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Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB recently made a $5,000 donation to Behavioral Health Network Inc. toward the Katherine B. Wilson Staff Excellence Fund to support the career and professional development of the organization’s workforce.

BHN is a regional provider of comprehensive behavioral-health services for adults, children, and families whose mission is to help individuals, families, and communities improve the quality of life for those with behavioral and developmental challenges. BHN serves more than 35,000 individuals annually at 40 locations across Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, Suffolk, and Berkshire counties, and employs over 2,300 people. The Staff Excellence Fund will provide support for scholarship funds and forgivable loans for staff to further their education at local colleges, along with licensure support.

“We are very thankful for the gift from bankESB,” BHN President and CEO Steve Winn said. “Their generous donation will support the professional development of our essential workforce, ensuring BHN’s commitment to providing high-quality behavioral-health services to the Western Massachusetts community.”

The donation was made as part of the bank’s charitable giving program, the Giving Tree, which reflects the roots the bank has in its communities, its commitment to making a real difference in the neighborhoods it serves, and the belief that everyone’s quality of life is enhanced by working together to solve communities’ biggest problems.

“We’re proud to support the hardworking staff of Behavioral Health Network,” said Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB. “Providing these staff members with more resources to unlock their full professional potential will not only benefit themselves, but the populations they serve and our community as a whole as well.”

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — Cara Cusson has joined the bankESB Marketing Department as its Marketing Communications manager. In this role, she will be responsible for strategic marketing communication plans and programs, managing and directing the company’s sales material and promotional inventory program, managing communications-related projects and priorities, and managing the promotion of sponsorships and donations company-wide for bankESB and across the member banks of its parent company, Hometown Financial Group.

Prior to joining bankESB, Cusson was the director of Planning and Special Projects in the University Relations Department at UMass Amherst and before that was the production manager in the Communications Office at Deerfield Academy.

Cusson holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from UMass Amherst and a master’s degree in corporate and organizational communication from Northeastern University. She is a volunteer for Safe Passage.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — The Boston Business Journal has named bankESB an honoree in its annual 2022 Corporate Citizenship Awards, a recognition of the region’s top corporate charitable contributors.

The journal annually publishes this list to showcase companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. Through its sponsorship and charitable giving program, the Giving Tree, bankESB and the Easthampton Savings Bank Charitable Foundation support nonprofit organizations and causes throughout Hampden and Hampshire counties. In 2021, the Giving Tree donated nearly $352,000 and over the past decade has donated more than $3.1 million.

“The past couple of years has presented companies and communities with many challenges, and the needs have continued to grow,” Boston Business Journal Market President and Publisher Carolyn Jones said. “It is with honor that we present our list of the Top Charitable Contributors in Massachusetts — companies who gave $100,000 or more to Massachusetts-based in charities in 2021. Collectively, they gave $322 million in cash contributions — a true example of the business community coming together to help those in need. We are proud to celebrate these organizations who give both money and time to make Boston a stronger and better place for all.”

This year, 95 companies qualified for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities last year. The honorees this year include companies from such industry sectors as financial and professional services, healthcare, technology, retail, and professional sports.

“We are incredibly proud to be named to Boston Business Journal’s list of top corporate charitable contributors in Massachusetts,” bankESB President and CEO Matthew Sosik said. “We’re proud of our long-standing commitment to making a real difference in the neighborhoods we serve and remain committed to helping communities unlock their potential and to making them even better places to live and work.”

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB has announced three recent promotions: Nathaniel Munson to vice president, commercial credit officer; Lisa Phakos to compliance officer; and David Viamari to assistant vice president, assistant controller.

Munson joined bankESB in 2018 as portfolio manager and was promoted to assistant vice president, portfolio manager in 2020. He is responsible for managing credit analysts and portfolio managers in underwriting new loans. Prior to bankESB, he was with Westfield Bank for six years, most recently as senior credit analyst. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University and a certificate from the New England School for Financial Studies. Munson is an active member of Mountain View Baptist Church in Holyoke, currently serving as a trustee and Sunday school director.

Phakos joined bankESB in 2001 as assistant branch manager. She moved to the Audit Department as staff auditor in 2006 and was promoted to compliance specialist in 2018. She is responsible for implementing and managing the COSO internal-control frameworks across the Hometown Financial Group family of banks, which includes bankESB, bankHometown, and Abington Bank. She is also responsible for compliance reviews of all marketing and advertising materials, manages the Compliance Department monitoring program, and completes regular compliance monitoring and audits. Phakos attended the ABA Foundational Compliance School and the Mass Bankers Compliance Academy and serves on the board of governors of the Western Mass. Compliance Assoc. She is also a board member and secretary for the Nonotuck Valley Hockey Assoc.

Viamari joined bankESB in 2020 as accounting officer. Prior to bankESB, he was employed by Wolf & Co., P.C. for 10 years, most recently as senior auditor. He oversees general finance and accounts payable for bankESB and financial and regulatory reporting for the Hometown Financial Group family of banks. Viamari holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from UMass Amherst and is a member of the Boston chapter of the Financial Managers Society and a finance committee member for the Lathrop Home.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB recently made a $5,000 donation to Easthampton Neighbors to help provide services and programs to assist Easthampton seniors and to support the organization’s participation in the Pioneer Valley Memory Care Initiative.

Easthampton Neighbors is a member-driven, nonprofit organization that provides volunteer services and programs to seniors who strive to live independent, engaged lives at home. Its ‘neighbors helping neighbors’ approach creates a local support network for area seniors. It are a partnering organization of the Pioneer Valley Memory Care Initiative, which is a coalition of healthcare and community providers, based out of the Cooley Dickinson Geriatrics program, dedicated to empowering and supporting older adults living with dementia and their family caregivers to improve their quality of life.

“Seniors are the backbone of our community,” said Matthew Sosik, the bank’s president and CEO. “bankESB is proud to support Easthampton Neighbors as they work to keep seniors in our area engaged, connected, and thriving.”

The donation was made as part of the bank’s charitable-giving program, the Giving Tree, which reflects the roots the bank has in its communities, its commitment to making a real difference in the neighborhoods it serves, and the belief that everyone’s quality of life is enhanced when parties work together to solve their communities’ biggest problems.

“This donation is significant to our organization,” the Easthampton Neighbors board of directors noted. “It bolsters our funds for costs incurred by our expansion of services to include participation in Cooley Dickinson’s Pioneer Valley Memory Care Initiative and affords us the means to sustain current services to the senior community of Easthampton. Thank you, bankESB.”

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB invites customers and members of the community to two free Shred Days at local offices. No appointment is necessary. Events will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the 253 Triangle St. office in Amherst, and on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the 241 Northampton St. office in Easthampton.

Local residents can reduce their risk of identity theft by bringing old mail, receipts, statements or bills, canceled checks, pay stubs, medical records, or any other unwanted paper documents containing personal or confidential information and shredding them safely and securely for free. Valley Green Shredding, a professional document-destruction company, will be on site in the bank’s parking lot and can accept up to two boxes of documents per person.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB recently donated $5,000 to the Hampshire Regional YMCA to help fund continued wellness programming and family services in Hampshire County. This brings the bank’s total contributions to the organization over the past two years to more than $20,000.

The Hampshire Regional YMCA aims to strengthen the community by fostering healthy living, the development of young people, social connection, and responsibility in a welcoming environment for all. Each year, it serves more than 10,000 people through membership and programs. The funds donated by bankESB will provide scholarships to camp, childcare, and other programs for those who otherwise would not be able to attend.

“We greatly appreciate bankESB’s partnership, which helps us to expand our reach and impact to those in need,” said Julia Bianco, CEO of the Hampshire Regional YMCA. “Participants utilize these scholarships for a variety of programs, including providing care for their children while at work or in school, participating in a Parkinson’s program to help quality of life for individuals with Parkinson’s, attending our Livestrong at the Y cancer-survivorship program, and much more. Without the help of community organizations like bankESB, our YMCA would not be able to offer these life enhancing opportunities to all.”

The donation was made as part of bankESB’s charitable giving program, the Giving Tree, which reflects the roots the bank has in its communities, its commitment to making a real difference in the neighborhoods it serves, and the belief that everyone’s quality of life is enhanced when organizations work together to solve their communities’ biggest problems.

“The Hampshire Regional YMCA provides such important programs that are vital to the health and well-being of those in our community,” bankESB President and CEO Matthew Sosik said. “We are proud to support them as they continue to foster a welcoming environment for community members to unlock their health and wellness potential.”

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB recently promoted Karen DeMaio to assistant vice president, IRA and Operations Risk Management.

DeMaio joined bankESB in 2006 as an IRA specialist and was promoted to IRA and Deposit Services officer in 2014. She is responsible for IRA services, vendor management, business-continuity planning, and insurance for the Hometown Financial Group family of banks, which includes bankESB, bankHometown, and Abington Bank.

Prior to bankESB, DeMaio served as senior Marketing analyst at Friendly Ice Cream Corp. and as senior auditor at KPMG Peat Marwick. She earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Western New England College, completed the certified public accounting exam, and earned her Certified IRA Services Professional designation. She currently serves as vice chairperson for the town of Southwick Finance Committee and is a board member of Westfield Credit for Life.

Daily News Education News

EASTHAMPTON — Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced that the bank has pledged $30,000 over three years to Girls Inc. of the Valley.

The money will be used to help support the organization’s Her Future, Our Future campaign, a $5 million fundraising effort designed to help the organization better meet the needs of girls from under-resourced communities in Hampden County and beyond. Through this campaign Girls Inc. seeks to triple the number of elementary and teen girls served, reaching more than 1,000 girls annually. Efforts include renovating a new dynamic, state-of-the-art headquarters and program center in Holyoke, expanding geographic reach in public schools in Springfield, Chicopee, and beyond, and supporting their innovative Eureka! STEM program that prepares girls for college and career.

“This incredible gift from bankESB to support the Her Future, Our Future campaign shows their impactful commitment to community,” said Suzanne Parker, executive director at Girls Inc. of the Valley. “We are proud to have bankESB’s support as we aim to deliver our research-based, engaging programs to more youth across the Valley — and in our new headquarters.”

The donation was made as part of the bank’s charitable giving program, The Giving Tree, which reflects the roots the bank has in its communities, its commitment to making a real difference in the neighborhoods it serves, and the belief that everyone’s quality of life is enhanced when we work together to solve our communities’ biggest problems.

“Children are our future, and Girls Inc. of the Valley is helping to build that future for young girls with innovative, supportive, and life-changing programs that inspire them to be strong, smart, and bold,” said Sosik. “bankESB is pleased to do its part in supporting Girls Inc. and its efforts to provide a high-quality environment and programs that help elementary school-age and teenage girls unlock their full potential.”

Daily News

EASTHAMPTONbankESB recently promoted Erik J. Lamothe to assistant vice president, asset liability management.

Lamothe joined bankESB in 2016 as ALM manager and was promoted to ALM officer in 2017. He has nearly 25 years of experience in banking, and is responsible for budgeting, forecasting, managing interest rate risk, and CECL for the Hometown Financial Group family of banks, which includes bankESB, bankHometown, and Abington Bank.

Lamothe earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Westfield State University and his master’s degree in banking and financial studies from Boston University. He serves as a board member and Finance Committee member of the Lathrop Home in Northampton and is also a course instructor with the Center for Financial Training.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced that the bank has made a $500,000 challenge grant to support the Emergency Department at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. The funds will be used to support Transforming Emergency Care: Campaign for the Cooley Dickinson Emergency Department, a $19.76 million expansion, reconfiguration, and renovation effort to allow Cooley Dickinson to meet the ever-evolving emergency medicine needs of all members of the community, from infants to older adults. 

“Access to quality medical care is something we all count on, and Cooley Dickinson continues to do an amazing job treating our friends, family, and neighbors who live and work in our communities,” said Sosik. “bankESB is pleased to do its part in supporting Cooley Dickinson and its efforts to transform its Emergency Department into one that’s as up-to-date as possible and can unlock its full potential. We hope others will do the same.”   

According to Cooley Dickinson Hospital, its Emergency Department is 40% undersized to meet the community’s needs and cares for many patients who require critical medical attention. The number of patients visiting the department has doubled — from 17,000 in the 1970s to nearly 34,000 in recent years. Renovations are expected to break ground next spring. 

Organizations contributing to the Campaign for the Cooley Dickinson Emergency Department can increase the impact of their donations through this matching grant. bankESB will give one dollar for every two dollars donated to the Emergency Department campaign through Dec. 31, up to $500,000.  

 

“The Emergency Department is in essence our front door and often patients and their families who come in for care are at their most vulnerable,” said Dr. Lynnette Watkins, president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Health Care. “It’s important for us to provide a safe, warm, welcoming environment to every patient, and this campaign will help ensure that we can. 

“We rely on great community partners, like bankESB, who give so generously in support of the care that we provide every day,” she went on. “This challenge grant is a wonderful opportunity for you to make a gift that has an even greater impact because of bankESB’s generosity.  I encourage everyone to help us meet this challenge.  And know that your gift supports the care that is provided here, in your community.” 

The challenge grant was made as part of the bank’s charitable giving program, The Giving Tree, which reflects the roots the bank has in its communities, its commitment to making a real difference in the neighborhoods it serves, and the belief that everyone’s quality of life is enhanced when we work together to solve our communities’ biggest problems. With this donation, the bank will have given more than $1 million to Cooley Dickinson over the past decade to help support the hospital’s expanded care, including a new unified cancer center, The Breast Center, and other initiatives. 

Contributions may be sent to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital Development Office, P.O. Box 329, Northampton, MA  01061-0329 or made on the organization’s website at cooleydickinson.org/giving.  

The $19.76 million Emergency Department expansion, reconfiguration, and renovation will allow Cooley Dickinson to meet the ever-evolving emergency medical needs of all members of the community, from infants to elders. The current Emergency Department was not designed to face the challenges of the 21st century; this campaign will help to create safe, warm spaces in which to deliver the highest quality of specialized care for the increasing number of patients who turn to Cooley Dickinson every year.  The groundbreaking for the Emergency Department renovations is expected to begin Spring 2023. To make a gift in support of the campaign, and to help Cooley Dickinson reach the bankESB gift challenge before Dec. 31, visit www.cooleydickinson.org/giving.  

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON bankESB has promoted three of its officers to vice president. 

Meagan Barrett has been promoted to vice president, Human Resources. Barrett joined bankESB in 2008 as a human resources assistant. She was promoted to officer in 2016 and to assistant vice president in 2019. Barrett manages a team of six and has responsibility for human resources across the family of banks of Hometown Financial Group, including bankESB, bankHometown, and Abington Bank. Barrett earned the designation of Certified Employee Engagement Specialist and also maintains a Professional in Human Resources certification. She is currently pursuing designations as both senior professional in Human Resources and the Society for Human Resources Management senior certified professional, and also is a member of the HR Advisory Council for Employers Association of the NorthEast (EANE). Barrett is active in the community, volunteering for Easter Seals and as a youth sports coach. 

Cara Crochier has been promoted to vice president, Marketing. Crochier joined bankESB as a teller in 2008 and joined the Marketing department the following year. She was promoted to interactive marketing officer in 2015 and to assistant vice president in 2018. Crochier manages a team of four and has overall responsibility for campaign management, advertising agency relations, and all earned and owned media channels across the Hometown Financial Group family of banks. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political communication from Emerson College and the designation of Certified Financial Marketing Professional from the American Bankers Association Bank Marketing School at Emory University. Crochier is active in the community, serving as a board member and clerk for the Children’s Advocacy Center and as a committee member of the New England Financial Marketing Association. 

Stacey Tower has been promoted to vice president, Strategic Project Management. Tower joined bankESB in 2001 as a teller and has held various positions in both retail banking and operations prior to joining the information technology/projects team in 2008 as a project coordinator. She was promoted to bank officer in 2014 and currently manages a team of five project managers. Tower earned her bachelor’s degree in leadership and organizational studies from Bay Path University, completed the Graduate School of Banking’s program in technology management last year, and earned the designation Certified Associate in Project Management from the Project Management Institute. She is also a board member of the Lathrop Retirement Community and is a volunteer with the Cutchins Programs for Children and Families. 

Banking and Financial Services

Branching Out — Again

Matt Sosik

Matt Sosik says Hometown Financial Group’s latest acquisition, like those that came before it, is all about creating scale at a time when that quality is critical to growth and even survival.

A “survival tactic.”

That’s one of the phrases Matt Sosik, CEO of Hometown Financial Group Inc., the parent of bankESB, used to describe Hometown’s announced plans to acquire Randolph Bancorp Inc., the latest in a series of moves by Hometown to expand through acquisition.

Elaborating, Sosik said this acquisition will certainly give Hometown, the multi-bank holding company for Abington Bank as well as bankESB, a larger, stronger footprint on the state’s South Shore. Indeed, Randolph Bancorp is the holding company for Envision Bank, which will merge with and into Abington Bank to create a $1.4 billion institution with 11 full-service retail locations across the South Shore, including the towns of Abington, Avon, Braintree, Cohassett, Holbrook, Marion, Randolph, and Stoughton.

But the primary reason for this acquisition, as well as the other five undertaken in just the past seven years, he told BusinessWest, is to achieve something that is becoming ever-more critical in today’s banking climate: scale.

“Banking has become such a low-margin business that scale is absolutely critical,” Sosik explained. “We aren’t running our company to survive three years or five years; we’re running to survive 20 and 30 years. We want to be a relevant player in all our markets, and we want to ensure our long-term survival, and to do that, scale is the name of the game.

“We’re not seeking this growth because it makes us feel better or because it allows us to pump our chest out,” he went on. “This is a survival tactic in this business.”

With this latest acquisition, which is expected to be finalized by the fourth quarter of this year, Hometown will have consolidated assets of approximately $4.4 billion and a branch network of 38 full-service offices across Massachusetts and the northeastern part of Connecticut. The move will make Hometown the 10th-largest mutual banking company in the country.

“We aren’t running our company to survive three years or five years; we’re running to survive 20 and 30 years. We want to be a relevant player in all our markets, and we want to ensure our long-term survival, and to do that, scale is the name of the game.”

“That’s scale — that’s about us being one of the survivors when the dust eventually settles,” said Sosik, reiterating, again, the need for size in a changing, still consolidating banking and financial-services sector, where competition is growing — and evolving.

“I talk about low margins and scale, but there’s a dynamic that’s ever-increasing; we now have competitors that aren’t just credit unions or banks,” he went on, listing players such as SoFi, Chime, and others. “The non-bank competition is out to steal our lunch, and to an extent, they will be successful. But we need to be able to play in their space, and that takes scale, too.”

Hometown’s acquisition of publicly traded Randolph Bancorp will provide more of that scale, said Sosik, noting that talks between the institutions started last fall and quickly intensified.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, which has been unanimously approved by both boards of directors, Randolph shareholders will receive $27 in cash for each share of Randolph common stock. The total transaction value is approximately $146.5 million.

This transaction will be the sixth strategic merger for Hometown in the last seven years. In 2015, Hometown acquired Citizens National Bancorp Inc., based in Putnam, Conn., and then merged with Hometown Community Bancorp. MHC, the holding company for Hometown Bank, in 2016. It then acquired Pilgrim Bancshares Inc. and Abington Bank in 2019, and later that same year merged Millbury Savings Bank with and into bankHometown.

Like those other acquisitions, this one will enable Hometown to achieve needed additional growth quickly and effectively, Sosik said.

“From the Hometown Financial Group perspective, this is a move that allows us to grow with very little additional cost,” he told BusinessWest. “This particular acquisition is going to be extremely efficient for Hometown.”

And, as noted, it will give Hometown a much larger and stronger position in a very competitive banking climate on the South Shore.

“With the addition of Envision Bank, we more than double our full-service locations and assets in Eastern Massachusetts,” he explained. “This dramatically increases the branding power we have on the South Shore, as well as market share.”

One matter still to be determined — and there is time to make this decision — is what name will go on the new entity, said Sosik, adding that both brands (Envision and Abington) have value and cache in that market.

“We’ll try to figure out what’s the best brand in that market for that combined bank,” he said. “We want to be thoughtful about that, and we’ll give it some thought.”

Meanwhile, the search for additional strategic acquisitions and partnerships with like-minded acquisitions will continue, he added, because scale will only become more important in the years and decades to come.

As he said, it’s a survival tactic.

 

— George O’Brien

Daily News

AMHERST — Last week, bankESB celebrated the virtual grand opening of its newest branch location at 253 Triangle St., Amherst. The event was commemorated in a Facebook Live broadcast hosted by the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce.

The full-service banking office, which opened in late August, marks bankESB’s first Amherst location and joins 11 other branch offices throughout Western Mass. The new branch provides full-service banking to retail and business customers within 3,300 square feet of space that includes three private offices, a drive-up teller window, and a 24-hour walk-up ATM.

During the event and to mark the bank’s entry into Amherst, bankESB President and CEO Matthew Sosik presented a $10,000 donation to the Amherst Relief and Resiliency Microgrant Program, a fund established to provide financial relief to the town’s small businesses affected by the COVID-19 state of emergency. The donation was the second the bank has made to the program since its inception and brings the bank’s total contributions to the fund to $12,500. Over the past five years, the bank has demonstrated a continued commitment to Amherst by donating nearly $100,000 to the community.

“This branch adds another opportunity for bankESB to be part of the steady growth happening in Western Massachusetts and further reinforces our commitment to community banking in the Pioneer Valley,” Sosik said. “We’re thrilled to add convenience for our existing Amherst customers and are excited to share our unique, community-focused brand of banking with the residents and small-business owners of this great town.”

As part of the ongoing celebration, the bank is offering a variety of special offers and promotions to both retail customers and businesses, available only at the Amherst location.

Jessica West has been named assistant vice president and branch officer of the Amherst office. She previously was the branch officer of the bank’s 241 Northampton St., Easthampton location.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB was recently honored for overall quality and commitment to the community.

The bank earned the number-one spot for Overall Quality in Western Mass. in the 2020 New England Banking Choice Awards. The awards are presented annually by American Business Media, publisher of Banking New England, and are based on the results of the Rivel Banking Benchmarks, the largest and most comprehensive measure of banking customer experience in the world. The 2020 results are based on more than 11,000 interviews and 300,000 reviews of nearly 300 Massachusetts institutions.

The bank also was named an honoree by the Boston Business Journal in its annual 2020 Corporate Citizenship Awards, a recognition of the region’s top corporate charitable contributors. The publication annually publishes this list to showcase companies that promote and prioritize giving back to their communities. Companies qualify for the distinction by reporting at least $100,000 in cash contributions to Massachusetts-based charities and social-service nonprofits last year.

“We’re honored and humbled to be named to the top spot for quality among banks in our area, and then to be recognized among the most benevolent companies in the state is just icing on the cake,” bankESB President and CEO Matthew Sosik said. “Being here for our customers and giving back to our communities is what we’re all about.”

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — bankESB promoted Nathaniel Munson to assistant vice president – portfolio manager, and announced that Leighanne Sullivan has joined the bank’s Marketing Department as its social-media coordinator.

Munson joined bankESB in 2018 as portfolio manager, and prior to that was with Westfield Bank for six years, most recently as senior credit analyst. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University and is an active member of the Mountain View Baptist Church in Holyoke, currently serving as a trustee, Sunday school director, and youth leader.

Prior to joining bankESB, Sullivan was a marketing assistant with Project Look Sharp in Ithaca, N.Y., and before that was a marketing intern with Westfield Bank and a public-relations and social-media intern with Sarah Hall Productions.

She will be responsible for maintaining the bank’s social-media presence across all platforms as well as those of the member banks of its parent company, Hometown Financial Group. Additionally, she will produce video content and serve as the primary administrator for the company intranet.

This spring, Sullivan earned her bachelor’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Ithaca College, where she was a participant in the college’s Leadership Academy and a member of the women’s crew team.

 

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — Brenna Breeding has joined the bankESB Marketing Department as its digital marketing manager. In this role, she will be responsible for providing strategic, tactical, and analytical support for online and digital marketing initiatives for bankESB and across the member banks of its parent company, Hometown Financial Group.

Prior to joining bankESB, Breeding was the marketing communications associate with VentureWell in Hadley, and before that was the communications and marketing specialist for the Center for Responsive Schools.

Breeding earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware. She is an active volunteer in the Greater Springfield community and has been a member of the Junior League of Greater Springfield for seven years.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — Matthew Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, announced that Erin Joyce has been promoted to vice president, special assets.

Joyce has more than 30 years of banking experience, much of it in the areas of residential and consumer collections. She joined bankESB in 2014 as special assets manager, and since then has been promoted to special assets officer and assistant vice president, special assets. 

Prior to joining bankESB, Joyce was the credit and collections manager for Greenfield Savings Bank and the residential and consumer collector for Florence Savings Bank. She also previously served as an online instructor for the Center for Financial Training.

She attended UMass Amherst and holds several diplomas and certificates in financial services and lending from the Center for Financial Training. She is also very active in the community, delivering meals and offering money-management and bill-pay services to Highland Valley Elder Services, and serving as a board member and co-treasurer of Northampton Dollars for Scholars and a board member and auditor for the Northampton High School Alumni Assoc. For 12 years, she also participated in the Volunteer in Tax Assistance program.

2019

bankESB is marking its 150th birthday this year, and there is much to celebrate, especially a century and a half of being a true hometown bank.

“For all of those years, the bank has been dedicated to providing its customers with a wide range of innovative products and services,” said Dena Hall, bankESB Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “Today, bankESB is a one-stop shop for individual and commercial banking and financial services. The bank has been growing and expanding to better serve customers, including recently adding three commercial bankers, and increasing its staff in human resources, cash management, and mortgage services. Customers looking to buy a home or refinance have the option of applying for a loan either in-person with a mortgage professional or online.”

With the opening of a branch on Sargeant Street in Holyoke, bankESB has 11 branches throughout the Valley. Besides Easthampton, where it has two locations, branches are also located in Agawam, Belchertown, Hadley, South Hadley, Southampton, Westfield, and two in Northampton. And a 12th branch is scheduled to open in Amherst in 2020.

In short, the bank has grown and evolved over the years, but it remains true to the charter on which it was launched.

Indeed, a mutual bank, bankESB’s mission is to remain loyal to its customers, employees and the communities it serves, not stockholders, said Hall, adding that the bank’s mission is reflected in its values of charitable giving and volunteerism. From large organizations like Cooley Dickinson Hospital to local

Little League teams, the Easthampton Saving’s Bank Charitable Foundation has donated close to $2 million over the past five years.

Recent contributions to local nonprofits include the Hampshire Regional YMCA’s Renew and Restore Project, Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Big Enough Initiative, and Northampton Survival Center’s “Partners in Doing Good Business” program.

bankESB employees can also be found volunteering their time for a myriad of charitable projects and events throughout the Pioneer Valley, so much so that the Boston Business Journal recently ranked the bank as a “Top Corporate Charitable Volunteer” in Massachusetts.

“It’s important for us to be that community partner,” said Hall. “We’re focused on how we serve our customers, how we serve our communities, and how we treat our employees.”

These efforts have culminated in Forbes Magazine naming bankESB to its 2019 Best n-State Bank list, two years in a row.

“This recognition is particularly special because we live and work by a set of core values, so I’m proud to say this award really goes to our employees,” said Matthew Sosik, President & CEO of bankESB and CEO of Hometown Financial Group, the bank’s parent company. “The commitment they bring to their job each day and the service they provide to our customers and communities is what sets us apart from other banks.”

As Hall and Sosik noted, as bankESB marks its sesquicentennial, there is plenty to celebrate.

Banking and Financial Services

Taking Account

Matt Sosik says branches serve a different role than they used to

Matt Sosik says branches serve a different role than they used to, providing more value but less volume in the age of online and mobile banking.

In this era of rampant mobile banking, opening a physical branch is a different proposition than it used to be, Matt Sosik said. But it’s still an important one.

“At this point in the cycle of our industry, branching has fallen by the wayside a little bit,” said Sosik, president and CEO of bankESB, which recently opened its 11th branch on Sargeant Street in Holyoke — a move that, despite the declining emphasis on bricks and mortar, made a lot of sense.

“We feel we’ve been banking with the people of Holyoke for years and years, so Holyoke is a natural extension of our footprint,” he said, noting that today’s branches are smaller and more efficient than those built in the past, but still must emphasize customer service — something that Tiffany Raines, Holyoke’s branch manager, has said she will emphasize there.

Indeed, online channels do change the dynamics of a branch as a delivery channel, Sosik told BusinessWest, if only because branches simply serve fewer people in person than they used to.

“Customers, as they should, love that technology can improve their banking experience, and we really encourage our customers to use those online and mobile banking products; they’re so robust and provide so much to customers,” he noted. “That said, we’ll never lose our ability to interact with them face to face. We covet that, and when we get our customers in front of us, we certainly take advantage of that and provide guidance to them.”

“Actual in-person branch transaction volume is well off over the past 20 years, so it’s really about building the initial relationships with the customer; that’s what a branch does best in 2019.”

With that in mind, he said, the new Holyoke branch, like any new branch at most banks, is designed to provide value, not volume — a more personalized experience, in other words, for fewer customers each day.

“Actual in-person branch transaction volume is well off over the past 20 years, so it’s really about building the initial relationships with the customer; that’s what a branch does best in 2019,” he went on. “It’s more a source for originating the customer relationship than it is a delivery channel — more for acute problem resolution and consultative conversations.”

Yet, new branches also reflect growth, and bankESB is certainly growing, with $1.3 billion in assets across its 11-branch network in Hampden and Hampshire counties. Meanwhile, its holding company, Hometown Financial Group, also based in Easthampton, boasts $2.1 billion in assets and 24 branches across Western and Central Mass. and Connecticut, with further expansion to come (more on that later).

Banking today, Sosik said, is less about products and “more about how we deliver those products we’ve all become very familiar with.”

Take residential lending, for example. “The mortgage world has lent itself well to the online world, where we can efficiently process a transaction for somebody to buy what is arguably the biggest asset of their life, and we can do that almost entirely online for them — and very efficiently. That’s what technology has done — improved on products we’ve all come to know and love. That’s the difference between 2019 and, say, the 1990s.”

Dena Hall, the bank’s executive vice president and chief Marketing officer, noted that bankESB has the second-highest market share in Hampshire County at almost 22%, and the expansion into Holyoke follows growing name recognition in Hampden County, where it also maintains branches in Agawam and Westfield.

“We’ve seen an increasing level of awareness across the Pioneer Valley, up and down the 91 corridor, which is important to serve customer needs in this region,” she added. “Really, we’re all about meeting customers where they want to meet us. We want them to know we’re a viable option for them.”

Lending Thoughts

To understand the importance of face-to-face relationships in banking, Hall said, look no further than commercial lending, an increasingly important part of bankESB’s business and strategic direction. The institution added three new lenders to its commercial team in 2018, all from larger local banks, in an effort to add more resources to the division and demonstrate the capability to meet the commercial financing needs of businesses in the region. The team now has seven lenders under the direction of Executive Vice President Ryan Leap.

“When you think about how the customer has gotten physically away from us, that’s less so with the commercial business,” Sosik said. “Commercial lending has a lot to do with what we do best — customer service, face-to-face interactions, and building long-term, value-added relationships. For us, it’s a very natural customer-service direction in which to grow.”

The new Holyoke branch

The new Holyoke branch is a physical extension of business that bankESB had been doing in that city for many years.

That growth comes at a time when businesses continue to invest in capital projects, he added.

“We see a lot of things going on in the economy. The economy has such a long and slow build that it’s hard to see it in motion, but take a look back at the past year and years prior, and we’ve definitely seen continuous, slow, steady growth. Thankfully for Western and Central Massachusetts, we see that growth in small and medium-sized businesses coming in and taking advantage of the economy and improvements in commercial real estate.”

At the same time, Hall said, bankESB is building its consumer divisions. “Last year, we hired a new leader for the residential mortgage and consumer loan division with several years of experience in mortgage operations and origination, most recently with Peoples United Bank,” she noted.

In addition, after a year of developing its back-office processing and underwriting area, the bank recently added two new mortgage loan originators and upgraded its online mortgage application so that customers can apply how and when they want, either in person with a loan originator or online.

“With some banks in our market pulling back on their mortgage efforts, we’re excited to make more products and sales people available to the region,” she said.

Sosik agreed. “We continue to build the depth and breadth of the team to handle our growth. That’s generally been our strategic direction when it comes to community lending.”

That’s why developing both sides of the customer-service equation — a more robust online presence and also branches focused on customer service — are equally important, Hall said.

“A lot of customers are doing research online but close the deal in the branch, and we have people ready to serve them,” she told BusinessWest. “Clients want that face-to-face interaction, and we’ve hit a nice balance of being technologically savvy with mobile offerings and very customer-service-oriented, very customer-facing. That’s a perfect fit in this market.”

Mutual Successes

Hall noted that bankESB has received some key accolades of late. In June, it was named one of America’s best-in-state banks by Forbes in a nationwide survey; of the five banks selected in Massachusetts, bankESB ranked second, and was the only bank on that list headquartered in Western Mass.

Understanding the importance of building a bank’s name, its holding company, Hometown Financial Group, continues to grow its franchise and build a separate brand presence in each region. That means three separate banks will operate under the holding-company profile: bankESB, bankHometown, and Pilgrim Bank. The latter acquisition, based in Cohasset, closes this month and adds three branches and $263 million in assets to the Hometown family.

“We have a commitment to mutuality and building those local brands, building market share in each region, then we consolidate and make efficient the back-office and operation side. We think that’s a compelling business structure going forward,” Sosik said.

“Commercial lending has a lot to do with what we do best — customer service, face-to-face interactions, and building long-term, value-added relationships.”

“We’re big believers in our mutual structure,” he continued. “First and foremost, as a mutual company, we’re not owned by stockholders. We choose to be very entrepreneurial, and we run very much like a stock company would from the business side of it. But that mutuality gives us the ability to service customers and the community in ways that stock banks cannot.”

With so many community banks operating in Western Mass., he explained, that mutual structure helps set bankESB apart. “I think that’s a real difference maker for us, showing how much we are committed to mutuality and community banking.”

At the same time, Hall said, the company’s commitment to mutuality and its holding-company structure makes it an attractive partner for other like-minded mutual banks in its current market and beyond.

“We have some exciting transactions in the works, and we hope to be able to announce those transactions within the next 30 to 45 days,” Sosik added. “I think they’re compelling; there will be market interest there. We’re really moving our company forward in a number of ways. We’re excited about that. There’s a lot going on.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

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