National Capital Bank Celebrates 130 Years –With Ice Cream!

Captain Cookie Helped to Mark Birthday of DC's Oldest Bank

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NCB staff pose outside the Capitol Hill offices at the August 30 celebration of the bank’s 130th Anniversary. Photo: Andrew Lightman

In 1889 the District’s oldest bank was opened right here on the Hill by local business people. Still located at the original site on 316 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, National Capital Bank celebrated its 130th anniversary on Friday, August 30 by sharing ice cream sandwiches from Captain Cookie with neighbors at all three locations.

The original charter for the bank still hangs in the Pennsylvania Avenue second-floor board room. One Founding Director was Albert Carry, of the National Capital Brewing Company, once located on the site of the Safeway currently under construction at 14th Street and Kentucky Avenue SE.

Carry is the great-great grandfather of R. Andrew ‘Andy’ Didden, who five generations later is the Executive Vice President, President, Chief Investment Services Officer of the National Capital Bank, one of five Didden family members still working with the bank.

Back in 1889, said Didden, nearly all of the District’s banks were located west of the Capitol Building, meaning that when it was time to make a deposit, business owners on the east side had to physically carry all of their cash and coins downtown to make a deposit.  “So that’s really what it was,” said Didden in an interview at NCB. “it was that the business community grew and just wanted their own bank, and that’s how this bank was founded.”

“People that were up-and-coming here in southeast –they thought it was a waste to give your money to a bank serving Northwest,” continues Didden. “I would like to think it wasn’t just for convenience sake, it was also that they needed to sprout other small businesses in the area.” Didden said that it is the nature of community banks to loan money in the communities that they serve.

“The bank was established by the Capitol Hill business community and the relationship continues to be reciprocal to this day,” said Didden. “We would like to be able to serve local depositors and turn their money into bringing better things for our community –that’s sort of what the goal is. That’s also what was going on in 1889.”

Putting in Back into the Community

NCB President and CEO Richard B. ‘Randy’ Anderson said the bank’s bread-and-butter is small business loans, personal loans and family financial planning and investment advice.

“A characteristic of a community bank typically is that the primary way we make money and stay in existence is spread banking, which is the difference between the money we take in and the interest rate we pay on that, and the money we lend out and the interest we take in,” said Anderson. Larger banks rely on many other sources including fees and investment banking. Didden and Anderson estimate that 98% of NCB lending is reinvested in the region, supporting small businesses, increasing employment and helping to keep communities vital.

However, NCB is a part of the community in ways that aren’t all business. The bank contributes to Capitol Hill community through the National Capital Bank Foundation, which since its inception has donated more than $2.0 million to local organizations including the Fort Dupont Hockey Club, Everyone Home DC, Capitol Hill Village and Ready Willing and Working, just to name a few. NCB also supports such well-known events as the Capitol Hill Classic, the annual fundraiser for the Capitol Hill Cluster Schools, now entering its 41st year.

Both Didden and Anderson are on the Board of Directors for the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, which meets in the NCB boardroom. NCB staff are visible throughout the community, volunteering at events such as the Barracks Row Fall Fest.

130 years is a long history, but NCB is looking to the future. The demands of customers in the community are changing, and the bank has responded by embracing technology. They opened the first drive-thru teller window in the 1950s, added a new mobile banking app in 2017 and NCB will begin offering new payment solutions to customers, including the Zelle payment app in early 2020.

Anderson said the bank has also devoted a great deal of attention to information security, dedicating separate staff to this area and implementing additional partnerships to assist.

“We’ve been putting a lot of attention in the recent past to bringing our technology up to snuff so that we can compete with those larger banks,” said Anderson.

Anderson said the bank expects to achieve $500 million in assets by the end of 2020, which would be a significant milestone. Since he was hired three years ago, in April 2016, the staff has grown in size by at least 22 team members.

Community Relationships

While the heart of the bank remains in Capitol Hill, Anderson said they continue to look for communities well-suited to their services. In addition to Capitol Hill, NCB has branches in Friendship Heights (5228 44th St. NW), Arlington (2505 Wilson Boulevard) and a location serving the senior living community of Fox Hill in Bethesda (8300 Burdette Road).

The local community continues to recognize and reciprocate the relationship. In 2019, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C voted to transfer their account from a large national bank to open one with the community institution. In proposing the change, Treasurer Joel Kelty (6C05) noted that NCB is based in Ward 6 and cited their experience dealing with ANCs. “They’ve been a real supporter of charitable and civic endeavors in our neighborhood,” Kelty said of NCB, “and I believe we should do our banking in our local community.”

This summer a neighbor asked members of a community list serv for recommendations for a good local bank with wonderful customer service. Locals were quick to recommend NCB, citing their human touch. “They actually answer the phone if you have any problems so you can speak to a real person,” wrote one. “They also contribute generously to the local community.”

The neighbor later noted that they had taken the community’s advice. “Update: I went with NCB,” she wrote.

Learn more about the District’s oldest bank and Capitol Hill institution by visiting nationalcapitalbank.com