Bank of Newington
Story by Cindy
Photos by Tonya Perry
Bank ofNewington was established in July of 1919 in Newington, Georgia, and is Screven County’s oldest community bank.
Tripp Sheppard, the bank’s President and CEO, says, “In 1919 my great grandfather, Willie Wood Evans, with the help of his brothers and some other interested investors, opened the bank in Newington, which was an up-and-coming railroad town at the time.”
The privately held bank did fine for years. “My grandfather on my mother’s side took it over when my great grandfather retired,” says Tripp, “and in the early eighties my dad, Harry Sheppard, took over during the farm crisis. Under his leadership, the bank managed to pull itself out of some pretty dire circumstances and began to grow.”
There was, and still is, a strong agricultural economy in the area and Tripp says his great, great grandfather was a farmer. “The family has a farm outside Newington. My dad was in farm equipment sales prior to banking, and cattle at one point, but I think family farming may have ended with me.”
Bank of Newington is definitely a “hands on” family affair. Harry Sheppard was President of the bank until 2016 and now currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors. During his tenure as president, the bank experienced two major setbacks in the form of recessions but still managed to grow exponentially.
“He’s not someone that you can outwork” Tripp says. “I’ve watched him put in long hours since I was a kid. He’s always been successful and I think that’s a product of his incredible drive and determination.”
Harry isn’t quite as involved in day to day management as he once was, but he continues to work every day, utilizing his experience and expertise on behalf of the bank’s clients. Harry’s wife, Lynn, and her twin sister Margo Metts are both retired school teachers and now work in the Post Closing Department.
And then there is Miss Mary Wilma.
“My grandmother, Mary Wilma Wells, worked in the bank every day for over 50 years, until she was 95,” says Tripp. “Her office was right in front on the left as you walked in the door. People would come in just to visit with her. She is still serving as a member of the Board of Directors, at 97 years old.”
Tripp started at the bank as a teller when he was 16 years old. He graduated from Screven County High School in 2000 and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) focused on Real Estate from University of Georgia - Terry College of Business in 2005. He was the bank’s Chief Financial Officer before becoming President in 2016. He says, “When it comes to the bank, we are four generations in, so we definitely have a strong family showing.”
Of course, the bank is staffed by employees as well as family members. “When we hire people, it is important that they are a good fit and share our ideals and take an interest in our business and customers. We don’t hire merely to fill a spot. We need people who want to stay until they retire, who are not interested in just cycling through—ideally, they would want to work here indefinitely,” says Tripp.
“We believe in investing in our employees and in listening to their ideas. We have an outstanding crew who ultimately share the same goals and vision. One that revolves completely around customer service and satisfaction.”
Bank of Newington is at heart a neighborhood bank and community resource. Tripp says, “We are extremely community orientated. Unfortunately, many local banks have either closed or been consolidated, so the big banks get bigger and the small town banks are disappearing. I think it’s a detriment to the community to lose a bank. The big ones are not really involved, whereas we define success by our community service.”
He says their banking philosophy is about maintaining and nurturing relationships. “Knowing people and their respective businesses and what they need helps us serve as a support vehicle. Helping local people achieve their vision is how we fulfill our purpose.”
That spirit of community involvement extends to every bank customer. Some of the family fun activities sponsored by the bank include the Fall Festival in Sylvania and Trunk or Treat at the Effingham County Recreation Department in Springfield, Pull for Kids Launched by Bank of Newington, a Thanksgiving children’s coloring contest, Screven County branches going “Pink” to support Breast Cancer Research and by being lead sponsor for the Red, White & Screven Strong fireworks show.
In addition, the branches celebrate Georgia Bank Peanut Week with complimentary bags of boiled peanuts. Tripp says. “Peanut Week promotes our local farmers. It’s a great opportunity to recognize them and show a small token of appreciation for all their hard work.”
Being involved includes Tripp’s service as a City Council Member on the Sylvania City Council (2009-present) and Mayor Pro Tempore (essentially Vice Mayor).
“Being involved at that level brings a deeper community involvement. I started serving because you have to step up and help versus gripe. I can see what goes on in our city and when I can, lend a hand. I really enjoy being able to make a difference.”
In 1991, Bank of Newington moved into a new office in Newington, which allowed them to better serve their customers. Seven years later, they opened their second branch in Sylvania. Since then, they have continued to grow, and in order to continually provide excellent service to their customers, the Springfield office was opened in February of 2019.
“We have grown substantially from one small bank in Newington to include new branches in Sylvania and now Springfield,” says Tripp. “Downtown Springfield is really seeing a revitalization. We are really proud to be a part of it through creative financing and donations. When that community thrives, we do too, because there is such a deep connection between their success and ours.”
He says there is always potential for further expansion: “We constantly look for opportunities to better serve our communities. Having a customer-centric view means that when it comes to making their lives easier and more productive, nothing is really off the table. As our communities grow and expand, we expect to grow and expand as well.”
“Our #1 goal is to provide the best experience a customer can have. Period. If you are considering us for a bank, we don’t want you to sacrifice the ease of use provided by a bigger bank’s technology, so we invested heavily in online and mobile technology,” Tripp says. “We can’t stay neutral on technology, or stay stuck in one mindset. Back when we rolled out the mobile app, we were one of the only banks of our size that provided that service. The same with mobile capture.”
He says it came down to seeing things from a customer centric viewpoint. “Mobile and online technology is something that makes sense. It makes the customer’s life easier because it actually is more convenient.”
In October, Bank of Newington gave its customers a new way to pay via Apple Pay and Google Pay, transforming payments with an easy, contactless, and safer way to pay in participating stores and online.
“We always have new things in the pipeline. We have zero interest in standing still. That mentality will eventually make you obsolete.”
Since its founding in 1919, Bank of Newington has seen many changes, both nationally and locally. Tripp says: “In 2008 banks really suffered. One third of the charter banks in Georgia failed, and we felt it, too. We had plans to expand in the mid-2000s, but those were substantially pushed back. We finally completed that plan in 2019 when we opened our Springfield branch.”
And family tradition continues. Tripp has two children, Harper and Parker, and says, “I would absolutely love for them to be the next generation at the bank if that’s something they want to do. I want them to find their own passion, but that would certainly make me very happy, to leave a legacy for them. It’s different when it goes so deep into your family’s history. It’s more than our livelihood. We are all in. And I think that’s a big part of why ultimately, we survived and thrived, and why we’ve been successful.”
224 Walton St
Newington, GA 30446
107 West Ogeechee St
Sylvania, GA 30467
1680 Hwy 21 S.
Springfield, GA 31329