On February 14, 1914, in Wayne County, Tennessee, local investors had raised $15,000 (valued at over $445,000 today) to start a new bank. Among the original investors were Mal L. Haggard, the great-grandfather, and Thomas J. Whitby, the great-great-grandfather of current bank president Martin Haggard Jr. Since then, there has been a Haggard involved in Wayne County Bank every year, emphasizing its commitment to serving the unique banking needs of Wayne County residents for over a century.
A Job He Was Born For
Given his family’s history of helping run the biggest bank in Wayne County, one would think that Martin Haggard had this job as part of his plan all along. But he didn’t.
“I never dreamed that I’d be in the bank,” Haggard said from his office in downtown Waynesboro. “My grandfather was a farmer, had a cattle operation and grew crops, so that’s all I ever wanted to do.”
After graduating from college, Martin began his career in agriculture. But when his father and bank President Martin Haggard Sr. asked his son to come join the bank in the loan department, Martin Jr. was willing, lured as much by being back near the family farm as by the new job opportunity.
Haggard Sr. passed away in 1994, but customers still recall the senior banker and how he took care of them during troubled times or remember his involvement in the community. For these customers, the familiarity of bank leadership goes deeper than just checking accounts. It’s knowing that the people behind the counter have the same values and care for their community. For Martin Haggard, there’s no place he’d rather be.
“I just love Wayne County and thank God every day for being here.”
With the consistent leadership it’d be easy to assume that not much has changed with Wayne County Bank; but to the contrary, the bank has been changing right along with the industry for decades.
As with most financial institutions, technology has brought the biggest changes for Wayne County Bank. Long gone are the days when Haggard reportedly turned down a salesman who was trying to get the bank to buy a fax machine because he didn’t think they’d need one.
One of the challenges that has come with this change: Internet access for all the bank’s customers. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that banks have moved or are moving to the digital space. While Wayne County Bank is no different, there is a juxtaposition of a bank firmly in the 21st century and a customer base that is still comfortable with the in-person approach of 100 years ago.
With the guidance of its excellent board of directors, the bank now has a mix of cutting-edge technology and old-school banking, such as having customers come to the drive-thru window or carrying out paperwork to the cars for older residents who can’t get out of their vehicles.
“I think there’ll be lots of changes, but one thing that won’t change is the personal touch. You’ve got to have employees who take care of their people and are willing to go the extra mile, and we think we have the best group of employees around who genuinely care for the customers they serve.”
Paying It Forward
Being the financial fabric of a community means more than just being a bank. It often means being a teacher and a place where residents can come with a host of financial questions. That role is evident in many of Wayne County Bank’s initiatives, including its School Bank program with Wayne County Schools. While the bank does some of the more typical community engagement projects, such as financial literacy and giving students tours of the bank, this program takes it a step further.
The School Bank program was established in 1996 and was designed to help the next generation of Wayne County residents learn the value and importance of saving money, as well as offering a unique opportunity for students to deposit money into their personal savings account right at school.
Representatives from the bank go into each of the three schools in the county every week to help serve the more than 300 kids who currently make deposits. In addition to learning vital financial lessons, students enjoy fun perks, like spinning the Wheel of Savings to win money to add to their savings accounts.
This program has also been great for the bank. Thanks to the School Bank program, Wayne County Bank has opened more than 2,200 accounts over the years, with nearly $2 million in those accounts.
The program also has brought a new generation of customers to Wayne County Bank. “We’ve got customers who started in the lower age groups who are now adults, and they’ve gone on to make very good customers,” Haggard said. “A lot of these students are brand-new to Wayne County Bank. They come to us even if their parents didn’t necessarily bank with us to begin with.”
Wayne County Bank has been an institution for more than 100 years, and the bank continues to maintain its role in the communities it serves, which include Wayne, Lewis, and Lawrence counties. That won’t be changing anytime soon with a fifth generation of family—Haggard’s daughter, Holly Reeves—working at the bank. While Haggard’s happy place is being on the back of a horse on the family’s century-old farm, a close second is sitting behind his desk, running the bank that has become part of the fabric of Wayne County.
Asked about his view of being at the helm of the bank that has been guided by over four generations of his family, Haggard explained, “I see it as we are put here on this Earth only for a little while, not to own things but rather to be caretakers of them while we are here.” He has always cared very deeply for the bank, his community and his customers, and he will continue to do so. While the technology and business tools of banking may change over time, the customer service and community stewardship at Wayne County Bank will remain the same as it was envisioned on Valentine’s Day in 1914.