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Bob Enck, Elizabethtown's 'hometown banker,' retires

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Robert Enck, vice president and relationship manager for commercial lending at Susquehanna Bank's Elizabethtown office, has become a fixture in Elizabethtown-area banking during a career spanning more than half a century. Photo/Tim Stuhldreher
Robert Enck, vice president and relationship manager for commercial lending at Susquehanna Bank's Elizabethtown office, has become a fixture in Elizabethtown-area banking during a career spanning more than half a century. Photo/Tim Stuhldreher

Robert L. “Bob” Enck got into banking back before desktop computers, before mountains of disclosure forms, back when you could issue a loan to a trusted customer based on a chat, a signature and a handshake.

This week, the 68-year-old vice president and relationship manager for commercial lending at Susquehanna Bank's Elizabethtown office retired — at least temporarily — ending a career that began before the Beatles sang on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

"He's kind of an icon," said Debra Dupler, vice president and business banker at Union Community Bank. Dupler represents the Mount Joy Township Board of Supervisors on the Elizabethtown Area Chamber of Commerce board, which Enck heads.

"He grew up here, lived here, works here," she said. "He has a real passion for this community."

In the early 1960s, the stately bank building at 143 S. Market St. was the flagship of the Elizabethtown Trust Co. Enck's father worked in a gas station across the street. He began filling in as the bank's janitor when the real janitor had a heart attack, Enck said.

"Then the guy died," Enck said.

Enck's father told the bank he had too much other work to do to take on the job permanently unless Enck could help out. The bank agreed. So Enck began accompanying his father to the bank at 6 a.m. each day to clean it before it opened.

Later, when Enck was attending Millersville State College, now Millersville University, Elizabethtown Trust Co. paid him 5 cents each to stamp out customers' addresses on a machine called an addressograph. Then the bank offered him a summer job as a substitute teller, then a full-time position.

Until then, Enck had planned to be a teacher, but the offer was too good to pass up. He calculated the benefits of earning a decent starting salary right away versus earning a somewhat lower salary several years later and said yes.

The bank went on to merge in 1981 with Lititz-based Farmers First Bank, which became Susquehanna Bank. Enck moved up in the ranks: branch manager, assistant vice president and on to vice president and market manager, overseeing four Susquehanna Bank branches in western Lancaster County.

He saw companies come, companies go. He saw family businesses pass through three generations of ownership — in a couple of cases, through four. He handled bank robberies and bomb threats.

He recalled one threat in which the caller accurately described the suspicious package Enck had noticed in the bank lobby. When Enck balked at walking a bag of money out to a drop-off point, the caller revealed he knew Enck's home address.

The package in the lobby contained dynamite sticks and a clock, but "it was just a dud," Enck said. A police search of his house turned up nothing. Still, "it was an interesting night," he said.

"We never caught the guy," he added.

Enck said he likes being a generalist, but successive waves of regulation have made banking specialized. Technology has reduced the personal connection between customers and their banks. People younger than 35 never enter a bank except to open their account, he said.

Nevertheless, "it's still a relationship industry," he said. He has built up a network of thousands of contacts over the years. Even during the recession, he didn't have to hunt for loans, he said. Clients came to him.

"It takes many years of building relationships to get to that point," he said.

His advice to small-business owners: Get to know your banker.

Enck exemplifies "the true meaning of stability and reliability," Susquehanna Bank Market Manager William Sanchez, who will succeed Enck, said in an email.

At the chamber, Enck helped the organization take a more active role in economic development, Dupler said.

Among his extensive community volunteer work, he served more than two decades on the Elizabethtown Area school board, including stints as president and treasurer, and helped organize Northwest Emergency Medical Services, which merged the Elizabethtown Fire Co. Ambulance service and the Northwest Advanced Life Support Unit.

There are plans to have Enck return in a part-time capacity starting in May, as a community ambassador, he said.

Last winter, a friend sent him a sign that Enck hung on his office door: "I can't retire. I own horses."

Enck and his son have two horses they are training now, he said. Another of his hobbies is bicycling; he and his wife take a number of riding vacations every year.

Enck said he feels fortunate. The bank recognized his strengths and gave him scope to exercise them, he said.

"I wanted to be a hometown banker," he said.

Events from 1963

February: The Beatles record their first album, "Please Please Me"

March: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Gideon v. Wainwright that states must provide lawyers for defendants who can't afford them

April: "Lawrence of Arabia" wins the Oscar for Best Picture

August: Martin Luther King Jr. makes his "I Have a Dream" speech

November: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas

Source: Wikipedia

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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