Hillsboro Bank has been serving Plant City for two decades. It is the city's only community bank and over the years has helped reshape the town it calls home.
When Hillsboro Bank first opened its doors in 1998 it had one goal: create an environment where clients are family and their needs come first.
Two decades later, it has expanded to other communities as well as Plant City and continues to offer the hometown experience seldom seen in large corporate banks.
“I think the board really wanted to open a bank where they could bank with people they knew,” Pamela Warnock, senior vice president and founding member of Hillsboro Bank, said. “There was a lot of turmoil in the banking industry at that time, Bank of America was buying up a lot of banks, so they wanted a community bank for Plant City. I think we’ve done great in that realm. We love the community and we love to be involved in it.”
As time passed, Hillsboro Bank began to set itself apart from competitors by simply responding to the needs of its clients.
“What makes us different, in a word, is we’re flexible,” Mike Ward, president of Hillsboro Bank, said. “Big banks have rigid rules and policies. Community banks are more fluid.”
When a customer calls Hillsboro Bank they are always greeted by an employee rather than by a recording or automated system. Warnock said this provides a level of comfort that is rare in the industry. She said that allows customers to build relationships with their staff and know they are going to be taken care of because they trust and genuinely know who they are speaking to on the other end of the line.
Often, she said when a customer calls they already know which employee they wish to speak to and will request them by name when the phone is answered. Staff have watched as clients get married, buy their first home, start families and new businesses and build the community around them.
Hillsboro Bank expanded to Valrico in 2007 and plans to open its third branch in Dade City in mid-August. It is selective about where it establishes its roots and Ward said they do best in well-knit communities.
“We’re not a metro bank, we’re not downtown anywhere we are,” Ward said. “The attribute I like, I like well-rooted people. People like in Dade City or Plant City that have been here for generations. I like banking you, your father and your grandfather.”
Many of its staff and directors are heavily involved in the community. Ward said the bank itself supports more businesses around the city than most people realize, ensuring as it grows, its community grows as well.
Warnock and Chairman of the Board Gary Boothe are both on the board at the Florida Strawberry Festival. The bank is heavily active with Plant City High School and provides scholarships to students both there and at the festival each year. It also supports the agriculture students at the festival each year with their animals. Employees are active in the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club and a variety of other committees.
“We support the agriculture businesses as well,” Ward said. “A lot of banks don’t do that anymore. But we have a lot of strawberry farmers that still depend on us. Or maybe we depend on them. We’re mutually dependent.”
Warnock said the bank takes pride in helping the community it loves and that she and the rest of the Hillsboro Bank team cannot thank Plant City enough for their continued support over the years.
“The community has been really good to us,” Warnock said. “The support of the everyone in Plant City and the involvement of our employees and directors really makes this Plant City’s community bank. We’re honored to have such loyal customers and look forward to the serving them for years to come.”