Sowing in the Corners

Founded by a handful of Oklahoma farmers in 1903, family-owned First Bethany Bank & Trust recalls some of the finest traditions of small-town business. While corporate giants often combine the worst of old and new—exclusion of minorities and ruthless modern efficiency—Bethany nurtures the best: community trust with enlightened social concern.

"Instead of shareholders, what we have are stakeholders," explains First Bethany’s president, Peter Pierce. So instead of answering to purely profit-motivated third parties, Pierce says, "we can sacrifice short-term profit for long-term goals."

These goals include the success of women and Latinos. Such groups often fall victim to corporate America’s attitude, says Pierce, "that if you don’t look, think, and act like them, you’re not credit worthy." Acknowledging that 38 percent of businesses and 50 percent of capital in the United States is controlled by women, and recognizing the hard-working, family- and faith-centered values of the Latino community, Bethany nurtures their dreams out of enlightened self-interest.

"There are going to be success stories," says Pierce. And those successes create contagious customer loyalty. Some customers, such as the Carmelite Sisters, switched to First Bethany in recognition of the bank’s social conscience. But others come because Bethany understands their needs, because its involvement in the community (including relationships with women’s business organizations and the Latino Community Development Agency) has built a trust that can’t be found elsewhere.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2000
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