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BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced the promotion of Nicole Skelly to first vice president, regional financial center manager for the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts.

“We are beyond excited to welcome Nicole to the retail banking leadership team at Berkshire Bank,” said Ryan Shorette, senior vice president and head of Retail Financial Center Banking. “In her role, she will oversee 12 financial centers and work with a seasoned group of commercial partners to drive exceptional customer service and become a community leader in the Pioneer Valley market. I have no doubt she will deliver on our vision to become a high-performing, socially responsible community bank.”

Skelly will manage the daily operations of financial centers in the Pioneer Valley, which includes Springfield and surrounding towns.

Skelly brings more than 25 years of banking experience to her new role at Berkshire Bank. Most recently, she was vice president and senior branch officer of the Springfield offices, which include multiple sites at Berkshire Bank. Before joining Berkshire, she was a personal banker for United Bank.
Outside of work, Skelly is a 2014 Graduate of Leadership Pioneer Valley, where she learned how to address the challenges and opportunities of this region. She also volunteers at events such as the Springfield Pride Parade, the Springfield Boys and Girls Club, and the Irish Cultural Center of New England.

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank presented a total of $205,000 in funding last month to Springfield non-profit organizations during Berkshire’s BEST Community Comeback Tour. The grants aim to help power the financial potential of the local communities the bank serves through organizations impacting the areas of gender equality, small-business technical assistance, housing, neighborhood stabilization, and education.

The grants included $75,000 to the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, $25,000 to Revitalize CDC, $5,000 to Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence, and $100,000 to Common Capital, a subsidiary of Way Finders.

“For more than 175 years, Berkshire Bank has made it a priority to be the leading socially responsible community bank,” CEO Nitin Mhatre said. “We believe empowering the success of those we serve drives our own success, and by unleashing the potential of community partners like the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, Common Capital, Revitalize CDC, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School, we can be a catalyst for positive change in our communities.”

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced the promotion of Ryan Shorette to senior vice president, Retail Branch Banking. In this new role, he will oversee all 105 branches across Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York. Prior to this promotion, he was first vice president, regional branch manager at Berkshire Bank for the last eight years.

“During his tenure at Berkshire Bank, Ryan has been an instrumental team leader in several markets, increasing our brand presence and deepening customer relationships,” said Lucia Bellomia, executive vice president, head of Retail Banking. “We are excited to have Ryan drive employee growth and enhance the customer experience, both critical components to the success of our Berkshire’s Exciting Strategic Transformation (BEST) plan. His deep understanding of complex financial client needs and financial data analysis will be an asset in his new role.”

Shorette has more than 25 years of retail banking experience and has held a number of leadership positions. Before joining Berkshire Bank, he worked at Bank of America and Webster Bank. He has been nominated for the New Leaders in Banking Honors Award from the Connecticut Bankers Assoc. and has a proven track record of successfully developing leaders and enhancing the customer experience. He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from Central Connecticut State University.

Outside of work, Shorette is an active volunteer, coaching youth sports for the towns of Bristol and Plainville, Conn. He has also participated in Christmas in April, the United Way Day of Caring, and Hands on Hartford, a COVID-19 virtual event assembling comfort kits for those in need. Beyond these civic efforts, he also served as an executive board member for the American Heart Assoc. Heart Walk in Hartford, Conn.

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced several actions it will take with its employees and customers in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

As a first step, the Berkshire Bank Foundation will make a $50,000 contribution to the Ukrainian Federation of America, one of the oldest Ukrainian organizations in the U.S., which is working to deliver humanitarian and medical aid. In addition, Berkshire’s donation will be leveraged in collaboration with Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island on 401Gives Day, a statewide day of giving in Rhode Island on April 1. The bank selected 401Gives Day because it is a time-sensitive campaign that provides Berkshire the opportunity to make a greater impact by inviting the public and business community to match the bank’s contribution.

“As the situation in Ukraine continues to evolve, Berkshire Bank felt compelled to stand together and show our support as worldwide events impact all of us,” said Sean Gray, president and chief operating officer of Berkshire Bank. “Our Berkshire family has employees and customers with loved ones living in Ukraine. To strengthen our efforts, we are working to assist employees, customers, and the community by leveraging our resources and business operations to thoughtfully and strategically help individuals impacted by the invasion.”

Kathy Cloutier, Dorcas International’s executive director, added that “all of us at Dorcas International stand firm with the people of Ukraine. We have heard from our neighbors and supporters, and we agree that, given the state of affairs in Ukraine right now, we can and should serve as a catalyst for help when and where it is needed most, which is right now, on the ground in Ukraine and Poland. This 401Gives, we are proud to partner with Berkshire Bank in support of Ukrainians.”

In addition to its significant financial contribution, Berkshire Bank has implemented several actions to harness its entire business to support those impacted by the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Efforts include matched employee contributions, a supply drive and employee volunteering, and customer support, refunding outgoing wire-transfer fees to individuals sending money to family and nonprofit organizations in Ukraine.

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank announced $596,800 in philanthropic investments from its foundation during the fourth quarter of 2021. The grants awarded cover a wide range of projects that help foster upward economic mobility, support overall well-being, and enhance opportunities for individual success in the communities the bank serves. The investments also support the company’s BEST Community Comeback, which includes a planned $15 million in community contributions by the end of 2024.

Eighty-seven local nonprofit organizations received grants at the end of last year to assist with a wide range of critical projects in the areas of housing, education, economic revitalization, and health. The Berkshire Bank Foundation is committed to supporting programs that work toward providing equitable opportunity for economic prosperity.

“Being a dependable community partner to financially empower communities is an important part of the culture and fabric at Berkshire Bank,” said Lori Gazzillo Kiely, director of the Berkshire Bank Foundation. “We are proud to help so many organizations which provide vital services to the communities that Berkshire Bank serves.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, there is a tremendous need to support many organizations facing financial challenges and staffing shortages, said Liana Toscanini, executive director of the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires, adding that “Berkshire Bank’s consistent support for our core programs, such as the Giving Back guide, Berkshire Nonprofit Awards, and volunteer fairs, has enabled the NPC to grow our impact substantially, providing infrastructure and support to hundreds of Berkshire nonprofits.”

Additional details on the foundation’s grant programs and focus areas can be found at berkshirebank.com/foundation.

Daily News

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank was recently presented the Gold Community Champion Award from Banking Northeast magazine in the economic-development category. This award recognized the bank’s comprehensive efforts to foster economic resilience in its communities.

Banking Northeast established the Community Champion Awards to honor the banks and credit unions who went beyond the call to aid their community in a special time of need or whose cumulative effort has made a substantial, positive impact. Winners were presented at the magazine’s Gala Awards last month at Mohegan Sun.

Berkshire Bank’s Gold Community Champion Award recognized its efforts to harness its core business activities, pandemic response, community involvement, philanthropic programs, and innovative financial solutions such as MyFreedom Checking and the Futures Fund to strengthen its neighborhoods. Berkshire helped deploy nearly $1 billion in PPP funding to assist small businesses during the pandemic and helped more than 180,000 individuals with financial-wellness programming. According to an independent third party, Berkshire reinvests at a rate nearly 70% higher than the industry average.

“Berkshire has been an engine for positive change in our communities for more than 175 years, and this honor is a reflection of the collective efforts of our employees and community partners,” said Gary Levante, senior vice president of Corporate Responsibility. “We always have our customers’ and communities’ backs on their worst days and help make the best ones possible. Stronger, more economically resilient communities require a better approach to banking, and we’ve accelerated that work with the launch of our BEST Community Comeback this past September.”

Through its BEST Community Comeback, the company expects to lend and invest $5 billion over the next three years to lift up its communities across four key areas: fueling small businesses, community financing and philanthropy, financial access and empowerment, and funding environmental sustainability. The plan is expected to result in more businesses and jobs being created, more families achieving the dream of owning a home, more quality housing in neighborhoods, and investments in activities that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced that it received a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality. Berkshire joins the ranks of more than 840 major U.S. businesses that also earned top marks this year.

“We are honored to be recognized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation,” said Gary Levante, senior vice president, Corporate Responsibility. “Our goal at Berkshire is always to be a shining example of how a purpose-driven organization can be successful while lifting up everyone in our community. Our Pride Employee Resource Group has been steadfast in their work to create a more equitable workplace, and this honor is a testament to their tireless efforts. We hope that this recognition and our culture will inspire more members of our LGBTQIA+ family to join the Berkshire team as customers and employees.”

Jay Brown, the Human Rights Campaign’s senior vice president of Programs, Research and Training, noted that, “when the Human Rights Campaign Foundation created the Corporate Equality Index 20 years ago, we dreamed that LGBTQ+ workers — from the factory floor to corporate headquarters, in big cities and small towns — could have access to the policies and benefits needed to thrive and live life authentically. We are proud that the Corporate Equality Index paved the way to that reality for countless LGBTQ+ workers in America and abroad. But there is still more to do, which is why we are raising the bar yet again to create more equitable workplaces and a better tomorrow for LGBTQ+ workers everywhere. Congratulations to Berkshire Bank for achieving the title of ‘best places to work for LGBTQ+ equality’ and working to advance inclusion in the workplace.”

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced the promotion of Jennifer Carmichael to executive vice president and chief internal audit officer. She previously served as senior vice president and audit manager at the bank.

In her role, Carmichael will continue to lead all aspects of Berkshire’s internal audit and independent SOX testing programs. She is responsible for providing independent and objective assurance to management and the audit committee on the adequacy and effectiveness of governance and internal controls to support the achievement of organizational objectives as well as promote and facilitate continuous improvement as part of the third line of defense. She reports directly to the audit committee of the board of directors and administratively to acting CEO Sean Gray.

“Jennifer is a proven leader whose strategic perspective, commitment to operational excellence, and accountability will accelerate our transformation into a 21st-century community bank,” Gray said. “Her work in this expanded role will ensure the bank adheres to the highest ethical standards, serving our company, our customers, and our shareholders well. I am very pleased to welcome Jennifer to the bank’s executive leadership team.”

Carmichael previously served as senior vice president and audit manager at Berkshire Bank. She joined Berkshire in 2016 from Accume Partners, where she served as senior audit manager to several clients in the New York and New England regions, including Berkshire. She began her career in the community-banking sector in internal audit roles and previously served several years at Ballston Spa National Bank, including as assistant vice president, compliance and BSA officer and assistant auditor. In addition to her professional achievements, she also serves as a member of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary and the Vermont Veterans Home board of trustees, where she serves on the strategic planning committee.

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced the promotion of Jason White to executive vice president and chief information officer. He previously served as senior vice president and chief technology officer at the bank.

In his new role, White will lead all aspects of Berkshire’s information-technology program and oversee the teams responsible for ACH payroll, wire room, and electronic banking. He will also continue to direct the bank’s technology investments and assets to ensure it is meeting the changing demands of customers in a digitally focused banking environment. He will report directly to acting President and CEO Sean Gray.

“Jason is a proven technology leader whose strategic perspective, commitment to operational excellence, and collaborative leadership approach will accelerate our transformation into a 21st-century community bank,” Gray said. “His strong record of success in leading technology initiatives to increase efficiency and provide a secure and superior customer experience will be vital to our future growth and profitability. I am very pleased to welcome Jason to the bank’s leadership team.”

In August, BostonCIO announced White as a winner of its 2020 CIO of the Year ORBIE Award in the corporate category. The awards recognize chief information officers who have demonstrated excellence in technology leadership.

White previously served as senior vice president and chief technology officer at Berkshire Bank. He joined Berkshire in 2019 after the bank’s acquisition of Savings Institute Bank & Trust. Before that, he was responsible for streamlining the information-technology and operational workflows at Savings Institute, implementing a fully virtualized infrastructure, enhancing its overall information-security posture, and innovating customer digital channels. At Savings Institute, he served as chief information officer and information security officer. His background includes more than 25 years of experience supporting technology and operational areas within the financial industry.

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced enhanced protections that will provide its 1,500 employees with paid and protected leave to manage the consequences of intimate-partner violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Berkshire Bank has partnered with FreeFrom, a nonprofit creating pathways to financial security and long-term safety for survivors of gender-based violence, to increase its existing leave policies to benefit its employees.

The enhanced policy gives employees 15 days of leave a year to seek medical care, attend court proceedings, and relocate — all without missing a paycheck or depleting their accrued sick or vacation days. Since 2014, Berkshire Bank has had a domestic-violence leave policy in compliance with relevant state laws. These new enhancements go beyond the mandated requirements of state laws to offer additional support for survivors and their families impacted by this type of abuse.

Berkshire Bank employees will also now have access to FreeFrom’s Compensation Compass, a tool designed to assist survivors of domestic abuse in understanding whether they are eligible for compensation to cover some of the costs of the harm they experienced. In addition, the bank plans to collaborate with FreeFrom as part of its Survivor Safety Banking Initiative to explore how to design products and policies to better support customers that have experienced or are experiencing violence or abuse. This approach eliminates barriers to access for individuals of all backgrounds and experiences by providing innovative financial solutions, including an online account-opening experience that will help bring survivors into mainstream banking.

“Action matters, and we are proud to partner with FreeFrom to enhance our existing leave policies and provide additional resources for survivors of gender-based violence,” said Sean Gray, acting CEO and President of Berkshire Bank. “As we honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, this enhancement for our employees and collaboration with FreeFrom is an important component to living our ‘Be FIRST’ vision and values while building a successful and meaningful culture where everyone can thrive and reach their full potential.”

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank has chosen Boston-based Nexamp as its community solar provider to reduce costs and improve sustainability. Founded more than 170 years ago, Berkshire Bank operates 130 branches across seven northeastern states. By enrolling in the Nexamp community solar program, the bank is taking an active role in the advancement of clean energy.

Corporations and large organizations looking to embrace clean energy have a number of compelling options today, but a community solar subscription provides a unique opportunity in scale and savings potential, while helping to green the grid in the areas they work. Nexamp operates hundreds of community solar farms that generate clean electricity fed directly to the local utility grid and allocates the value of that energy to subscribers to help reduce their monthly electric bills. Through solar net metering agreements available in the program, Berkshire Bank is subscribing to a significant portion of the community solar farm in Hadley.

“Renewable energy plays a major role in our overall sustainability strategy, which include policies and programs designed to enhance our environmental performance and increase our efficiency,” said Gary Levante, senior vice president of Corporate Responsibility at Berkshire Bank. “We are committed to transitioning our energy use to lower carbon alternatives, and, by subscribing to community solar, we are able to do that while also reducing our overall costs, an added benefit. We chose Nexamp for the simplicity and proven performance of its community solar program.”

Community solar continues to expand, providing options for those who want to go solar but do not have the resources or infrastructure to install panels on their property. More businesses are embracing the advantages of distributed solar, such as enhanced sustainability and reduced operational expenses.

“Corporations are increasingly prioritizing sustainability and looking for innovative ways to reduce their environmental footprint within the communities they serve,” said Joe Fiori, director of Business Development at Nexamp. “By integrating a mix of renewable energy, efficiency measures, and other intentional programs, these organizations are able to make a real difference. And with community solar, the benefits are available to individuals as well as corporations and other organizations.”

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank, together with Reevx Labs, will host a third part to its “Reimagining America” town-hall series today, June 25, in which it will address how white allies can help build an equitable and inclusive economy that ensures all communities can thrive.

Berkshire Bank’s goal in hosting this town-hall series is to start a dialogue about how everyone — from economic experts and policy makers to philanthropists and entrepreneurs — can work together to rebuild a stronger, more inclusive economy, and how supporting this initiative on a community level can motivate change on a national level.

Malia Lazu, executive vice president and chief culture and experience officer at Berkshire Bank, noted that, “on the heels of two impactful panels on the future of black and Latinx economies earlier this month, and in the midst of a national upswelling against racial injustice, we believe it is equally pertinent to discuss what it truly means to be an effective ally and help facilitate change in our communities. Reevx Labs was established as a place for community leaders to realize their shared vision of building opportunity and prosperity. With this panel, we intend to continue this dialogue with white allies who are seeking solutions to achieve equity in our economy.”

Participants in today’s event, to be held at 4 p.m., include Pete Dominick, comedian, radio and TV personality, and host of the “Stand Up with Pete” podcast; Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s; Barbara Clark, lead investor in Portfolia’s Rising Tide, Enterprise, and First Step Funds; Jonathan Metzl, director of Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University; and Malia Lazu, executive vice president and chief culture and experience officer at Berkshire Bank.

To register, click here. The livestream is available here.

COVID-19

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank announced programs to provide additional financial flexibility to customers who may face financial hardship due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 virus.

Effective Wednesday, March 18 for an initial 30-day period, Berkshire Bank is offering the following enhancements to all of its customers:

• For retail banking, consumer loan, and mortgage customers, the bank is increasing daily debit-card spending limits, waiving penalties for early CD withdrawals up to $20,000, and offering an option to forbear consumer and mortgage loan payments for one to three months.

• For small-business customers, the bank is increasing daily debit-card spending limits, waiving penalties for early CD withdrawals up to $20,000, and offering the ability to leverage specific options for consideration to forebear the loan.

“We understand that COVID-19 and the necessary precautions we are all taking to prevent its spread have begun to impact members of our community in meaningful ways,” said Richard Marotta, CEO of Berkshire Bank. “In addition to these initial steps to provide our customers financial flexibility, we will continue to explore additional ways to support our customers and neighbors during this difficult time. As a committed member of our community, we understand how essential it is that we all work together at this time.”

Berkshire Bank is actively engaging with partners like the Massachusetts LGBTQ Chamber and the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, among others, to provide funding assistance to small businesses that are most impacted by the financial implications of the pandemic. “We are exploring ways to provide a unique selection of low-interest rate solutions underwritten by our community partners. We intend to set aside $3 million in available capital to support this effort,” Marotta said.

In addition, the Berkshire Bank Foundation has earmarked an incremental $500,000 for small-business grants to help businesses that do not have the ability to pay.

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