Meet face to face, Arrow

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor

Next Wednesday, Oct. 25, Arrow Financial Corporation — the parent of Glens Falls National and Saratoga National Banks — will conduct its long postponed annual meeting.

I was stunned and unhappy to see that it’s being done virtually — not in person as it used to be every year at the Charles Wood Theater.

I called CEO Dave DeMarco to ask about it and express my disappointment.

If ever there was a year when Arrow needs to address its shareholders face to face, it’s this year.

Mr. DeMarco was only recently installed in the top spot. Ditto the Chairman of the Board, Bill Owens, of Plattsburgh — succeeding Tom Hoy, whose death lost the bank and the community a cornerstone.

Tom Murphy, Mr. DeMarco’s predecessor, exited the bank months ago suddenly and surprisingly. There was no explanation beyond that he “terminated.”

Arrow was so tardy compiling its annual financial report that its stock exchange warned that Arrow’s shares were at risk of being delisted.

Then there is the Arrow stock price — which has fallen by about half.

All these factors and more made the annual meeting in my mind an urgent must-attend.

The bank is so important to the whole region, and the shares of stock are held so widely among local residents, many of whom literally bank on it.

It never occurred to me the meeting would be virtual. Yes, it was virtual last year — but we’re post-Covid crisis now. And this year’s session is just too important.

A chance to meet the new top execs face to face.

A chance perhaps to gauge them and their capability.

A chance to actually ask questions — perhaps hard questions — and see how they were handled and what exactly the replies were.

Given the stock’s swoon, a chance maybe to hear angry shareholders vent displeasure — at the very least a chance to get a reading on the crowd.

I would think the bank at this particular point would crave that interaction, hearing direct from the company’s owners, base and community.

A chance for execs to show their mettle and moxie.

And for the board of directors to hear from the people they’re paid well to represent.

Mr. DeMarco said that once the financials were complete, they wanted to schedule the meeting as rapidly as possible, but I wonder how hard is it to set up an in-person gathering across the street. I would think Arrow is a big enough client that providers who needed to be there would make arrangements to appear.

Mr. DeMarco also said that the bank now offers a more detailed report each quarter to inform investors.

Mr. DeMarco said that since being named CEO, he’s pretty much been meeting the public every day. He mentioned the recent ribbon-cutting for the massively renovated headquarters building on Glen Street.

Fine to smile and greet, but an ARCC ribbon-cutting is not conducive to serious scrutiny.

Arrow annual meetings used to last about 10 minutes. The share price was so strong for so many years that nary a complaint was lodged.

Now lawyers are trolling for plaintiffs hoping to sue Arrow, presuming it must have done wrong.

I’ve never assumed that. These are particularly tough times for local banks that pay negligible interest on many accounts while big institutions can dangle 4% and 5% interest rates they’ll pay on deposits.

I hope that Arrow will navigate these turbulent times as the bank has the many ebbs and flows since 1851.

But what a missed opportunity to show itself humble, open, receptive and confident. Measure up, Arrow.

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