Assistant Vice President, Commercial Lending, PeoplesBank, age 39
“It wasn’t planned; I just needed a job with benefits,” she explained. “So I got a job with Northampton Cooperative Bank.” She started as a teller, then moved into work as a processor, then an underwriter, then a mortgage originator. But that latter role meant long hours and too much time away from her young children, so she applied in 2008 to be a branch manager for PeoplesBank in Amherst.
“It was a huge shift; I had not really been in management — or in retail banking, except for five short months as a teller. So the bank took a huge risk on me, and I took a risk on them.”
The risk worked out well for both. In 2012, she was promoted to the commercial-lending arena, working closely with the bank’s Business Lending Center, a unique PeoplesBank program that focuses on small, local businesses.
“The Business Lending Center collaborates with branch staff and allows us to provide a higher level of services to businesses in our geographic footprint,” she said, adding that she finds a great deal of satisfaction helping commercial clients reach their goals.
“We might be helping small businesses in the growth stage and providing the financing needed to do that, or working closely with a business owner to identify ways to improve cash flow. On the flip side, with more mature businesses, they might need help sustaining cash flow, or maybe they’re getting ready to hand things over to the next generation,” Parnell-Gregoire said, adding that, in any case, it’s all about nurturing relationships, not making deals.
Being a single mother with a full-time job leaves limited spare time, but she still manages to work a number of volunteer efforts into her schedule, serving with the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, the Paolo Friere Social Justice Charter School, Family Outreach of Amherst, the Holyoke Children’s Museum, and the Holyoke Youth Soccer League, where she coaches preschoolers.
“I feel lucky,” she said. “I’ve been given a tremendous amount of opportunities, professionally and personally, and I want to take opportunities to give that back.”
— Joseph Bednar