The year was 1998: Gasoline was $1.15 a gallon, Nokia had the best-selling cellphone, and a little tech company called Google was founded.
That same year in a garage in Portsmouth, a bank called Towne was birthed.
Wednesday Towne Bank shareholders came together at the Virginia Beach Convention Center for their Annual Shareholders Meeting.
All in all, 2017 was a good year for shareholders and for the bank, which is entering its 20th year. On April 8, 1999 Towne opened three offices that were funded by 4,000 shareholders.
Today the bank possesses 150 million shares of common stock, $24 billion in deposits, and $10.6 billion in assets.
“We never really judged ourselves by the competition,” said G. Robert Aston Jr., executive chairman of the board. “It all comes down to culture and to caring about each other… our members, our community, shareholders, and the less fortunate.”
The bank has increased earnings for 18 straight years.
In Hampton Roads Towne Bank controls 22.01 percent of the market share with $5.48 billion in deposits, ahead of Wells Fargo, Sun Trust, BB&T, and Bank of America.
“We want to run the safest bank we can run and do everything we can to protect your money,” Aston told shareholders.
Some 42 percent of the bank’s income he said is from non-banking businesses.
Earnings per share for 2017 was $1.56 while share prices ended the year at $30.75.
“The stock price doesn’t really do anything for us in serving our customers,” Aston said. “We set out to build a great community asset. It wasn’t about building a great bank.”
Since 1999, Towne Bank has provided $48.8 million in cumulative support in all the communities they serve, including $6.3 million in 2017.
Towne Bank and its subsidiaries employ 2,800 people, the vast majority in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland.