Huffpost Money

Patrick Cullen Of Cattaraugus, New York, Is The Nicest Banker In America

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If you were going to sit down and design the opposite of a Wall Street banker, you would probably come up with someone like Patrick Cullen.

Cullen runs the smallest bank by assets in the state of New York -- the Bank of Cattaraugus, located in the village of Cattaraugus in western New York. Cullen, recently featured on CBS News, has little in common with the Jamie Dimons and Brian Moynihans of the world. He seems to know everyone in his community, and reportedly has a good relationship with practically all of his customers.

CBS has numerous accounts of businesses Cullen has helped and home-loan seekers he's given the nod. The New York Times has also reported on the ways Cullen has reached out to members of the community -- like the time a homeowner couldn't pay her property taxes, so Cullen had his son buy the woman's house and let her stay there as a renter.

And while Wall Street banks have continued to rack up robust profits, even as the rest of the economy sags, the Bank of Cattaraugus is only clearing $23,000 a year in profits, according to CBS. As Cullen's daughter Colleen told a reporter, "Our goal is not to make a ton of money. It's to help the local people."

The years since the financial crisis have been a mixed period for small community banks like Cullen's. In some parts of the country, they've managed to flourish -- in part because they were reportedly able to dodge the cascading failures that affected the country's largest banks in 2008 -- while in other places these small banks have crumbled, leaving behind holes in the community.

No matter what the health of the local economy might be, small banks like Cullen's often play a vital role in keeping local businesses going, especially since it's reportedly been difficult for the owners of those businesses to get the attention of larger banks.

And it's that perception of big banks as remote and indifferent that may have influenced so many people to move their money into community banks and credit unions on Bank Transfer Day, an event this past fall that was loosely affiliated with the anti-big-bank Occupy Wall Street movement.

As for Cullen and the secret of his success, it may simply be that the people of Cattaraugus appreciate his forbearance when it comes to the kind of complex financial instruments that helped bring down the economy in 2008.

When CBS asked Cullen whether he did a lot of credit default swaps at the bank, Cullen replied, "I don't even know what that is."