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Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank awarded $150,000 to 40 area nonprofits through its annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program, through which bank customers cast votes to determine how funds are dispersed.

“Last year, for our 150th-anniversary celebration, we increased the total amount of our Customers’ Choice grant awards to $150,000 because it drew a nice parallel, and we wanted to continue that level of giving this year,” President and CEO Matt Garrity said during a celebration at the Garden House at Look Park on May 14.

“We are proud of the history of our unique grant program, and we respect our customers and enjoy giving them a chance to help decide where we allocate funds in the region,” Garrity added. “It gives our customers a voice and offers much-needed assistance to many organizations serving people in need.”

For the second year in a row, 13 organizations received $5,000 grants: Dakin Humane Society in Springfield, Cancer Connection Inc. in Northampton, It Takes a Village in Huntington, Friends of the Williamsburg Library, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Florence, Friends of Forbes Library in Northampton, Manna Soup Kitchen in Northampton, Goshen Firefighters Assoc., Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Chicopee, Our Lady of the Hills Parish in Haydenville, Amherst Survival Center, Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, and Northampton Survival Center. Click here for a full list of the 40 recipients and their awards.

“I appreciate Florence Bank’s focus on community involvement and its expansion of this program in recent years,” said Lev BenEzra, executive director of the Amherst Survival Center, which has received a grant annually for many years. “We love the approach of bank leaders looking to their customers who are community members in the region to identify meaningful organizations that are highly effective and doing good work. It’s an inclusive process and simplifies the process for organizations.”

Florence Bank’s community grants program is an annual offering founded in 2002 and, through it, Florence Bank customers are invited to vote for their favorite local nonprofit in hopes it will receive a share of grant funding.

Voting takes place all year long, online at florencebank.com/vote and in bank branches, and each customer has only one vote. To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 votes. In 2023, roughly 7,168 votes were cast, making 40 nonprofits eligible for a grant.

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently announced it has donated $100,000 to the Iron Horse Music Hall, supporting a $750,000 capital campaign for renovations and updates to the well-loved music venue in downtown Northampton, which reopens on May 15.

Chris Freeman, executive director of the Parlor Room Collective in Northampton, which purchased the Iron Horse last fall and has been updating it since, said the bank’s gift will help fund ongoing work to the venue at 20 Center St.

He explained that the collective has already expanded the Iron Horse into a storefront next door that formerly housed a Christian meeting space, and is in the process of moving the bar into that new space, along with 10 bathrooms. The bathrooms in the basement of the venue will be updated and reserved for visiting artists only; the remainder of that downstairs space will be remodeled to be “more artist-friendly,” and artists alone will be able to access the area, Freeman said.

Other work being undertaken at the music hall includes the installation of a new sound system, lighting, flooring, and an HVAC unit for cleaner, fresher air.

“Florence Bank is a big community supporter. They were our first corporate ask,” Freeman said, noting that the Parlor Room Collective is running the capital campaign for the Iron Horse through the bank. “Florence Bank understands our mission, our vision for what the Iron Horse can become. We’re so grateful they stepped up in such a huge way.”

He added that, when the Parlor Room became a nonprofit, it leaned into Florence Bank for funds to start an open-mic series, a program that has since become self-sustainable. “Without that early gift from Florence Bank, we wouldn’t have been able to get it started,” he said.

The Parlor Room is a small listening room in Northampton, founded 11 years ago as a facet of the Signature Sounds record label. Freeman was a musician in a band that recorded on the Signature Sounds label in those days, becoming more involved with the Parlor Room after the pandemic. In 2022, the Parlor Room became a nonprofit and is now known as the Parlor Room Collective.

Florence Bank President and CEO Matt Garrity said the Iron Horse has been at the core of the local music scene since its founding in 1979, and the bank is proud to support the Parlor Room Collective’s revival of the venue.

“We value the collective’s mission-based approach to the return of the Iron Horse,” Garrity said. “The Iron Horse has long been a space in which local patrons and musicians from far and wide can celebrate art, music, and community, and we look forward to the return of that energy.”

The Iron Horse is still seeking donations and sponsorships. Learn more at ironhorse.org/revive-the-iron-horse.

“It’s such a fun cause to fundraise for,” Freeman said. “So many people have memories about being at the Iron Horse. It’s an amazing spot. We’re incredibly grateful to the bank and the whole community.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank has donated $4,000 to the city of West Springfield to help support four events the city has planned in 2024 as part of a year packed with 250th-anniversary festivities.

Florence Bank’s backing of the West Springfield 250th celebration specifically offers support for three 5K races, happening in March, July, and November; a block party on June 22 and 23, when Elm and Central streets will be closed for activities from dancing to vendors and food trucks; family photo sessions at historic town locations; and a golf tournament in July.

Also part of the 250th events in West Springfield are a birthday celebration in Clark Field today, Feb. 23, the same day West Springfield was incorporated in 1774; a black-tie ball in May; various ongoing public art projects; and a Bright Nights display next winter.

Nikki Gleason, vice president and branch manager of Florence Bank in West Springfield, explained that, in addition to the financial support, a team of bank staff will volunteer at some of the events in town. She noted they are particularly excited to be part of the family photo event on May 11 with photographer Branden Brus, who will capture portraits of interested families who sign up for sessions at a historic town location to be determined.

“I’ve worked in West Springfield for 13 years, the last five with Florence Bank at our West Springfield branch, and I believe in the town and in the way it is celebrating this important anniversary,” Gleason said. “This is such a diverse community. It’s very unique, and I’m pleased that the bank is involved in celebrations that will bring everyone together. It’s a great fit for Florence Bank because supporting community events that bring people together is really important to us.”

Sarah Calabrese-Dunphy, anniversary committee co-chair, agreed. “Florence Bank has shown a commitment to the well-being of our town that goes beyond just providing financial services. Through sponsorships, donations, and volunteerism, Florence Bank has helped improve the lives of our local kids, families, and the community as a whole.”

Carly Camossi, chief of Operations for West Springfield and co-chair of the anniversary committee, said more than 100 business sponsors are part of the anniversary celebrations, and more than 400 area residents attended the mayoral ball kickoff event earlier this year.

“It’s amazing to me how many people want to participate,” said Camossi, who grew up in West Springfield. “Everyone is incredibly generous and feels that community spirit. It’s very humbling.”

Since 2007, Florence Bank has had a presence in West Springfield, which was enhanced five years ago when the current full-service branch opened at 1010 Union St.

Daily News

Andre Motulski

FLORENCE — Florence Bank has promoted Andre Motulski to the role of vice president/controller.

Motulski joined the bank’s team as assistant vice president/controller in September 2019. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Central Connecticut State University and is a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-commissioned risk-management examiner.

In his new role, which he assumed in December, Motulski is responsible for managing financial records, ensuring regulatory compliance, and assessing risks associated with lending and investment activities.

Motulski is involved in the community, serving on the finance committee for Hampshire Regional YMCA in Northampton.

“As an evolving leader, Andre can think strategically, delegate, problem-solve, and work effectively across multiple departments, always keeping the customer and his colleagues top of mind,” said Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank.

Daily News

Ashley Swett

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently announced that Ashley Swett has been named manager of the bank’s Customer Service Center at the main office in Florence. In her new role, she will oversee the staff responsible for assisting Florence Bank customers who contact the bank via telephone or email.

Swett has 16 years of industry experience and is a graduate of the New England School of Financial Studies. She holds a certificate in supervision from the Center for Financial Training.

“We are pleased to have someone with Ashley’s skills in this important role, as customer service is a top priority at Florence Bank,” said Matt Garrity, the bank’s president and CEO. “She has a great deal of experience in customer service, and we look forward to her valuable insight as a member of our retail banking team.”

Active in the community, Swett is currently a member of the Holiday Flair in Ware, where she enjoys the annual festival and parade.

Daily News

Andrew Sullivan

FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced that Andrew Sullivan has joined the staff as vice president and commercial lender.

Sullivan began his banking career as a credit analyst at a mutual bank in the region, but soon discovered an affinity for relationship building and helping commercial customers achieve their goals. Prior to joining Florence Bank, he served as a portfolio manager, small business loan officer, and commercial loan officer. He began his new role at Florence Bank in mid-October.

“I like the challenge of meeting customer expectations, all while staying within our bank policy guidelines and adapting to the ever-changing economic environment,” he said. “Our commercial lenders, credit analysts, and support staff members work seamlessly to provide our business customers with the best possible banking experience. I appreciate the team atmosphere at Florence Bank.”

The founder of the Andrew Sullivan Swing for a Cure Golf Tournament, which benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Sullivan holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business management and an MBA from Elms College. He is the chairman of the West of the River Chamber of Commerce.

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank has partnered with UMass Sports Properties and the UMass Amherst hockey team to Ice Out Hunger in the Valley. Through this innovative new program, the bank will provide $9,500 in $500 grants to each of 19 food pantries across the region.

A different food pantry will be highlighted during the first intermission at each Massachusetts home game, and a lucky fan will be chosen to ride on the Mullins Center’s Zamboni, which has been wrapped with Florence Bank’s branding. Riders are selected randomly after submitting an entry form at umassathletics.com/ride.

Each of the following food pantries will receive $500: Amherst Survival Center, Easthampton Community Center, Friends of Hampshire County Homeless Individuals, the Parish Cupboard in West Springfield, Northampton Survival Center, Easthampton Congregational Church, Not Bread Alone soup kitchen in Amherst, the Gray House in Springfield, Margaret’s Pantry at Providence Ministries in Holyoke, Helping Hands Cupboard Food Pantry in Belchertown, Neighbors Helping Neighbors in South Hadley, Chesterfield Community Food Cupboard, Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen in Chicopee, Most Holy Redeemer Church in Hadley, Southampton Community Cupboard, Springfield Rescue Mission, Center for Self Reliance in Greenfield, Manna Soup Kitchen in Northampton, and Open Pantry Community Services in Springfield.

Andrew Stuebner, general manager of UMass Sports Properties, the multimedia rights holder for Massachusetts Athletics, said the partnership with Florence Bank has been developed over the past few years with Jim Hickey, the bank’s senior vice president and marketing director.

“In exploring high-impact ways to complement Florence Bank’s key objectives of building relationships with local organizations and supporting the communities the bank serves, the concept came to light thanks in large part to Jim,” Stuebner said, adding that the Rider of the Game and Ice Out Hunger themes evolved to ensure a philanthropic component. “It’s a win-win promotion, providing lifelong memories for lucky fans while supporting those in need.”

Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank, added that “pantry leaders have told us that the funds we are providing will cover the cost of tens of thousands of meals for people in need in the Valley. The success of the Massachusetts Hockey program provides us with a unique way to communicate the issue of food insecurity to folks in the Pioneer Valley. We’re pleased to partner with UMass to help Ice Out Hunger in the Valley.”

The Massachusetts Minutemen hockey season is in full swing, with the team currently ranked 11th in the country and playing what Stuebner called “a high-energy brand of hockey.” The game schedule can be found at umassathletics.com/sports/mens-ice-hockey/schedule.

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently presented its 2023 President’s Award to three staff members for exceptional service.

Established in 1995, the President’s Award recognizes outstanding performance, customer service, and overall contribution to Florence Bank. Awardees are nominated by their colleagues at the bank.

This year’s award recognizes Calli Paulin, a teller at the bank since 2021; Aaron Bonneau, an IT administrator who has worked at the bank since 2019; and David Lipson, a marketing research analyst who came on board in 2018.

Paulin attended Bay Path University in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. Bonneau holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from UMass Amherst. Lipson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business management from Western New England University.

“These employees embody the qualities we value at Florence Bank, hard work, determination, patience, enthusiasm, and compassion among them,” said Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank. “They have built enduring relationships with colleagues and customers alike, giving their peers good reasons to nominate them.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently presented its 2023 Community Support Award to Tim Deshaies, director of Retail Operations at the bank.

The Community Support Award was established by the bank in 1997 as a means of formally recognizing employees who are active in the community and give their personal and professional time to local nonprofit organizations.

Each year, the award recipient can select an organization to which the bank will donate $500. Deshaies has chosen the Therapeutic Equestrian Center, citing the work the organization does with horse-assisted therapy for people in the community.

Deshaies came to Florence Bank in 2007. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Western New England University. He is active in the community, serving as treasurer of the Therapeutic Equestrian Center and the Wistariahurst Foundation, vice president of Black Horse Trust, and director of Mansir Trust.

“We are pleased to shine a spotlight on Tim because we are proud of all the important work he does in the community,” said Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank. “Tim well-deserves the Community Support Award.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced that Ryan Hess has joined the staff as vice president and commercial team leader.

Hired in June, Hess has more than 11 years of experience in banking, serving in roles from credit analyst and portfolio manager to leadership in commercial lending. He most recently served as chief lending officer for a locally based startup bank and played a key role in its founding.

Hess came to Florence Bank for its reputation as a community partner, noting that “it’s an effective bank that’s never strayed away from community involvement and serving the community. In his work as a lender, he enjoys delivering solutions to business customers. “It’s very rewarding. These are peoples’ livelihoods. There’s an impact and story there.”

He said his first few months have solidified his perspective on Florence Bank. “It’s been evident from the first minute I was in the office that Florence has a great corporate culture.”

Hess holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stonehill College. He serves as co-chair of the Ronald McDonald House golf committee, a member of the Make-A-Wish golf committee, and vice chair of the Springfield Zoning Board of Appeals.

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced that Jim Hickey, vice president and director of Marketing Operations, has been promoted to lead the bank’s marketing efforts as senior vice president and director of Marketing.

Hickey replaces Monica Curhan, who retired on April 7 after serving as senior vice president and director of Marketing for nearly 10 years.

Hickey was hired in November 2021 as director of Marketing Operations with the explicit plan to one day take the helm as director of Marketing. He has 25 years of strategic marketing experience as well as a strong affinity for the Florence Bank brand, which Curhan ushered in during the early years of her tenure. “The challenge for me will be sustaining and evolving our unique brand identity,” Hickey said.

Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank, said, “we are thrilled that Jim is stepping into this role to lead our marketing efforts. He is a creative thinker with a collaborative approach and a proven track record of managing projects from conception to implementation. I’m excited to see where he takes the brand next.”

Hickey holds a bachelor’s degree in English from UMass Amherst. He has experience in areas that include account management, creative development, media plan execution, and media buying.

Before joining Florence Bank, he was vice president of Account Service at Communicators Group, a marketing communications firm in Keene, N.H. He has also served as vice president and director of Marketing for Westbank, a financial institution formerly based in West Springfield.

Hickey said his experience in financial-services marketing and communications will continue to inform his work for Florence Bank. “I have managed the marketing and communications efforts for a number of clients in the banking industry. Those experiences have helped prepare me for this role.”

Active in the community, Hickey sits on the board for the Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity.

Curhan is looking forward to spending time with her grandchildren and helping her husband operate his apiary, caring for the bees and selling honey and honey products.

In the 10 years she represented the bank, Curhan served as a trustee for Cooley Dickinson Hospital, on its board for three years as well as on various committees. She also volunteered for the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, served meals at the Interfaith Emergency Homeless Shelter ­– COT Shelter in downtown Northampton, and took part in a Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity build day.

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced it has made a $50,000 sponsorship pledge to Grow Food Northampton to help provide healthy, local food to area residents who are food-insecure at a time when federal food benefits are scaling back to pre-pandemic levels.

Helen Kahn, manager of the Grow Food Northampton Tuesday and winter farmers markets, said the sponsorship will help residents who receive federally sponsored food support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) double their purchases of local food through Grow Food’s SNAP Match program year-round.

The summer and winter farmers markets are an important source of locally grown, healthy food for low-income families. When SNAP customers purchase tokens at the market, Grow Food Northampton provides an extra $10 of tokens free through SNAP Match. Because these tokens can be spent only at the markets, the program directly benefits the farmers as well.

The outdoor Tuesday markets are held every Tuesday behind Thornes Marketplace from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. from April 18 to Nov. 7. From November through March, the market moves inside to the Northampton Senior Center and is held biweekly.

Florence Bank’s gift, to be offered in increments of $10,000 per year for five years, comes at a time when additional federal support for SNAP provided during the pandemic has been halted, and it also allows Grow Food Northampton to expand its SNAP Match program to serve more families who qualify.

“Many families relied on those extra funds, and even though the pandemic is over, food insecurity continues,” Kahn said. “We expect and hope that the number of people in our community on SNAP who come to our farmers markets to access local food will increase. Local business sponsorships are critical for allowing Grow Food Northampton to meet the increasing demands on the SNAP Match program at our farmers markets.”

Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank, added that “we have a mission to serve the community, and we are pleased to be able to support Grow Food Northampton and those it serves at a time when the need is great. We are proud to help fund a program that provides healthy and nutritious food options for folks in need.”

SNAP Match serves a broad spectrum of community residents. “From 20-somethings to seniors, individuals and families of all ethnicities within our community are accessing SNAP Match at our markets,” Kahn said.

She added that it’s important for Grow Food Northampton to keep growing the SNAP Match program because 15% of the population of Northampton receives SNAP benefits, but not everyone knows about the program or how to access it.

In March 2023, 12,640 households in Hampshire County were eligible. Last year, though, only 912 households took advantage of the program, up from 650 households in 2021.

In 2019, SNAP Match was funded with $14,800 raised from sponsorships. Last year, $45,000 was raised and assisted people at both the Tuesday and winter markets. Through local business sponsorships, Grow Food Northampton is prepared to provide $65,000 in SNAP Match during this year’s market seasons.

“We have so much gratitude for Florence Bank,” Kahn said. “Their gift represents a huge percentage of the funds we’re providing to the community. Florence Bank is a great community neighbor.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — In its 21st year, Florence Bank’s Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program awarded $150,000 to 46 area nonprofits in honor of the bank’s 150th anniversary.

“I know the total we announced we would award this year was $125,000, but I feel like $150,000 would be a more appropriate amount to celebrate the 150 years that Florence Bank has been in existence,” President and CEO Matt Garrity said in leading his first Customers’ Choice celebration on May 16. “It’s amazing to see so many community organizations being recognized, and the fact that the recognition comes from Florence Bank customers in the form of votes is really special.”

Garrity handed checks to 46 nonprofit leaders across the region, awarding 13 with $5,000 gifts — the most ever granted in 21 years — and presenting $500 surprise awards to 10 organizations that fell just short of the required 50-vote count.

These organizations received $5,000 grants: Dakin Humane Society, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Amherst Survival Center, Friends of the Williamsburg Library, Northampton Survival Center, Goshen Firefighter’s Assoc. Inc., Cancer Connection, Manna Soup Kitchen, It Takes a Village, Friends of Forbes Library, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Our Lady of the Hills Parish, and Friends of Lilly Library.

These 23 organizations also received an award: Williamsburg Firefighter Assoc., $4,701; Bernese Auction Rescue Coalition Inc., $4,652; Easthampton Community Center, $4,309; Friends of M.N. Spear Memorial Library, $4,064; Northampton Neighbors, $4,064; Springfield Shriners Hospitals for Children, $3,917; Grow Food Northampton Inc., $3,819; Amherst Neighbors, $3,721; Smith Vocational High School PTO, $3,721; Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, $3,624; Performing Arts Charter School, $3,575; Therapeutic Equestrian Center, $3,575; Kestrel Land Trust, $3,427; Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation, $3,330; Northampton Community Music Center, $3,232; Safe Passage, $3,134; Empty Arms Bereavement Support, $2,987; New Hingham Elementary School PTO, $2,987; R.K. Finn Ryan Road School, $2,889; Whole Children, $2,693; Belchertown K-9, $2,595; Northampton Football League, $2,545; and Tapestry, $2,448.

Finally, these 10 organizations received unexpected $500 awards: the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hampshire County, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, Gray House, Holyoke Community College Foundation, Mental Health Assoc. Inc., Springfield Rescue Mission, the Parish Cupboard, and Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center.

Voting takes place all year long, online at www.florencebank.com/vote and in bank branches, and each customer has only one vote. To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 votes. In 2022, roughly 7,000 votes were cast, making 36 nonprofits eligible for a grant; the other 10 funded organizations were invited to attend the event and were surprised with their $500 award. Over the past 21 years, Florence Bank has donated a total of $1.5 million to 165 organizations.

Daily News

FLORENCE — To commemorate 150 years in business, Florence Bank is drawing on its partnership with the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield to offer a chance for 12 community members to win complimentary use of the popular venue’s birthday room.

In addition to the use of the room, one winner from each of the bank’s 12 branches will receive 10 general-admission tickets to the Hall of Fame and a goody bag for each party guest.

“It’s our birthday, but we’d like to celebrate it by making the birthdays of others a little more special,” Florence Bank President and CEO Matt Garrity said.

Those entering the giveaway can complete a ballot at any of the bank’s branches or visit florencebank.com/bday. The contest ends June 2. Winners will be chosen on Monday, June 5.

May 6, 1873, marks the date of the first 25 deposits at Florence Savings Bank, totaling $825.75. Henry Bond was the bank’s first treasurer, and its founding president was Alfred Lilly. The first trustees and corporators were business owners, shopkeepers, farmers, and community leaders, and the mission of the community bank was to help citizens safely save their money and make a significant contribution in the lives of the people of Hampshire County.

“We’ve grown a lot in the past century and a half, but we have remained true to our core values,” Garrity said. “We still have business owners, shopkeepers, and community leaders on our board, and our mission remains the same as it was 150 years ago. We remain a mutual bank, unbeholden to stockholders. We provide the best possible service to customers, and we are proud community partners, giving back in many areas to help our neighbors thrive.”

Florence Bank’s original home was the second floor of the Davis Building on Main Street in Florence. It has outgrown its space twice, moving into a two-story brick building next door in 1891 and again in 1978 to its present main office.

The first branch outside Florence was opened at the corner of King and Finn streets in Northampton in 1986, and the most recent branch in Chicopee cut the ribbon on May 5, 2021.

In 1880, Florence Bank made history when Mary Bond, the sister of Henry Bond, became the bank’s second treasurer and the first woman to hold the office of treasurer of a savings bank in the state. She served as principal of the Northampton public schools and later as the first woman elected to the Northampton School Committee.

Bond was followed in 1891 by Mary Gould, who was succeeded in 1911 by another woman, Emilie Plimpton.

Growth came steadily for the bank, most notably during World War II, when it received a record number of deposits. These came mainly from government allotments to area residents serving in the military. In the 1950s, a time of rapid growth in the local housing market, the bank was a principal source of home mortgages for Florence residents. Today, Florence Bank’s assets total $1.8 billion.

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank promoted Candace Pereira to the role of vice president, commercial lender. Since 2018, she has worked at Florence Bank as assistant vice president, commercial portfolio manager in the Commercial Lending department. In her new role, she will concentrate on commercial and industrial lending, as well as lending to women-owned businesses.

Pereira holds an associate degree in finance from Springfield Technical Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. She is currently pursuing an MBA from Isenberg as well.

Pereira began her career in banking in 2003 and has held various roles at mutually held and stockholder-owned banks in Western Mass., in both residential and commercial lending.

Working at Florence Bank as a lender excites Pereira because she believes customers are better served by a mutual bank. “Decisions are made locally. The management team knows the market,” she said. “A mutual bank is also more invested in the community and its overall success. We give back to the community.”

Recently named an ambassador for the Springfield Regional Chamber, Pereira is also a member of the BusinessWest 40 Under Forty class of 2017, and she attended the Springfield Leadership Institute. She has served on various local boards over the last several years and has also volunteered as an athletic coach in East Longmeadow, where her daughter is a student.

Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank, noted that “Candace has a solid foundation in working directly with customers and understanding their financial situations. We are pleased to welcome her to our team of commercial lenders.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank promoted Emily Tower to the position of vice president and branch manager of the bank’s main office in Florence. Prior to her promotion, she was the assistant vice president and branch manager in the Florence branch.

A graduate of the New England School of Financial Studies, Tower brings more than 15 years of banking experience to her role. She has been with Florence Bank since 2006 and has worked in the Belchertown and West Springfield offices as well.

“Emily has consistently shown exceptional customer service and team-leading skills,” said Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank. “Her promotion is well-deserved.”

Banking and Financial Services Special Coverage

Forward-looking Statements

Matt Garrity

Matt Garrity

 

Matt Garrity says it was a few years ago, when he was established in his role as executive vice president and chief lending officer at Premier Financial Corp. in Ohio, that he determined that the next logical career step would be to preside over his own bank.

As time went on, and the calls from recruiters started multiplying, the major questions to be answered concerning this ambition were … where, and what?

The ‘where’ involved geographic regions, and Garrity had his preferences, especially the Northeast — he grew up in Lee. As for the what … he desired to be at a bank with a long history, a solid track record, a strong growth pattern, and a plan to continue along that path.

Not long after being encouraged to consider succeeding Kevin Day as president and CEO of Florence Bank, he concluded that all of those boxes could be checked — with authority.

“It’s a perfect fit — this is such a great bank, and it’s got a terrific board,” said Garrity, adding that there many things that stood out about the institution. “From a financial standpoint, this is a very strong and well-positioned bank, and what also came across loud and clear in my conversations with the board was what a great culture this organization has; this is a very customer-focused, community-minded culture that we have here, and a very engaged workforce.”

Garrity, who arrived at the bank in January, takes the helm at a very intriguing time in its history. Indeed, the institution will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year — May 6 is the actual anniversary date. It will mark the occasion in a number of ways and over the course of the year, he said, adding that the planning process is well underway, and details will emerge in the coming weeks.

“We’ll look to continue to grow the bank in Western Massachusetts, looking for opportunities to grow not only in Hampden County, where the bank has started to grow in recent years — we’ll look to continue that strategy — but also with our commercial business within the bank.”

Meanwhile, the institution that started as Florence Savings Bank to serve that growing village has moved well beyond its roots, most recently with a push into Hampden County. Where the next steps in that progression will take place have yet to be determined, but they will likely be in that corner of Western Mass., said Garrity, adding that, like most institutions, Florence is eying controlled, orderly growth, not growth for growth’s sake.

“We’ll want to continue that growth pattern in Hampden County,” he said, noting that branches opened the past several years in Springfield, West Springfield, and, most recently, Chicopee. “That’s certainly on the drawing board for us.”

For this issue and its focus on banking and financial services, BusinessWest talked at length with Garrity about his new assignment and his vision — still very much in the formative stages — for the next 150 years for this Western Mass. institution.

 

Points of Interest

Garrity said he’s spent his entire career in financial services, most of it focused on the commercial-banking side of the spectrum. It was at Premier Financial Corp. that he started taking on additional responsibilities and work in areas “other than the one I grew in,” as he put it, which put him on a path to the corner office at Florence Savings.

Among these areas was residential lending, he said, adding that gaining traction in this and other realms created learning experiences on a number of levels, not just adding lines to a résumé.

“That was a real step in my career,” he said. “Being able to work effectively and work with the team and run that business successfully was something that was really important in my career development.

Florence Bank’s branch on Allen Street

Florence Bank’s branch on Allen Street in Springfield is one of three in Hampden County, where additional expansion is expected in the coming years.

“As careers go on their paths like they do, and your responsibilities begin to grow and you get exposed to new businesses that maybe you weren’t the subject-matter expert in, and you begin to show your ability to effectively manage those businesses and work with the people in those businesses, that’s when you start to think that you can do this on a broader level,” he said, adding that it was several years ago that he considered himself both ready and willing to consider those calls from recruiters asking him to consider bank-presidency positions.

And there were many of them in recent years, Garrity noted, adding that he was, in a word, selective about which ones to pursue.

“Not every bank CEO position was in a part of the country that my wife and I would be comfortable going to, or you really wanted to go to, since we had optionality,” he told BusinessWest. “We were somewhat selective about the ‘where,’ the ‘what,’ and the ‘who’ we would be working with.”

As noted earlier, Florence, now with $2 billion in total assets, checked many of the boxes on his list, especially financial strength, corporate culture, and a long history of service to, and involvement in, the community.

In recent years, that word ‘community’ has come to mean much more than Florence, he said, and its definition will continue to broaden in years to come.

As he talked about the bank’s growth strategy and the next steps in that plan, Garrity acknowledged that there is a great deal of competition in the region, and it comes with institutions of all sizes, from smaller community banks — Florence is still in that category — to very large regional and national banks, like Chase, which just opened a branch in downtown Springfield and will soon open another in Northampton (see story on page 18). But he also acknowledged that banks like Florence need to continue growing at a time when size certainly does matter.

Florence Bank’s branch on Allen Street in Springfield is one of three in Hampden County, where additional expansion is expected in the coming years.

“We’ll look to continue to grow the bank in Western Massachusetts, looking for opportunities to grow not only in Hampden County, where the bank has started to grow in recent years — we’ll look to continue that strategy — but also with our commercial business within the bank.”

 

Taking Things into Account

Florence currently has 12 branches, nine in Hampshire County and those three in Hampden County. Future growth will likely be within that footprint, Garrity said, adding that, while several area banks have ventured into Northern Connecticut, Florence has no immediate plans to follow suit.

“As we look to continue to build the franchise, we’ll be strategic about that and determine what makes the most sense for us, and where the Florence Bank story makes the most sense for the community and for the bank.”

Despite advances in technology and the ability of consumers to do much of their banking remotely, he added, there is still a place for brick-and-mortar branches, for reasons that include everything from quality of service to marketing.

“Branches are more than deposit-taking propositions,” Garrity noted. “Not only do they represent the bank out of the market, it’s a place for outbound activity, for a bank to get out in the community and to make its presence felt.

“I think branch banking is really evolving,” he went on. “For us, that doesn’t mean we need a branch in each and every town and on every corner — that wouldn’t be our model — but we’ll need more in Hampden County to get the most out of our network.”

Within this very crowded banking marketplace, Florence has what Garrity describes as some competitive advantages.

“It gets down to people,” he explained. “As we look at what our strategic advantages are as we compete in these markets, we have terrific people, and that’s always a big strength that we’re going to have. We’re also very locally focused; the deposit dollars that we take in from Hampshire County and Hampden County are being redeployed in Hampshire County and Hampden County, and from a philanthropic perspective, this organization is focused on these communities as well.

Florence Bank’s branch in Chicopee

Florence Bank’s branch in Chicopee is the latest addition to the portfolio.

“Over the past five years, this organization has donated to charitable causes in this region close to $3 million,” he went on. “So there’s a significant commitment that we have, and this is part of what helps us continue to be relevant over these past 150 years. One of the founding principles of the bank back in 1873 was ‘neighbors helping neighbors,’ and that’s as important to us today as it was back then.”

People, meaning the team at the bank, are also a key component in the growth strategy for the commercial-lending side of the ledger, said Garrity, adding that there is no shortage of competition in this realm, either.

“It’s the people that help you stand out, people and the ability to bring solutions. The advantage of working with a bank such as Florence Bank, given our size and what I’ll call our flat structure and local decision making, is we can get the right people around a table to make a good, common-sense answer for our client — a custom solution. That is a distinct advantage that we would have over some of our larger competitors that are more decentralized and a little more pigeonholed from a policy perspective.”

He noted that the commercial market was strong in 2022 because many businesses that were on the fence decided to move ahead before interest rates went up. They did rise, considerably, and these increases, coupled with uncertainty concerning the economy and other headwinds, has slowed the commercial market in recent months, he went on, adding that this is a nationwide phenomenon and one that bears watching in the coming months.

The same can be said for the residential market, which has slowed dramatically in recent months — a 28-year low nationwide, in fact — as a result of rising interest rates and low inventory.

 

Bottom Line

Garrity said he’s spent his first few months at Florence engaging with his team at the bank, looking for opportunities to engage in the community, and “learning the bank,” as he put it.

“I’m asking a lot of questions and listening for the answers,” he noted, adding that what he’s heard so far is that this institution is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that will present themselves in the months and years to come.

“We have a great team, and we have a really good bank in a very good position,” he said. “And we’ll plenty of opportunity to continue to do great things here and great things for our customers, so I’m excited; 150 years is a great accomplishment for this organization — and for this community that has supported us. We have more than 50,000 customers that support this bank in the communities we serve, and we want to continue to serve them for another 150 years.”

 

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank has pledged $100,000 to Hampshire Regional YMCA to support its $1.5 million mission-expansion campaign to expand available program space by developing an outdoor exercise ‘airnaseum,’ or open-air gymnasium.

Julie Bianco, CEO of the YMCA, said campaign leaders are still gathering corporate sponsorships in this early phase of the project, and so far, $361,000 has been pledged. The YMCA hopes to break ground on the project in the spring and evolve it over several years, as funds are gathered. The airnaseum and other improvements will benefit both children and adults.

“Florence Bank has been a longtime supporter of the YMCA,” Bianco said. “We really appreciate the bank’s commitment to the community. They always show up when they are needed.”

She added that Florence Bank’s support was critical during the pandemic. “They were there to offer opportunities to get us through. They understand the community because they live and work here. They understand the community’s needs.”

The pandemic was the ultimate inspiration for the airnaseum project. Prior to 2020, the YMCA had begun planning capital improvements as member activity had greatly increased over the years. “We were always looking for space for classes,” Bianco said. “Program space was a valuable commodity.”

The idea was to create more indoor space for programming, and then COVID made it impossible — and later, uncomfortable — for people to gather and exercise indoors, in close quarters. People still wanted to exercise and socialize, though, so Bianco said the Y held its classes outdoors in the upper parking lot, which was not in demand, as few members were using the building at that time.

“Then we began researching other ways to expand our program space outdoors and came upon the idea of an airnaseum,” she explained. “That concept is popular in warmer climates and is getting more popular in the Northeast. We have a wonderful property here, and people still want to exercise outside.”

Leaders of the YMCA worked with Berkshire Design Group to research and study all options, as well as create the project design, which has been approved by the Northampton Zoning Board of Appeals. Keiter Builders will be the contractor.

The outdoor exercise space will be located underneath a pavilion outside the gymnasium, where a grouping of picnic tables sits now. Equipment containers, called container gyms, will be purchased from Beaver Fit to hold the necessary gear for group classes and will be installed at one end of the airnaseum.

Installation of the outdoor space will happen in phases, with the first kicking off in the spring, when the floor of the space will be poured. “We hope to also put on the pavilion roof,” Bianco said, noting that the space’s sound and lights will be conducive to the neighborhood.

Future phases will involve updating and expanding the outdoor sports courts, improving the parking lot, and installing fencing and permanent shade sails that can be raised or lowered to provide cover from the sun.

“These spaces will provide more opportunities for families to connect and be together in a safe outdoor space,” she said. “We’re going to be able to expand the footprint of the space we have available to offer programming.”

Matt Garrity, president and CEO of Florence Bank, said he is thrilled to be able to support the YMCA’s campaign because the improvements will benefit children and families across the region.

“At Florence Bank, we like to take care of the community and help where help is needed,” he said. “We were founded in 1873 on the principle of neighbors helping neighbors, and 150 years later, we still see that as our primary mission. We keep our focus on the customers, the community, and our employees.”

Bianco explained that the bank and the YMCA have a long partnership. Bank employees sit on various YMCA committees, and the bank has offered financial support to the nonprofit organization for many years.

“For a community to thrive, we need places like the Y, where people can make social connections and take care of their health and wellness,” she said. “You see all ages, demographics, and backgrounds together at the Y. We’re a reflection of our community, and the reason we’re here is to bring people together. For a community to be healthy, we need that, and Florence Bank understands our mission.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank promoted Nicolle Marceau to branch manager of the Granby branch.

With 10 years of retail banking experience, Marceau was hired in October 2022 and has worked in the bank’s Belchertown, Amherst, and Florence branches. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Westfield State College and is certified in business banking.

In the community, Marceau coaches youth sports for the South Hadley Recreation Department and will soon be a member of the Parent Teacher Assoc. for Mosier Elementary School and the Plains Elementary School Council, both also in South Hadley.

“We are pleased to appoint Nicolle as the new branch manager of our Granby branch,” said Shelley Daughdrill, retail banking director and senior vice president of Retail Administration. “She provides excellent customer service and will excel in her new position.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced that Vice President and Granby Branch Manager Jessica Wales has been named manager of the bank’s King Street branch in Northampton.

Wales will replace Lee McCarthy, who is retiring in April after serving as manager of the King Street branch for 18 years and area manager for the bank since 2018.

Since 2020, Wales has served as manager of the Granby branch. She has 26 years of banking experience and previously worked for Florence Bank from 2000 to 2011. She holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Ashworth College and is a graduate of the New England School for Financial Studies.

Active in the community, she is a board member and member of the finance committee for the United Way of Franklin & Hampshire Region, and a committee member for the Western Mass Women’s Business Network and Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s Golf FORE Health Tournament. She is also an ambassador for the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce.

A member of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty class of 2014, Wales is also a past recipient of the Florence Bank Community Support Award.

McCarthy worked in the banking industry for 42 years. Hired in 2004 by Florence Bank, she served as branch manager for King Street, beginning in 2004, and in 2018, she also became area manager, overseeing the King Street, Williamsburg, downtown Northampton, and Easthampton branches. For 16 years, McCarthy served on the United Way’s community investment committee.

“We wish Lee the best as she moves closer to retirement, and we are pleased to welcome Jessica to the King Street branch,” said Shelley Daughdrill, retail banking director and senior vice president of Retail Administration. “Jessica has proven herself as a leader, and her experience will make for a smooth transition.”

Daily News

Matt Garrity

FLORENCE — Matthew “Matt” Garrity, a Lee native, launched a new era for Florence Bank today, taking the helm as president and CEO.

He is excited to return to Western Mass. and brings extensive experience as a leader and promoter of growth along with a broad base of knowledge in serving both business customers and general banking consumers. He specializes in team management and embraces Florence Bank’s nurturing culture because “our biggest assets are our people. They are critical to success.”

Garrity was formerly the executive vice president and chief lending officer and head of Residential Lending at Premier Bank, serving Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. He replaces Michael Lynch, senior vice president and senior commercial lender, who has served as interim president since former president and CEO Kevin Day retired on Nov. 25.

“Florence Bank is a real gem — a jewel in the community, and I take that very seriously,” Garrity said. “The bank has been well-served by the people who came before me, and I’m excited about the opportunity to carry on the legacy.”

Garrity is pleased to be working at a mutual bank, where the focus is on the customers and the community, rather than pleasing stockholders. “All the banks I’ve worked in have had mission-based objectives that impact the community. In a bank like Florence Bank, those impacts on the community are accentuated. Giving back to the community is a big part of what Florence Bank is about, and that’s very attractive to me. We can be focused on how the bank performs and also on being as mission-focused as we can be to make sure the needs of the community are being served by what we do.”

In his first year — the 150th-anniversary year for Florence Bank — Garrity expects to focus on getting to know the Florence Bank staff and, over time, on growth, particularly further expansion into Hampden County, where the bank currently has three branches.

John Ebbets, chair of the bank’s board of directors, said the search for a new president and CEO began in July and was led by Kaplan Partners, which broadcast the position throughout New England, parts of the mid-Atlantic, and Ohio.

A pool of 125 candidates was methodically pared to two finalists, each of whom met live with the full board, which sought a leader with vision, a history of execution, and a willingness to embrace Florence Bank’s mutual culture. “Florence Bank has been a mutual bank for 150 years, and it will continue to be a mutual bank well into the future,” Ebbets said.

Garrity was chosen because he embodied the qualities sought and demonstrated he is a thorough, thoughtful leader. “Matt was excellent at offering analysis and strategic thought,” Ebbets said. “He came in with a framework of ideas. I believe Matt’s going to be really good at assessing and developing people as priority number one.”

Garrity lived in Lee until seventh grade, when he moved to Ohio. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Ohio University and chose banking as a career so he could help consumers achieve their financial goals. “It was an opportunity to help people and a good match for me professionally,” he said.

His first job was in consumer banking, but he quickly learned he was drawn to commercial banking and took a job as a credit analyst; he rose into leadership steadily over the years. In 2009, he was recruited to serve as chief credit officer for a mid-size bank and rescued the organization from significant financial distress and the threat of closure via a federal cease-and-desist order.

Florence Bank had its strongest financial showing ever in 2022, and Garrity feels up to the challenge of forging future growth, particularly by continued expansion in Hampden County.

Ebbets explained that growth will not happen for growth’s sake. “That’s not the focus point. The bank’s expansion plan has been slow and steady. Going forward, that would continue to be the plan,” he said, noting that, in addition to bringing jobs and increased philanthropy, the bank sees the opportunity to create products that will meet the distinct needs of people in the communities it serves as well.

The ability to affect customers’ lives serves as Garrity’s inspiration as a bank leader, and he appreciates that each day brings new economic and regulatory challenges. “Having direct input on customers’ lives and how the bank is performing at the same time is really impactful,” he said. “You can really get done with a day’s work and know you’ve accomplished something.”

Garrity, a volunteer and board member for many years with the American Red Cross in Greater Cleveland, will begin his work at Florence Bank by getting to know team members, customers, and community partners. “That’s my job, and I take that very seriously,” he said. “Community banking is about developing relationships. That will be important. I’m going to be very busy.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently presented its 2022 Community Support Award to Linda Bushey, a mortgage specialist in the main office in Florence.

The Community Support Award was established by the bank in 1997 as a means of formally recognizing employees who are active in the community and give their personal and professional time to local nonprofit organizations.

Each year, the award recipient can select an organization of his or her choice, and the bank will donate $500 to that organization. Bushey chose to support two organizations, so $250 will be granted to the Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden Agricultural Society and Three County Fair, which promote agricultural education and scientific agriculture, and $250 will be granted to the Greater Northampton St. Patrick’s Committee Inc.

Bushey was hired at Florence Bank in 1994 as a teller and held a variety of positions before becoming a senior mortgage processor. She is now a mortgage specialist with 32 years of banking experience. She received the Florence Bank President’s Award for outstanding service in 2001 and is a 2017 recipient of the inaugural Leonard Von Flatern Jr. Volunteer Award presented by the Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden Agricultural Society.

Bushey serves on the Three County Fair board of directors and is a longtime fair volunteer. She is treasurer of the Greater Northampton St. Patrick’s Committee and also volunteers in many events for the committee. She also volunteers at the Hampshire County Sherriff’s picnic and has volunteered during the Northampton Family Fourth event at Look Memorial Park.

“We are pleased to make donations to these important community organizations in Linda’s name because we value community service as much as Linda clearly does,” said Kevin Day, president and CEO of Florence Bank. “Linda well-deserves the Community Support Award.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank recently presented its 2022 President’s Award to three staff members for outstanding service.

Established in 1995, the President’s Award recognizes outstanding performance, customer service, and overall contribution to Florence Bank. Honorees are nominated by their colleagues at the bank.

This year’s award winners are Tiffany Poirier, commercial loan-support assistant manager in the Commercial Department; Shaina Snape, a customer-service specialist in the Customer Service Center; and Nicholas Andrus, a customer-service representative. All three employees work in the bank’s main branch in Florence.

Poirier was hired at the bank in March 2017. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Westfield State University and has 15 years of banking experience. Snape began working at Florence Bank in 2018 and has 12 years of banking experience. Andrus was also hired in 2018 and has eight years of experience in banking.

“These employees embody the qualities we value at Florence Bank — hard work, determination, patience, enthusiasm, and compassion among them,” said Kevin Day, president and CEO of Florence Bank. “They have built enduring relationships with colleagues and customers alike, giving their peers good reasons to nominate them.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank hired Kyle Toelken to serve as assistant vice president and branch manager of the Belchertown branch.

Toelken was hired in May and has 12 years of banking experience. Committed to community involvement, he has volunteered with Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, helping present lesson plans to school-aged children. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Franklin Pierce University.

“I am very excited to join Florence Bank and the Belchertown branch team,” Toelken said. “I look forward to working with the community and ensuring customers have a great experience.”

President Kevin Day added that “we are excited to welcome Kyle to the Florence Bank team. He has a great deal of experience, and we are pleased that he will be helping to lead our Belchertown branch.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced recently that longtime employee Jean Monska has been promoted to lead the Easthampton branch as branch manager. She replaces Anita Sedlak, who retired on July 1.

Monska has worked for Florence Bank since 2002. Before the promotion to branch manager, she served as assistant branch manager in the Hadley location for 14 years. In March 2020, she was promoted to senior assistant branch manager before transferring to the Easthampton branch in the same role.

She holds an associate degree in business administration from Holyoke Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern New Hampshire University. She is also a graduate of the New England School of Financial Studies.

In 2005, Monska was named to the Florence Bank President’s Club. The honor recognizes superior performance, customer service, and overall contribution to Florence Bank.

“We are thrilled that Jean will be taking over the reins of our Easthampton branch,” President and CEO Kevin Day said. “Jean has built great relationships with customers and community members in Easthampton, and we know she has the skill and experience to lead.”

Sedlak became assistant vice president and assistant branch manager in 1999. She was promoted to vice president branch manager in 2021 and is retiring after 22 years of service.

Banking and Financial Services Business of Aging COVID-19 Daily News Employment News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced that president and CEO Kevin Day will retire on Nov. 25, and a focused search is underway for a new leader.

Day took over as president in January 2020 and became CEO in May of the same year.

When Day took the helm at age 64, he promised that nothing would change at the bank. Little did he know, he’d be called upon to usher Florence Bank through some of the most tumultuous times in history, including a pandemic and the resulting financial strife. Day led the bank in ensuring that countless homeowners and businesses were able to defer their payments during the pandemic and in helping business customers connect to grants and other available funding.

These measures helped customers navigate the financial turmoil and gave them much-needed time to adjust to new financial situations.

The bank also expanded over these past two years, opening a branch in Chicopee; creating a work-from-home program for employees; and granting hundreds of thousands of dollars to nonprofit organizations in the Valley.

Day takes pride in the bank’s stability but shares the credit with the full banking team.

“Our goal in this transition is to identify an individual to lead the bank into the future while preserving the values and mission of the past that have proven so successful here,” he said. “I am proud to say that Florence Bank is fundamentally sound in every way. We have an experienced executive management team, a solid officer team and a dedicated staff. I am confident that the bank will continue to prosper for many years to come.”

Day joined Florence Bank in 2008 as chief financial officer, responsible for finance, facilities and risk management. His responsibilities expanded to include compliance in 2013, residential lending in 2014 and retail banking in 2016. He was also promoted to executive vice president in 2016.

Daily News Events News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank announced that it recently donated $50,000 to the Easthampton Community Center through its Florence Savings Easthampton Branch Charitable Foundation, Inc.

“We are honored to receive such a large donation,” said Robin Bialecki, executive director of the Easthampton Community Center, who was recently named the 2022 Person of the Year by United Way of the Hampshire & Franklin Region. “This is a testament to how much the people at Florence Bank and the Easthampton Branch Charitable Foundation value our work, and it will allow us to touch many lives in the community.”

The Florence Savings Easthampton Branch Charitable Foundation was formed in 1999, following the merger of the former Easthampton Cooperative Bank into Florence Bank, the first and only acquisition for Florence Bank.
That investment brought Florence Bank into Easthampton for the first time. Before the merger, Easthampton Cooperative Bank operated the branch near the city rotary, which Florence Bank assumed and continues to run today.

“This foundation helps reinforce the longstanding giving philosophy of Florence Bank,” said President and CEO Kevin Day. “There is a synergy there. The foundation allows the bank to serve its overall mission as a supporter and sustainer in the communities we serve.”

The check for $50,000 was presented by three original members of the foundation: Nancy J. LaBombard, Virginia L. Smith and Anita Sedlak.

Daily News

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Florence Bank has donated $5,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of West Springfield to help bolster the nonprofit’s 2022 Change a Child’s Future campaign.

The club serves members ranging in age from 2.9 months to 18 years. This year’s $50,000 campaign goal will raise funds for financial aid to families in need and allow the club to enhance programming for before- and after-school programs, expand the Little Futures Preschool, purchase art and S.T.E.M. materials, and offer a variety of sports clinics. To learn more visit www.wsbgclub.org

“Florence Bank is committed to ensuring our local youth have the opportunity to become productive, caring, responsible citizens,” said Michael Moriarty, Florence Bank senior vice president, commercial team leader and chairman of the Boys & Girls Club. “The funds we provide to the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club help support a variety of programs as well as families in need of financial assistance.”

Sarah G. Calabrese, the club’s resource development director, said, “Florence Bank’s support of our mission will help to enable all youth to reach their full potential. We are proud to call Florence Bank a partner in supporting us so that we can ensure all children and teens have the opportunity for a great future.”

Daily News

FLORENCE — Florence Bank celebrated its 20th annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program gala last month, awarding $100,000 to 45 nonprofits across the valley. And at the close of the event, President and CEO Kevin Day drew cheers from the audience of nonprofit leaders, announcing that giving will increase to $125,000. 

“Some of you longtime recipients may recall when we began this great program back in 2002, we started by giving away $50,000,” Day said. “Years later we increased to $75,000 and then to $100,000. We’ve decided to increase the total grant amount again — to $125,000 — immediately, for grants to be awarded at next year’s gala. 

“My hope is that our customers continue to use this program to provide you with a vote of confidence, as well as some much-needed funding to help you continue your mission to serve the community,” he added. “All of us at Florence Bank truly appreciate everything you do to make our communities better places to live and work.” 

Day’s announcement was the second commemoration of the evening, the first coming as he called for bank and nonprofit staff and leaders to raise a glass to toast the event’s 20th year. “We can’t let that go without celebration,” he said.  

Florence Bank’s community grants program is an annual offering founded in 2002, and, through it, Florence Bank customers are invited to vote for their favorite local nonprofit in hopes it will receive a share of grant funding. 

Voting takes place all year long, online at www.florencebank.com/vote and in bank branches, and each customer has only one vote. To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 votes. In 2021, roughly 7,000 votes were cast, making 45 nonprofits eligible for a grant. 

Over the past 20 years, Florence Bank has tallied more than 141,000 customer votes and given grants to roughly 164 different organizations. 

 

At its 20th annual event, held May 19 at Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park, the bank offered awards to 45 nonprofits and celebrated a total of $1.4 million in community giving through this one channel. 

Six nonprofits received funding for the first time — some in Hampden County, where Florence Bank now has three branches and has established a presence as a good neighbor. Three recipients have accepted an award every year since the program launched.  

Four organizations received the maximum amount of $5,000 this year: Cancer Connection Inc., Dakin Humane Society, Food Bank of Western Mass., and Friends of Williamsburg Libraries. 

“The commitment of Florence Bank customers to all of you serving the needs within our community is awesome, and we couldn’t be prouder to be able to support the programs our customers believe in,” Day said.  

Organizations receiving awards range from police, fire, library, and school groups to nonprofits that provide food, shelter or support to people living with a serious illness or disability. 

In addition to the four top vote-getters, these other organizations received an award:  

Friends of Lilly Library, $4,097; Northampton Survival Center, $3,782; Amherst Survival Center, $3,588; Our Lady of the Hills Parish, $3,564; Friends of Forbes Library, $3,539; Goshen Firefighters Association, $3,370; Friends of Northampton Legion Baseball, $3,224; Easthampton Community Center, $2,909; It Takes a Village, $2,909; Williamsburg Firefighters Association, $2,642; Northampton Neighbors, $2,400; Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, $2,303; Belchertown Animal Relief Committee, Inc. (BARC), $2,230; Manna Community Kitchen, $2,109; Shriners Hospitals for Children, $1,988; and J.F.K. Middle School PTO. 

Also, $1,867; Kestrel Land Trust, $1,867; Northampton High School PTO, $1,794; Riverside Industries, Inc., $1,770; R.K. Finn Ryan Road School PTO, $1,648; Cooley Dickinson Hospital, $1,624; Safe Passage, $1,624; Northampton Community Music Center, $1,527; Therapeutic Equestrian Center, $1,527; Amherst Neighbors, $1,503; Friends of M.N. Spear Memorial Library, $1,455; Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation, $1,430; Grow Food Northampton, $1,430; Smith Vocational High School PTO, $1,333; Whole Children, $1,309; Easthampton Elementary Schools PTO, $1,164; Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, $1,139; Hitchcock Center for the Environment, $1,115; Revitalize CDC, $1,091; The Parish Cupboard, $1,067; Belchertown Police K-9 Unit, $1,042; Cooley Dickinson Hospital VNA & Hospice, $1,042; Historic Northampton, $1,018; Granby Senior Center, $994; Leeds Elementary School PTO, $994; and Ludlow Boys & Girls Club, $970. 

Daily News

 

FLORENCE — For 20 years, Florence Bank has awarded grants of up to $5,000 each to dozens of nonprofits chosen by its customers, and at its annual gathering this year, it will once again offer up $100,000 to organizations that support young and old in the community. 

At its 20th Annual Customers’ Choice Community Grants gala, to be staged May 19 at 5 p.m. at Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park, the bank will offer awards to 45 nonprofits and celebrate a total of $1.4 million in community giving through this one channel. 

Organizations like Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield and the Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Holyoke will receive awards for the first time this year thanks to customer voting. 

“We are so grateful,” said Stacey Perlmutter, director of development at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield. “All care and services at Shriners Hospitals for Children are provided regardless of a family’s ability to pay. This grant money will help us to continue to provide life-changing pediatric specialty care to families throughout Western Massachusetts and beyond.” 

Likewise, Gerry O’Connor Page, executive director of Therapeutic Equestrian Center (TEC) in Holyoke feels grateful for an assist that will help provide therapeutic horseback riding to individuals with physical, emotional or psychological disabilities. 

“We will use the money to enable us to keep prices down,” she said. “It helps make the service accessible.” 

In the past, the bank has granted funds to some Hampden County-based nonprofits, such as Dakin Humane Society, which typically is the top vote-getter each year. This year, as Florence Bank develops its engagement in the southern county, the awards to organizations based there are increasing. 

“We have branches now in West Springfield, Springfield and Chicopee, and we very much want to be good neighbors in those communities,” said Florence Bank President and CEO Kevin Day. He noted that this year, the bank held a Zoominar event to educate Hampden County nonprofit leaders about the Customers’ Choice program. 

“We wanted to be sure they were aware of the program so they could take part and have the best chance at success,” he said. 

Florence Bank’s community grants program is an annual offering founded in 2002, and, through it, Florence Bank customers are invited to vote for their favorite local nonprofit in hopes it will receive a share of grant funding. 

Voting takes place all year long, online at www.florencebank.com/vote and in bank branches, and each customer has only one vote. To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 votes. In 2021, roughly 6,700 votes were cast, making 45 nonprofits eligible for a grant. 

Over the past 20 years, Florence Bank has tallied more than 141,000 customer votes and given grants to roughly 164 different organizations. 

Organizations to receive awards this year range from police, fire, library and school groups to nonprofits that provide food, shelter or support to people living with a serious illness or disability. Leaders of these nonprofits will learn the amount of their award at the May event. 

In addition to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield, the Therapeutic Equestrian Center and Dakin, the following organizations received enough votes to qualify for a grant and will receive an award at the celebration: Amherst Neighbors, Amherst Survival Center, Belchertown Animal Relief Committee Inc. (BARC), Belchertown K-9, Cancer Connection, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Cooley Dickinson Hospital VNA & Hospice, Easthampton Community Center, Easthampton Elementary Schools PTO, Edward Hopkins Educational Foundation, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Friends of Forbes Library, Friends of Lilly Library, Friends of M.N. Spear Memorial Library, Friends of Northampton Legion Baseball, Friends of the Williamsburg Library, Goshen Firefighters Assoc., Grow Food Northampton, Granby Senior Center, Habitat for Humanity Pioneer Valley, Historic Northampton, Hitchcock Center for the Environment, It Takes a Village, J.F.K. Middle School, Kestrel Land Trust, Leeds Elementary School PTO, Ludlow Boys & Girls Club, Manna Community Kitchen, Northampton Community Music Center, Northampton High School PTO, Northampton Neighbors, Northampton Survival Center, Our Lady of the Hills Parish, Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, Revitalize CDC, Riverside Industries, R.K. Finn Ryan Road School, Safe Passage, Smith Vocational High School PTO, The Parish Cupboard, Whole Children, and Williamsburg Firefighters Association. 

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank donated $100,000 to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to support its multi-phase, multi-year renovation, and as programming ramps up for families visiting during April vacation week, new and ongoing 50% admission discounts will be one benefit for bank customers.

The savings for those who use their Florence Bank debit card for admittance to the museum is a recent enhancement and will be an ongoing benefit of the long-term partnership the bank has with the Hall of Fame. The discount will be in effect during school-vacation week, April 18-22.

The collaboration between the bank and museum began roughly a decade ago with a Florence Bank ATM at the Hall of Fame. It has since grown to support programming of all kinds, including a Dribble Parade held by the bank several years ago to celebrate its first branch in Hampden County. Customers and community members dribbled basketballs through the streets of West Springfield in an event that also included Hall of Famer Teresa Edwards.

“We want to do our best to make sure we are taking care of the community. That’s one of the goals that we’ve had in working with Florence Bank, and we’re trying to amplify it,” said John Doleva, president and CEO of the Hall of Fame. “Florence Bank’s partnership with the Hall of Fame has played a crucial role in getting us where we are today.”

Michael Pietrzak, the Hall of Fame’s director of Partnerships, said the museum renovations began four years ago, and the bank’s gift of $100,000 came in phases over the past five years, with the final $20,000 gift made recently.

“The unique thing about the Basketball Hall of Fame is that it’s a global brand, recognized all across the world, with visitors from China and Australia. Yet, we have strong partners here in the community,” Pietrzak said. “Our relationship with Florence Bank is on top of the list.”

The bank helps make the museum and participation in its events, such as Enshrinement Weekend, more accessible to area residents, and Florence Bank partners with the Hall of Fame on events, such as a high-school tournament called the Hoop Hall Classic.

“Florence Bank was founded on the principle of neighbors helping neighbors,” President and CEO Kevin Day said. “The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is one of our neighbors and an economic driver in our community. If you haven’t visited since it reopened, I encourage you to stop by — and use your Florence Bank debit card to enjoy the discounted admission.”

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank is announced that Alissa Fuller joined the bank as assistant vice president, Compliance and CRA manager. She has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking, consumer lending, and compliance.

Prior to joining Florence Bank, she was a compliance specialist at a local community bank. Her duties included ensuring that the organization’s operations complied with relevant laws, regulations, and policies.

In her new role at Florence Bank, Fuller’s primary responsibilities will include the oversight of programs to ensure compliance with all federal and state laws that govern the bank’s operations. In addition, she will play a vital role in the encouragement and development of the bank’s Community Reinvestment efforts.

“I am excited to join the Florence Bank team,” she said. “It is known for its strong culture of caring for employees and the community. The opportunity to join and contribute to such a dynamic team is an honor.”

Fuller graduated from the New England College of Business and Finance in 2016 with an associate degree in business administration with a concentration in management.

“Alissa is an incredibly valuable addition to the Florence Bank team,” President and CEO Kevin Day said. “Her expertise in compliance and community reinvestment will serve as an excellent resource for us in those critically important areas.”

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank hired a Greenfield native with 25 years of strategic marketing experience with a focus in the banking sector to serve as vice president and director of Marketing Operations.

Jim Hickey stepped into the new role in mid-November after keeping his eye on Florence Bank for many years because he respects its creative marketing strategy, customer-focused approach to banking, and community engagement.

“I value what the bank stands for,” Hickey said. “Customer service drives everything we do here. That’s refreshing. Also, the level of community support the bank provides is impressive. It steps up and pitches in. I like associating myself with organizations that put people and the community first.”

He added that “Florence Bank is dedicated to the community. It creates relationships based on trust and not those based on meeting certain goals and selling certain products.”

Previously, Hickey was vice president of Account Service at Communicators Group, a marketing communications firm in Keene, N.H. He has also served as vice president and director of Marketing for Westbank, a financial institution formerly based in West Springfield.

He said his experience in financial-services marketing and communications will inform his work for Florence Bank. “I have managed the marketing and communications efforts for a number of clients in the banking industry. Those experiences have helped prepare me for this role.”

Hickey holds a bachelor’s degree in English from UMass Amherst. He has experience in areas that include account management, creative development, media-plan execution, and media buying.

He said Florence Bank has a well-established brand, and the challenge for him and the Marketing team moving forward will be paying homage to that brand and evolving it. “Our goal is to keep the brand fresh and take it to the next level.”

Kevin Day, president and CEO of Florence Bank, noted that “Jim is a creative, analytical thinker with a collaborative approach and a proven track record of managing projects from conception to implementation. We are excited to have him on the team.”

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FLORENCE — Twenty-six Hampden County nonprofit leaders attended Florence Bank’s first Zoominar event in mid-October to learn about participation in the bank’s Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program.

The organizations have since launched individual efforts to raise awareness about their missions in hopes of helping them gain votes — and funds — at the bank’s 20th annual Customers’ Choice celebration in May 2022.

“So generous,” said Laurie Flynn, president and CEO of Link to Libraries. “Thank you so much. Florence Bank is such a wonderful community partner.”

Nonprofit leaders who missed the Zoominar and would like a link to the video can contact Erin Defoyd, Marketing Communications manager/officer, at [email protected].

Florence Bank held the informational event as it now has three branches in Hampden County — in West Springfield, Springfield, and Chicopee — and bank leaders want all nonprofits to be aware of the grant program so they can take advantage of the opportunity.

“Part of our mission is philanthropic in nature,” President and CEO Kevin Day told attendees on the Zoominar. “We provide support to the communities we serve in many different ways. Twenty years ago, the bank began asking our customers where some of the bank’s donations dollars should be spent, and our Customers’ Choice program was launched. Listening to customers was a natural extension of how we run our bank.”

Zoominar attendees also heard Defoyd give an overview of the materials in the bank’s Customers’ Choice PR kit and talk specifically about using social media to promote the program. Janice Beetle of Beetle Press, who partners with the bank’s marketing team, talked about how to customize the press-release template.

Monica Curhan, senior vice president and Marketing director, served as moderator and also introduced the managers of the three Hampden County branches: Emily Tower, West Springfield; Nikki Gleason, Springfield; and Kimberly Downing, Chicopee.

To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 votes from Florence Bank customers. In the past 20 years, Florence Bank has donated $1.3 million to 158 nonprofit organizations. In 2020, almost 7,000 votes were cast, and 32 nonprofits accepted grant awards in May, with a total of $100,500 handed out.

These nonprofits attended the Zoominar: Homework House, Litwin School PTO, Square One, Link to Libraries Inc., Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield, Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield, Chicopee Fire Department, Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Greater Holyoke YMCA, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, Kiwanis Club of Springfield, Randall Boys & Girls Club, Revitalize CDC, Rick’s Place, Ronald McDonald House of Springfield, the Gray House Inc., the Parish Cupboard, Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Transitions Through Motion, Valley Opportunity Council, and YMCA of Greater Springfield.

These organizations are listed on the voting page and in a promotional piece being handed to customers in the Hampden County branches through Dec. 31, when voting closes.

The bank’s kit for nonprofits includes an information sheet on the Customers’ Choice program, a sample flyer to display, and a press release leaders can adapt and send to the media. To access the Community Grants Kit, visit www.florencebank.com/customer-choice-kit.

Customers of Florence Bank can vote for a nonprofit by visiting www.florencebank.com/customers-choice-community-grants or voting in a Florence Bank branch.

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank has promoted Lachlan Harris to the position of information security administration officer.

Harris joined Florence Bank in 2016. Prior to his recent promotion, he had served as the information and cybersecurity administrator. In his new role, he will be responsible for security protocols throughout the bank’s information infrastructure. He is a certified information systems security professional and also a member of the Global Information Assurance Certification Advisory Board.

“We are very pleased to announce Lachlan’s promotion,” said Kevin Day, president and CEO of Florence Bank. “Lachlan has proven that he is a visionary within the information-security space, and we are delighted to continue to watch him progress even further in the years to come.”

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank promoted Alicia Valentine to the position of assistant vice president and cash-management relationship officer.

She brings 15 years of banking knowledge to her new position. In this role, she will provide support to the bank’s commercial customer base by utilizing her in-depth knowledge of cash-management products and services while proactively developing existing relationships and new business opportunities.

During her tenure at the bank, Valentine has been the recipient of the President’s Award, which is given to employees who demonstrate superior levels of performance, customer service, and overall contribution to the bank.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Assumption College. She is also an active member of her community, serving as a board member for Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts.

“We are thrilled to announce Alicia’s well-deserved promotion,” said Kevin Day, president and CEO of Florence Bank. “She is a dedicated and valued employee who consistently delivers great results. She is an asset to the bank, and I look forward to watching her progress even further in the years to come.”

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank promoted Jennifer Halpin to the position of assistant vice president, Human Resources and affirmative action manager at the main office in Florence.

Halpin is a seven-year employee of Florence Bank who brings extensive knowledge and skills to her new position, in which she will lead and direct the routine functions of the Human Resources department, including hiring and interviewing, payroll administration, benefits, and overseeing and implementing the bank’s equal-employment opportunity and affirmative-action policies and plans.

During her tenure at the bank, she has been the recipient of the President’s Award, which is given to employees who demonstrate superior levels of performance, customer service, and overall contribution to the bank.

Halpin holds an associate degree in business administration from Berkshire Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UMass Amherst.

“We are thrilled to announce Jen’s well-deserved promotion,” said Kevin Day, president and CEO of Florence Bank. “She is a dedicated and valued employee who consistently delivers great results. She has been an asset to the bank for many years, and I look forward to watching her progress even further in the years to come.”

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank appointed Jenna Rahilly to serve as vice president and Human Resources Operations director. She is a 23-year veteran in the banking industry with 28 years of professional human-resources experience.

Rahilly most recently served as vice president of Human Resources for a local credit union. Her duties included the overall management of the credit union’s human-resources function, which encompassed the development and implementation of policies related to employee relations, organizational development, recruitment, compensation and benefits, training, and human-resources compliance.

“Being deeply rooted within the community in which Florence Bank serves, I have always had an appreciation of the organization and its people,” Rahilly said. “I have always had a deep level of admiration for Florence Bank’s commitment to the community, and I am excited to now be a part of it.”

Rahilly studied at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English.

“We are thrilled to have Jenna join our Florence Bank family,” President and CEO Kevin Day said. “Jenna’s vast knowledge of the communities we serve, coupled with her professional skills and expertise, will be invaluable to the bank. I know we will see excellent contributions from her in the years to come.”

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank will host a Zoominar on Monday, Oct. 18 from 3 to 4 p.m. for nonprofits in Hampden County to introduce them to the bank’s Customers’ Choice Community Grants Program in hopes of helping them gain votes — and funds.

With branches located in West Springfield, Springfield, and Chicopee, bank leaders want organizations in Hampden County to be better acquainted with the innovative grant program so the bank can collaborate more fully in all the communities it serves.

“We want to help organizations get the most out of our program,” bank President and CEO Kevin Day said. “We are excited, too, about celebrating our 20th anniversary in 2022 and want to spread the word about how to help people in our midst.”

Leaders of nonprofits are invited to register for the event by Oct. 12 by e-mailing Erin Defoyd, Marketing Communications manager/officer, at [email protected]. Only those who have registered will receive the Zoom link to attend the webinar.

In 2020, almost 7,000 votes were cast through Customers’ Choice, and 32 nonprofits accepted a grant award in May; a total of $100,500 was handed out. Over 20 years, the bank has awarded $1.3 million to area nonprofits.

To qualify for a community grant, organizations must receive at least 50 votes from Florence Bank customers. The bank has a kit at www.florencebank.com/customer-choice-kit that nonprofits can use to strategize how to gain votes. The kit contains an information sheet on Customers’ Choice, a sample flyer to display, and a press release leaders can adapt and send to the media.

“We want to offer another layer of support to our neighbors in Hampden County, who may be unaware of the program, hence the idea to host the Zoominar,” said Monica Curhan, senior vice president and Marketing director at the bank. “We have some great tips for getting enough votes to qualify for a share of the $100,000 grant money, and we want to share them with organization leaders.”

Hampden County nonprofits who attend the Zoominar will be listed in a promotional piece to be handed to customers in the Hampden County branches from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, thereby increasing awareness of their organization and earning them more potential votes from Florence Bank customers.

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FLORENCE — Florence Bank promoted Andrew Tulis to the position of assistant vice president and Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) officer at the main office in Florence.

Tulis is a 10-year employee of Florence Bank and brings extensive knowledge and skills to his new position. In this role, he will be responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations by developing and adhering to policies and procedures that oversee the bank’s BSA program, anti-money-laundering program, and Office of Foreign Asset Control compliance.

Tulis studied at New York University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He attended the New England School for Financial Studies at Babson College, graduating with honors in 2016.

“We are excited to see Andrew’s career advance with the bank as he begins the role of assistant vice president/BSA officer,” Florence Bank President and CEO Kevin Day said. “His consistent outstanding performance, reliability, and expert knowledge have made him an essential asset to the bank.”