THIS MONTH'S BULLS EYE FEATURE: Benjamin F. Watts
Haddonfield resident and certifiable Army brat Benjamin Watts started life as a military family nomad. He was born at Fort Dix and grew up in the Army until he was 16.
That meant that he lived in Europe three times on three different posts as well as in the US—but never in one place more than three years.
Watts’ father was a Sergeant in the Army and a 20+ year veteran, who survived both the Korean War and Vietnam while being wounded twice in combat.
“He was focused and strict and a good family man. My mother was a soldier’s wife and the backbone of our family, caring for the kids and running the household, including the finances,” Watts recalls.
“She often travelled alone, including overseas, with three kids in tow, to join my father after he found family housing on the base. She was tough and loving and gave charitably of her time. We lived with her family in the Italian section of Camden between moves.
“I grew up in the military, on military bases in the middle of nowhere. From the mountains in Germany along the Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic) border to the prairie in Kansas. Every day was an adventure as we explored these remote mountains and woods (with no cell phones).”
Watts has a younger brother and sister and remembers that “we fought constantly but were inseparable and we remain close.”
Watts has been married for 35 years to Louise, “a beautiful Jersey girl. We met at work and make a great team. I would not have the success I enjoy today if not for her support and advice.”
The Watts family now includes three sons—Benjamin (29), Matthew (25) and David (16).
Watts received his Bachelor of Arts in Finance from Rowan and while he was in college, he was hired as a teller at First Peoples Bank in Westmont. After graduating, he was promoted to night supervisor in the newly established “Computer Settlement Department.”
He then moved to the internal audit department of Midlantic Bank and resigned 13 years later as Vice President and Audit Division Manager. Upon the sale of Midlantic Bank, he went to a small community bank in Westmont, Community National Bank, as the Controller.
After six years, the bank was sold and he went to work as the Chief Financial Officer of Equity Bank in Marlton, which was a subsidiary of Susquehanna Bank.
Approximately a year later, the investors from Community National Bank asked Watts to join them in the creation of 1st Colonial National Bank in Collingswood as the CFO.
Concluding his career path narrative, Watts says “After about a year, Susquehanna Bank made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to be the CFO of a newly acquired leasing company. When the Great Recession hit, I left Susquehanna Bank and, for a couple of years, worked as the CFO of a community bank in Delaware. I was asked to join Liberty Bell Bank and four years later became the President and Chief Executive Officer.”
Liberty Bell Bank is a New Jersey state-chartered community bank that commenced operations in August 2003. The bank operates 4 offices located in Evesham, Moorestown and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Asked about his business philosophy, Watts responds, “Customer satisfaction is critical. I believe in working with seasoned professionals that I do not micro-manage. I empower people to make decisions in the normal course of their daily work and let them be accountable. I am always available as a resource to ensure that our business objectives are realized.”
His personal motto is “Act with honor, never compromise integrity, and always be a gentleman” and he measures success by “being able to provide for my family.”
Watts says his toughest decision was to leave a large bank for the small community bank. “It was a tough decision but one that I do not regret,” he says.
And asked about his greatest fear, he says that he has “too many to mention and I don’t dwell on it.”