In the battle between executives and employees over what is appropriate work attire, some bankers have found a charitable compromise.
Last spring the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity came to Community Bank of Sullivan County, Monticello, N.Y., for a favor. The nonprofit, which builds homes for low-income families, asked the bank to allow employees to buy the right to dress down for a day with a $5 donation.
Though not in favor of casual dress at the office, George E. Dunkel, Community's president and chief executive officer, made an exception. He now supports casual-dress days, as long as they do not happen too often.
"This is a professional business place, and dressing down is not something I feel real comfortable with," Mr. Dunkel said. "But one or two times a year, I think it is refreshing."
His is not the only community bank willing to break its dress code for a good cause.
For the past year, the last Friday of every month has been casual day at First National Bank of Bar Harbor, Maine. Employees pay $3 for the privilege of coming to work clad in khakis and golf shirts for a day. The money collected-usually more than $200 a month-goes to causes suggested by bank employees.
Donations have paid for children's magazine subscriptions at a local library, funded ice-storm cleanup efforts in central Maine, and contributed to a fund for a child in need of a liver transplant.
And last summer at Ramapo Bank in Wayne, N.J., management gave in to employee demand and instituted a casual day. Dressing down at Ramapo is a relative bargain. It costs workers only $1 per pay period to come to work in casual clothes every Friday.
The chairman of Ramapo's holding company is head of the United Way campaign in Wayne, so the bank donates what it raises to the organization's suggested charities.
These bankers say their initial fears, that employees would abuse the privilege and that customers would be turned off, have not been borne out.
"At first I wasn't crazy about it," admitted Mortimer J. O'Shea, Ramapo chairman and chief executive. "But I think it has worked out well. We laid out guidelines as to what you can and cannot wear. So far, our employees haven't taken advantage of us."
He said he was surprised to find that only about half the employees regularly dressed down. He said he has only dressed casually "once or twice."
Timothy L. Healy, president and chief executive officer of $125 million- asset First National, said the public donations assure him that the bank's image improves as a result of dressing down.
"There are always causes to contribute to," Mr. Healy said. "If we can help out someone, that is great. That is what a community bank should be doing. "