In banking and calvary charges, strength lies in numbers.

Numbers tell the story. But at Pentucket, the numbers are about more than just dollars and cents, said President and CEO Scott Cote. They're about people.

Pentucket has the highest share of deposits in Haverhill, the largest share of total available customers in the region and was the fourth-fastest growing bank last year, according to market surveys.

Pentucket Bank succeeded on its own at a time when nobody trusted banks and after years of deregulated lending that almost drove the country into another Depression, then used taxpayer money to pay executive bonuses, Cote said.

Cote said that the bank held its own in those hard months as one administration handed off to another a fragile economy.

"We're financially sound. We didn't need it," Cote said about the Troubled Asset Relief Program — so-called TARP money the federal government spent to prop up banks and other financial institutions.

As Pentucket thrived, the condition of the financial industry improved overall. By April 5, the U.S. Treasury said that it has received repayment of $181 billion of the $245 billion invested in TARP relief for banks and other financial institutions at the beginning of the financial crisis.

Chartered as a mutual bank, "We don't have to answer to shareholders. We don't have to worry about our equity, because of the way this bank is structured," Cote explained. "We don't sell stock in the bank, we don't have shareholders, so we don't answer to people whose only concern is making money."

Ken Smith, chairman of the bank's board of directors and the recently retired CEO, pointed out in the bank's 2009 annual report that Pentucket Bank's financial structure means the bank will not be sold and merged away into a larger, equity-based institution.

"That's nice for us because we can put our business first. We don't have to think about making money for anyone but our depositors. We can put the bank and the people in it first," Cote said.

Speaking of people, Cote passes a hand-built soap box cart as he walks toward his office. The cart is part of a project sponsored by the bank's on-going effort to stay active in the community.

In May 2009, Bradford's Zachary Koffman and Brandon Andreoli drove the Pentucket Bank Soap Box Derby cars in the Massachusetts national qualifying event held in Bradford.

Andreoli tied for fifth place with three others and Koffman placed third overall.

The bank's credibility depends on its depositors, so, "We require every employee to get involved in something in the community," Cote said.

Pentucket Bank has developed a financial training program for children called Saving Makes Sense. It teaches the children how banks operate and use depositors' money; how savings accounts work; the function of a personal checking account; and the obligations and function of loans.

Perhaps those lessons are paying off. Pentucket Bank finished fiscal year 2009 with one of the state's lowest loan delinquency rates, just one-third of 1 percent. In contrast, similarly sized banks' ratios stood at 1 to 2 percent.

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