United Bank Marks 175 Years

WHEELING – Those seeking a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow have been able to find one at United Bank for 175 years.

United Bank celebrated its 175th birthday Monday on St. Patrick’s Day. But Tony Gentile, market president for United Bank, attributed the bank’s success to more than just luck.

United Bankshares Inc. is the parent company of United Bank, and the 48th largest financial institution in America. It also is one of only a handful of banking companies across America to have increased its dividends over each of the last 40 years, according to Gentile. Those positive margins were achieved even during the recent loan crisis within the banking industry.

“United Bank did not partake in some of the (loans and practices) other banks did – especially where it pertained to sub-prime mortgages,” he said. “Most banks in West Virginia didn’t get involved with this.”

United Bank instead focused on “asset quality,” and practices superceding industry standards, Gentile said.

“This helped to position us so when the economy started to improve, we could react faster,” he said.

The financial institution now known as United Bank opened on March 17, 1839 in Parkersburg as a branch of the Northwestern Bank of Virginia, making United Bank older than the state of West Virginia. When the Civil War broke out, West Virginia seceded from Virginia and was accepted into the Union. The Northwestern Bank of Virginia in Parkersburg, though, faced certain financial collapse then as the bank was filled with worthless Confederate currency.

The National Bank Act was passed by Congress in 1864, establishing a national banking system that permitted the bank to reorganize as the Parkersburg National Bank in 1865.

Since then, United Bankshares has completed 29 mergers with banking companies, and its largest was the recent acquisition of Virginia Commerce Bank Inc. in January.

United operates in five states – West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland – as well as in the Washington, D.C., market. It has assets of $11.5 billion and 1,733 employees, according to Gentile.