First County Bank Profile

First County Bank Profile: Karen Chavez

Meet Karen Chavez, Branch Manager of our Springdale Branch, located at 1110 Hope Street, Stamford.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Ecuador and have been working at First County Bank for over 12 years. I currently reside in Stamford with my husband and my two children. I love listening to music and enjoy spending time with my family. I am an active member of the Stamford Exchange Club and JM Wright PFO.

What is your favorite part of your role at First County Bank?
My favorite part of my role at First County Bank is being able to interact with people, help customers accomplish their financial needs, and establish lasting relationships. It makes me feel good when customers ask me, “What do you think I should do Karen – Give me your advice.”

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
 What are the current CD rates?

What is something people may not know about First County Bank?
What it makes First County Bank different from other banks is the level of customer service we provide, we treat our customers with respect and we care about them.

What is your favorite thing to do during the spring or summer?
During the summer I love being outdoors and preparing barbecues with my friends and family.

What is your favorite First County Bank moment?
My favorite First County Bank moment when I was promoted as a Branch Manager.

First County Bank Foundation

First County Bank Richard E. Taber Citizenship Award Applications now being accepted online

Taber Scholarship kids 2017

The 2018 First County Bank Richard E. Taber Citizenship Award application is now available online. High school seniors can view the information required and apply at

The Richard E. Taber Citizenship Award rewards high school seniors residing in Fairfield County towns of Stamford, Norwalk, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, or Westport who are overall well-rounded citizens. Unlike many scholarships based on top academic achievement or athletic ability, this scholarship is weighted towards demonstrated leadership and caring for the community in which we live. The criteria for selection are best defined by the word, C.L.A.S.S. (Citizenship; Leadership; Academics; Service; Sportsmanship).

Three $5,000 scholarships will be awarded to graduating high school seniors in our community, but they must apply before the deadline of May 1, 2018. Each recipient will receive a personalized certificate; a check for $5,000 will be sent directly to the college of acceptance; a congratulatory advertisement with photo will appear in the local newspaper; and winners will be prominently displayed with a photo on the bank’s website.  Decisions on scholarship recipients will be made the end of May.

The award was named in honor of Richard E. Taber (Dick) who retired in 2011 from First County Bank as Chairman and CEO, and initiated the First County Bank Foundation which he championed during his 40 years at First County Bank.  “These annual scholarships honor Dick’s legacy of volunteerism and community involvement,” said Rey Giallongo, president of First County Bank Foundation, chairman and CEO of First County Bank.  “As a mutual community bank, we are proud to help civic-minded students start their college career and we recognize the importance of these scholarships to deserving high school seniors,” added Giallongo.

Candidate Criteria

The recipient of this award must be a high school senior who has been accepted to an accredited two- or four-year college or university.  The recipient will be selected without regard to race, sex, religion or creed.  Each candidate must:

  • Be a current resident of Stamford, Norwalk, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan or Westport and be a graduating high school senior
  • Hold a “B” average or higher during their junior and senior years in high school
  • Provide an admission acceptance document from a two- or four-year college or university
  • Be involved in the community
  • Provide reference letters from two individuals not related to the candidate.  One letter from each of the following is preferred:
    • High school teacher or counselor
    • Community leader/volunteer program counselor
    • Provide an official high school transcript
    • Complete a brief essay (not to exceed 1,000 words) describing how the candidate best fits into the definition of “C.L.A.S.S.” (Citizenship; Leadership; Academics; Service; Sportsmanship)
    • Complete the online application, available at

Employees and directors of First County Bank and their affiliates, subsidiaries, agencies and their respective immediate families (spouse, children, parents and in-laws) are not eligible to apply for the Richard E. Taber Citizenship Award.

First County Bank Foundation officers will review the applications and make a recommendation to the Foundation’s board of directors who will select the Richard E. Taber Citizenship Award recipients.  All applicants will be notified by the end of May. 

First County Bank Profile

#FridaysinFairfield: Meet Iliana Nikolova

Meet Iliana Nikolova, Assistant Branch Manager at our Fairfield Branch located at 1312 Post Road in this edition of #FridaysinFairfield.

Tell us about yourself.
My name is Iliana Nikolova. I was born and raised in Bulgaria and I came to the States 14 years ago. Since then I’ve been tackling the challenges to adjust, learn and grow to become a successful person.  You can find me in the dictionary under positive, funny and outgoing.  My career in First County Bank started 4 years ago as a part time teller. My consistency and hard work helped me quickly move up the ladder, and for the past two years I’ve been Teller Supervisor in the Darien Branch. Now in my new role as an Assistant Branch Manager, it gives an opportunity to assist in managing a branch while mentoring and helping new hires grow into their career here in First County Bank.

What separates First County Bank from other Banks?
We offer similar products as other financial institutions, but what makes us stand out is the superior customer service that we provide to our customers. We know our customer’s name, we know their life stories, we know when they are happy or sad; we take banking up close and personal.

What excites you the most about the new Fairfield Branch?
The most exciting part of the new Fairfield Branch is the opportunity to meet new people and establish new relationships. On a personal side, my new role as an Assistant Branch Manager is exciting for me.

What’s something someone may not know about First County Bank?
Our business customers might not know that they can make a deposit through our mobile application. This feature is a convenient way to save a trip to the Bank. Also, we have fingerprint authentication for online banking which provides fast access to your account balance or transfers between accounts.

What is your favorite First County Bank moment?
My favorite First County Bank moment is the interaction with customers, being able to help them with whatever issue they are having, being able to find the answer to their questions, having them leave the branch with a smile and a comment, “Thank you very much. You are the best.”

I’m also grateful to be part of the First County Bank family which has given me the opportunity to learn and grow professionally. I have gotten to know and work with such wonderful people, who are helping me every day to achieve my career goals; without whom I would not be where I am today.

In Our Community

Another Successful Maple Sugar Festival Weekend

Mollie Herz - Mini Maple Pecan Cheesecake

Mollie Herz of Stamford, 2018 Winner of the Teen Chefs Challenge

The annual First County Bank Maple Sugar Festival Weekend at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center took place this past weekend under stormy skies and high winds. The weather didn’t stop the many fans who braved the elements to come to sample this seasons maple syrup and to enjoy a visit with the First County Bank volunteers.

The highlight of the weekend was the Teen Chef Challenge on Saturday which was a great success. Eight highly talented Teen Chefs competed in an exciting competition to create the best tasting recipe using maple syrup, as judged by the public and celebrity judges—some from First County Bank.

Each Chef came up with creative food presentations and enticing recipes ranging from a healthy chopped Brussel Sprouts with Kale, Bacon and Maple syrup to the sweet Chocolate Bacon Cupcake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and assorted cookies and cheesecakes. The Homemade Mini Maple Pecan Cheesecake created by Mollie Herz, age 13 of Stamford was the ultimate overall winner in a very exciting competition.

Despite the less than favorable weather, First County Bank volunteers were on hand throughout the 2-day event to greet visitors and hand out the signature First County Bank popcorn. Other volunteers gave away teal goodies, including the First County Bank backpacks and tote bags as well as lip balm, pens and specialty kitchen item.

Bank News

First County Bank receives the Women’s Choice Award® as a highly recommended Financial Firm

WCA_FF_2016-2018-colorAs the leading advocate for female consumers, WomenCertified Inc. is pleased to announce that First County Bank has received the Women’s Choice Award for offering a distinguished portfolio of services and tools to its advisors and consumers.

To earn the Women’s Choice Award Financial Firm seal, an organization must uphold a variety of criteria within 4 pillars: Marketing Tools; Educational Support; Seminars/Workshop; Community Outreach. Focusing on consumer education and providing support for advisors in the financial sector aligns financial organizations with the Women’s Choice Award mission to support female consumers throughout their financial journey. And, by providing the necessary tools, resources and ongoing communication to consumers and advisors within the organization, they help women make more informed financial choices, while giving her the high level of service she expects – and deserves.

“First County Bank is proud to be among a select group of only 139 financial advisors and firms across the US which have been honored with the prestigious Women’s Choice Award,” said Reyno A. Giallongo, Jr. chairman and CEO of First County Bank. “The Women’s Choice Award is the collective recommendation of women and honors brands that women would highly recommend to friends and family. Since 2016, we have been distinguished as a Women’s Choice Award financial firm.”

The Women’s Choice Award was created by Delia Passi, the leading advocate for female consumers and former group publisher of Working Woman and Working Mother magazines. Delia created the Women’s Choice Award for Financial Advisors and Firms in an effort to help women identify those advisors and organizations who are committed to providing quality service to female investors. The award allows this elite group of advisors and firms to showcase their commitment to the women’s market, while giving potential clients a starting point for entrusting their finances to an advisor or organization.

Women influence an enormous amount of wealth around the globe. Recent studies indicate the following in regards to women and their finances:

  • $20 Trillion (27%) of the world’s total wealth is controlled by women. **
  • In the US alone, women exercise decision making control over $11.2 trillion; that is 39% of the nation’s estimated $28.6 trillion of investable assets. **
  • 75% of female wealth creators describe themselves as primary decision makers. **
  • Women consumers make the final decision for buying 91% of home purchases, 65% of the new cars, 80% of health care choices, and 66% of computers. ***

As the financial industry wakes up to the fact that a great majority of the female population is seeking advisors and organizations they can trust for their financial security, the Women’s Choice Award offers a solution by assisting women in their search. This powerful, national initiative distinguishes advisors and firms who support female consumers in their quest for financial education.

First County Bank Profile

#FridaysinFairfield: Meet Anna Zaremba

IMG_8857Meet Anna Zaremba, Teller Supervisor at our Fairfield Branch located at 1312 Post Road in this edition of #FridaysinFairfield.

Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Anna Zaremba and I presently live in Norwalk with my family. Photography is my passion, because nothing else allows me to combine love for science and art.

When I was 26, I earned my Master degree in Architecture and Urban Planning in the Bialystok Technical University in Poland.

Since February 2018, I’ve been a Teller Supervisor at First County Bank, Fairfield Branch. I have been working at the Bank since October 2016. I started in the “Glenbrook Branch family” as a part time teller.  After 9 months, I had another great opportunity to learn from the best in the North Stamford Branch as a Full Time Teller. I am someone who has been fortunate enough to find great mentors at First County Bank, where I have been able to progress and be continually challenged. I am hoping that my present role allows for that to continue over the next years.

What separates First County Bank from other Banks?
First County Bank is a community bank that has served the Fairfield County population since the 19th century, and has always been known for exceptional customer service. We treat our customers like “family”, which is what separates us from other banks.

What excites you the most about the new Fairfield Branch?
The fact that we weren’t just hired to just “do a job” makes me very excited. We all were hired to be part of the branch as a whole, a branch that has very specific objectives and goals to achieve. But the idea that we have a unique opportunity to build relationships in the town of Fairfield and surrounding neighborhoods from a scratch makes me feel truly alive and inspired.

What’s something someone may not know about First County Bank?
I believe First County Bank is a leading creator of innovative financial solutions for all our personal and business customers. Something specific some people may not know is that we also take care of the ones our customers love the most, by offering a wide range of annuity products and life insurances offered by SBLI Vantis Life.

What is your favorite First County Bank moment?
The best parts of my job are meeting new people and developing great relationships with them. I love helping customers with their banking needs in a knowledgeable, professional manner and guiding them through tough everyday financial choices. It is extremely rewarding to see them leave happy.


Smart Savings Tips

Do you and your money care about the same things?

moneybankAs the old adage goes “Actions speak louder than words.” On the topic in question, it is fair to say spending is an action that implies values. Which explains why the nature of finances can be so personal, and challenge us to ask the question, what do we value?

Is it:

  • Family?
  • Friends?
  • Health?
  • Happiness?
  • Travel?
  • Spontaneity?

In asking these questions, spending becomes a means of self-examination shedding light on our actions and our values. Sometimes they don’t add up and when they don’t add up life can get off track. Such as if you value health, and yet find on your bank statement a lot of transactions related to unhealthy fast food. Thus, prompting the questions:

Does your money care about the same things you do?
Is your budget going towards things you really care about?

In which case steps can and should be taken to realign spending with what we value. Such as:

  • Review expenditures and categorize them to see where the money is going. Know where you are now so you can make a plan going forward.
  • Recognize there may be some items in your budget that need adjusting, but will take time to achieve. For example, moving closer to work to cut down on travel and provide more family time will require time and planning.
  • Set goals to getting your money on track.
  • Make your goals visible. When you have the impulse to spend on something you really don’t value, you can stop yourself because you have visual reminders around you. Create visuals with pictures of your goals on the wall, on our computer, on your phone. Keep it readily in front of you.

Remember, money can enable a lifestyle of values and goals that reflect us. Now that you are aware of these tendencies and about what you value in life…go make your money care about what you care about.

By Heather Marshall, CFPC, MPP; Educator, AAA Fair Credit Foundation/Utah Saves


First County Bank Profile

#FridaysinFairfield: Meet Ben Peter

bp-ffMeet Benedict Peter, Branch Manager at the new Fairfield Branch located at 1312 Post Road in our first edition of #FridaysinFairfield.

Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Benedict Peter. I currently live in East Norwalk with my family. I have two kids Isabella and William and enjoy spending time with them. In my spare time I play soccer, cricket and enjoy taking long walks at the beach.  I have been with First County Bank since December 2017. I am excited to be at the Fairfield Branch and excited to have a great team to help serve our customers and our community with their financial needs.

What separates First County Bank from other Banks?
The biggest thing that separates First County Bank from other Banks is that we are a mutual community bank. This means that we do not have to report to shareholders. Instead we can focus on our customers, our community and our employees.

What excites you the most about the new Fairfield Branch?
I am excited that we have expanded our footprint and are able to serve our customers and community.

What’s something someone may not know about First County Bank?
Our Foundation was established in 2001 and contributes generously to nonprofit organizations that support community and economic development.  Since 2001 we have given over 1,000 individual grants worth over $8.2 million.

What is your favorite First County Bank moment?
My favorite First County moment was the first day of work. Everyone was so helpful and friendly that I immediately felt part of the family.

Lifestyle Trends & Tips

Don’t let someone break your heart or wallet this Valentine’s Day

datingscamEverything is accessible online these days – maybe even your true love. With millions of people turning to the internet, social media networks and dating websites have become increasingly popular tools for meeting and communicating.

Unfortunately, fraudsters have capitalized on this trend and often create fake profiles to lure in victims, establish romantic relationships and eventually, extort money.

According to the FBI, over $220 million was lost in 2016 to online romance scam artists. Older Americans in particular have been targeted by this type of scam.

While online dating can open doors to loving, happy relationships, there are more and more reports of criminals using these platforms to take advantage of unsuspecting users. Approach these relationships with caution so you don’t end up with a broken heart and an empty wallet.

If you’re concerned that you or a loved one are being scammed, we recommend taking the following precautions:

  • Slow down – and talk to someone you trust. Don’t let a scammer rush you.
  • Never wire money, put money on a gift or cash reload card, or send cash to an online love interest. You won’t get it back.
  • Contact your bank right away if you think you’ve sent money to a scammer.
  • Report your experience to:
    • The online dating site
    • FTC
    • FBI

To learn more about online dating scams, view the ABA Foundation and FTC’s infographic.

First County Bank Profile

#FridaysinFairfield: Meet the Staff

Pictured (Left to Right): Anna Zaremba, Teller Supervisor; Haidei Bolnos, Teller; Ben Peter, Branch Manager; Illiana Nikolova, Assistant Branch Manager.

Pictured (Left to Right): Anna Zaremba, Teller Supervisor; Haidei Bolanos, Teller; Ben Peter, Branch Manager; Illiana Nikolova, Assistant Branch Manager.

The move to Fairfield is not only an exciting moment for the Bank, but a confirmation of our commitment to the area of Fairfield County. For over 165 years, we have worked closely with our customers to deliver personalized banking solutions to fit their needs. None of this would be possible without a committed team of individuals who believe in what it means to be a mutual, community bank.

The Fairfield Branch will be no different. The Fairfield Branch opening brings seasoned First County Bank veterans and new faces to the branch, who all share the common commitment of what it means to work at First County Bank.

We’re excited to kick off a new social media series called, #FridaysinFairfield where we’ll give you a chance to meet and get to know the great members of our newest staff, located at 1312 Post Road, Fairfield, CT.