the likelihood those rates will cause a recession next year. I hope I’m wrong.
Q. What is your best piece of advice for entrepreneurs looking to start a business or grow their current business?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: The best advice I can give is to be as closely attuned to reality as possible. Today’s business environment demands both attention to detail and humility. These enable you to adjust to changing situations appropriately.
A. Charles V. Wait: In my experience being successful in business requires two things. First of all You need to be dedicated and persistent. Secondly, you need to watch the numbers very carefully. This seems obvious, but many people start a business because they have a passion for what they are doing, but no interest in the bookkeeping. That almost always leads to bad outcomes. You don’t need to be a bookkeeper yourself, but you need to have a good one on staff, one you can trust, and one you listen to. And you need to watch the numbers carefully. They tell you pretty quickly when you are doing something wrong.
Q. J. Paul Getty once said “If you owe the bank $100 that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.” How do you manage risk?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: That depends on the risk, and in banking, there are many. There is a long list of tools we use to manage risk: risk identification, planning, control design and implementation, third party review, simulations, penetration testing, and many, many more. Broadly speaking however, our risk management philosophy is that we manage not only for the everyday risks of doing business, but also for the so called “tail” or “black swan” risks. As we saw in 2008, these can and do materialize, and we keep that in mind.
A. Charles V. Wait: The essence of the banking business is managing risk. On the banking business you are doing pretty well if you make 1 percent return. That does not leave much room for error and it is why banks tend to be conservative in their decision making. You manage risk in a bank by dealing with people of good will. Secondly you manage risk by limiting the size of any one transaction. Thirdly, you manage risk making sure you have the capital on hand to weather any economic storms that may arise.
Q. Technological innovation has touched every area of our lives. Can you share how Adirondack Trust has implemented, or partnered with Fintech, to increase security and speed for the customer experience?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: We’re always looking to do just that. In fact, we’re upgrading our Webwise online banking platform to a new, modern platform. This new platform will include many new features that will make our customers’ lives easier, including things like cash management and the ability to aggregate all of your financial accounts in one place. We’re also upgrading our database systems so that we can better serve our existing customers and acquire new ones. On the security front, we’ve added many new technologies, including 24/7 network monitoring, out of channel secondary authentication, and other protections.
A. Charles V. Wait: We are always looking for ways to improve our service to our clients and reduce the cost of that service. Sometimes this has meant we have developed our own Fintech, such as Web Wise, and often it has meant partnering with organizations, both local and national to provide solutions. It is a constantly evolving field which is producing by in large great benefits in terms of convenience to people. We have a standing committee at the bank whose role is to constantly monitor our customers needs in this exciting field.
Q. Do you foresee any significant changes on the horizon for the banking technology sector?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: We’re watching the payments sector. Electronic payments are continuing to take market share from more traditional payment methods (like cash and checks). If the U.S. Government adopts a digital currency, that may speed this process. We have the customers and the branches, but we will need to integrate with whatever technology ends up being dominant in order to compete effectively.
A. Charles V. Wait: Artificial intelligence will be used increasingly by larger banks to make routine loan decisions, provide more comprehensive audits, review customer financial data, and analyze transactions for security threats. Despite the current problems in the digital currency space, the underlying block chain technology will become useful in certain transactions such as real estate title certification.
Q. Is there another generation of Waits, waiting in the wings?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: There is a new generation, but it’s too early to tell.
Q. Favorite economist?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: Hyman Minsky
A. Charles V. Wait: Hands down it is Milton Friedman.
Q. Books on bedside table?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: The Invention of Power by
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita.
A. Charles V. Wait: Remembrance of Things Past by Proust, Travels through North America by Peter Kalm, and Putin’s People by Catherine Belton
Q. Last movie watched?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.: Dune
A. Charles V. Wait: Vengeance
Q. Favorite quote?
A. Charles V. Wait, Jr.:
“Become who you are.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
A. Charles V. Wait:
“It is better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.” - Abraham Lincoln.