Home Posts tagged Greenfield Cooperative Bank
People on the Move

Jill Monson-Bishop

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recently welcomed Jill Monson-Bishop into the role of Community Development manager. She comes to the ACS with expertise in networking, relationship building, marketing, project management, and more. Prior to joining the American Cancer Society, Monson-Bishop was one of the opening-day team members at MGM Springfield, with responsibilities including internal communications and employee events. She also owns Inspired Marketing, now a consultative marketing agency, but at one time a full-service marketing and event-planning company serving clients such as Smith & Wesson, Adam Quenneville Roofing, and Northwestern Mutual. Previously, she was a radio personality in Western Mass. on stations such as WMAS, Rock 102, WHYN, and more. Community engagement has always been a priority for Monson-Bishop, who, over the years, has been involved with organizations such the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, Square One, YWCA, the Springfield Regional Chamber, the Drama Studio, and more. She is a graduate of Bay Path University with a MBA in entrepreneurial thinking and innovative practices, and she earned her bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies at Westfield State University.

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Jeffrey Neumann

Valley Solar, LLC announced the appointment of Jeffrey Neumann as lead master electrician. Neumann started with Valley Solar in April 2019 and will oversee all electrical operations. Prior to working at Valley Solar, Neumann was the electrical foreman at Hampshire College from 2010 to 2019. There, he supervised a crew of four journeyman electricians and oversaw all aspects of the the college’s Electrical Department, including supervision of crews, planning, budgeting, installations, and maintenance of campus electrical systems. He also oversaw several solar projects while at Hampshire and has performed solar installations involving single-phase residential wiring as well as more complex three-phase commercial projects.

 

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Linda Morgan, an attorney with extensive experience in higher education, has been named vice president and general counsel at Springfield College, effective Aug. 26, President Mary-Beth Cooper announced. Morgan will provide legal counsel and guidance to the leadership of the college and will serve as secretary to its board of trustees. She will be a member of the president’s senior leadership team. Joining Springfield College with 13 years of service as a practicing attorney and more than six years in positions of senior-level organizational management and financial administration, Morgan is well-practiced in providing leadership to institutional compliance with laws and regulations pertinent to higher education, including the Higher Education Opportunity Act, Title IX, FERPA, HIPAA, and the Jeanne Clery Act. She provides experience in broad aspects of law and related matters, including contracts, agreements, litigation, legal investigations, dispute resolution, mediation, business formation, compliance, and management. She is admitted to the bars of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State of New York, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Morgan most recently worked for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, providing expertise in areas of employment-law adjudication and related statutory interpretation. Her previous experience also includes service as associate dean for Gender Equity at Bard College, grant administrator within the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland, and an attorney in private practice. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland University College and a juris doctor from Western New England University School of Law. She has teaching experience as an adjunct professor at Holyoke Community College and Greenfield Community College.

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Jean Deliso

Jean Deliso, CFP has been selected for membership in the Nautilus Group, a service of New York Life. The Nautilus Group is a planning resource comprised of financial professionals experienced in taxes, law, life insurance, accounting, and charitable giving. Deliso’s access to this exclusive resource enables her clients and their other financial advisors to benefit from the group’s collective experience and solutions as they apply to the protection, accumulation, and distribution of wealth to individuals, families, and business owners throughout the country. Deliso is president and owner of Deliso Financial and Insurance Services, a firm focusing on comprehensive financial strategies that position clients for a solid financial future. Her 30-year experience has led to a focus in certain fields, such as cash management, risk management, investment, and retirement planning. She has developed an expertise in assisting business owners with protecting and securing their future. She is also fully committed to educating individuals regarding their finances and frequently conducts workshops advocating financial empowerment. She has been a member of New York Life Chairman’s Council since 2012 and a qualifying member of the Million Dollar Round Table since 1999. Members of the Chairman’s Council rank in the top 3% of New York Life’s sales force of more than 12,000 licensed agents in sales achievement. Deliso currently serves on and is past chairman of the board of the Baystate Health Foundation and the Community Music School of Springfield. She has also served on the board of the YMCA of Greater Springfield and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

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Darcy Fortun

The Ad Club of Western Massachusetts recently recognized the Innovation Series with an award in the Video Series category. The Innovation Series is a documentary-style video series produced by Darcy Fortune, producer for Garvey Communication Associates Inc. (GCAi), for PeoplesBank. The series explored Valley Venture Mentors and some of its more unique entrepreneurial teams. The series was hosted by Matthew Bannister, first vice president of Marketing and Innovation for PeoplesBank. According to the bank’s website, the six-episode Innovation Series was designed and produced with the belief that PeoplesBank can not only be innovative, but help inspire innovation as well. The series garnered considerable media attention, with feature stories appearing in BusinessWest and several other area media outlets, as well as a sizable viewing audience. GCAi also distributed the Innovation Series through social-media channels, where it accumulated almost 400,000 total impressions, 100,000 engagement actions, and 90,000 video views at the time of the award. Fortune’s team included GCAi’s John Garvey as producer, Mary Shea as project manager, and James Garvey as digital dissemination manager. Matthew Derderian served as director of photography. Fortune is an experienced media professional and video producer, having served on assignment desks for both ABC and FOX News affiliates and developed videos and animations for GCAi clients including Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists, Cape Cod Cooperative Bank, MP CPAs, PeoplesBank, Peter Pan Bus Lines, and Winchester Savings Bank. She also just released two new pro bono videos for the Children’s Study Home and Wild Care of Cape Cod.

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Yvonne De Faoite

Elms College announced it will host an Irish Fulbright language teaching assistant (FLTA) during the 2019-20 academic year. Yvonne De Faoite of Limerick, Ireland, will teach Irish (Gaelic) language and culture. The Irish FLTA position is co-sponsored by the Irish Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts. De Faoite earned her primary teaching degree from Froebel College of Education in 2008. In 2012, she spent a year in Australia, where she gained international teaching experience. She recently completed a master’s degree in Irish immersion education from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. Prior to that, she completed a diploma in educational leadership in University College Dublin. De Faoite’s educational interests include immersion and second-language acquisition. As a Fulbright Irish FLTA, she will teach the Irish language and culture to Elms College students and to community members through the Irish Cultural Center. She will also take classes at Elms.

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Robert Burnell has been appointed executive chef of all dining venues at the Red Lion Inn. In his new role, Burnell oversees the day-to-day culinary operations of the main dining room, Widow Bingham’s Tavern, the Lion’s Den, and the seasonally open courtyard. In addition, Burnell will collaborate with Brian Alberg, vice president of Culinary Development, on all future food- and beverage-related development, including specialty menus for Red Lion guests and private parties. With nearly 20 years in the food, beverage, and hospitality industries, Burnell was previously executive chef at Gedney Farm in Marlborough. With a passion for clean cooking and eating, coupled with expertise in modern food trends, Burnell revamped menus to incorporate locally sourced items, along with gluten-free, vegetarian, and keto options for diners. He also strived to deliver exceptional client experiences for weddings, community events, and private dining. Additional hospitality experience includes five years as a property developer for Berkshire Hotels Group, during which he implemented construction projects for both hotels and restaurants.

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Sean Sormanti

Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Cooperative Bank, announced that Sean Sormanti has joined the bank as senior vice president – Human Resources. Most recently, Sormanti was director of Human Resources at Strategic Information Resources in Springfield. In his new role, he will be responsible for recruiting, planning, coordinating, and managing the activities of the bank’s Human Resources department. He will be based at 63 Federal St. in Greenfield. Sormanti has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine. He currently holds a professional in human resources certificate and is an active member of the Western Mass. chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.

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Joseph Baker

 

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) announced that Joseph Baker has joined its team as vice president of Finance and Administration. He will oversee finances, investments, human resources, and operations for the $152 million foundation. Baker previously served in leadership roles at other community foundations for 13 years, most recently as vice president of Finance and chief financial officer at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. Before that, he was director of Finance and Administration at the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. He brings to BTCF a background in nonprofit finance and development, as the former head of a United Way and a nonprofit service organization. He also developed Danbury Children First, a parent-led community initiative. Baker earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in economics and Spanish from Colby College.

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Bob Cummings has been re-elected to serve as president of the National Assoc. of Professional Benefits Administrators (NAPBA). A  NAPBA trustee since 2007, Cummings was first elected NAPBA president in 2015, and has been an instrumental force in the emergence of the consumer-directed healthcare industry over the past 20 years, orchestrating the growth of NAPBA as the primary compliance-standards and best-practice organization for third-party employee-benefits administrators serving the consumer-directed healthcare industry. As CEO and founder of American Benefits Group (ABG), a leading national employee-benefits administrator located in Northampton, Cummings has been a pioneer of the consumer-directed healthcare industry before the term even existed. ABG was one of the first administrators of flexible spending accounts (FSAs) in 1989 along with COBRA, billing-administration, and commuter-benefit accounts in the 1990s. When health savings accounts (HSA) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRA) were enabled under the Internal Revenue Code in 2002, ABG was one of the early leaders in administering consumer-directed healthcare plan designs. As pre-tax, account-based plans became a linchpin of most employer benefit-plan designs along with high-deductible health plans, NAPBA was founded to promote compliance and best-practice standards in the administration of pre-tax, account-based plans. All NAPBA member organizations are third-party administrators focused on the administration and service of employer-sponsored plans for consumer-directed pre-tax accounts such as FSAs, HSAs, HRAs, and commuter benefits, as well as COBRA administration services. Collectively NAPBA member organizations provide services to more than 30 million employee healthcare consumers nationwide.

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Richard Venne, president and CEO of Viability, announced longtime staffer Richard Horton’s promotion to vice president of Administration and Finance. Horton joined Community Enterprises, one of the nonprofits that merged to become Viability, in July 2008 as director of Community Staffing. Before joining Viability as a staff member, he had executed consulting work to revive and re-engineer the Community Staffing operations. Over the next decade, his role expanded, first becoming director of Financial Planning and then associate vice president of Administration and Finance. He is known throughout the organization for serving as project manager for the implementation of Viability’s electronic health record and outcomes-management system. Two years ago, during the merger of Community Enterprises and Human Resources Unlimited into Viability, he led the effort to bring the infrastructure of the organizations together, focusing on technology and facilities. Entering its third year as Viability, the agency’s focus is on the creation, integration, standardization, and improvement of systems and processes. In his new role, Horton will play a central role in helping achieve that goal.

Banking and Financial Services

Steady Course

President and CEO Michael Tucker

President and CEO Michael Tucker

Like most all bank presidents in the 413, Michael Tucker would concede that a great many of the region’s communities are heavily populated with financial institutions, or “overbanked,” to use the term most would put into play.

He’s inclined to include Greenfield on that list, and gestures out the window of his office to make his point. “They used to call the other end of the street Bank Row,” he said, referring to a stretch of Federal Street now occupied by what once were stately bank offices, many of them redeveloped for other uses. “They really should call this Bank Row now.”

Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Cooperative Bank (GCB) and Northampton Cooperative Bank (the two institutions merged in 2015, and the former name was kept) was referencing the number of competitors who call a different stretch of Federal Street home, and it’s a large number.

But, unlike most of the other bank leaders who bemoan the overbanked nature of this region, Tucker sees the landscape through a slightly different lens.

“Some bankers would say we’re overbanked; I would say we have choices,” he explained. “It forces you to be more competitive, and it gives people choices. It doesn’t hurt to have competition — otherwise, you get complacent.”

So perhaps all that competition should get some of the credit for what has been a consistent pattern of growth for the bank, especially since Tucker took the helm at GCB in 2003. Since then, the bank has seen assets rise from roughly $175 million to more than $630 million, its branch count soar from three to 10, and its commercial-lending portfolio take a quantum leap.

Overall, the bank’s strategy has been to gradually expand its footprint in Franklin and Hampshire counties, growing mostly via the organic route (although the merger with Northampton Coop certainly accelerated that process), and achieve more of the size that is needed to thrive in today’s banking landscape.

The plan also calls for seizing opportunities when and where they arise, which brings us to the institution’s latest expansion effort — a branch in South Hadley at the Woodlawn Shopping Plaza that will bear a Northampton Cooperative sign over the door and open next January.

Formerly a Bank of America branch — that institution has been closing a good number of facilities in recent years — the new location gives Greenfield Coop presence in another Hampshire County community, but one that enables it to serve residents of several nearby Hampden County cities, especially Chicopee and Holyoke.

The plan for the foreseeable future is summed up neatly in the bank’s annual report, issued just a few weeks ago.

“Our primary strategy remains to look for prudent and measured organic growth right here in Western Massachusetts,” Tucker wrote in the report, noting that many of those aforementioned competitors have ventured into Central Mass., Connecticut, or both. “We need to remain a lean organization, especially in light of the growth of mobile and electronic banking in today’s world. Our branch strategy recognizes the new world order with the continued growth of the internet.”

Michael Tucker says the GCB branch is just one of many banks located on Federal Street

Michael Tucker says the GCB branch is just one of many banks located on Federal Street, a proliferation that provides competition, which he believes makes his bank better.

For this issue and its focus on banking and financial services, BusinessWest asked Tucker to elaborate on all those points and essentially draft a quick blueprint of the bank’s plans for the future. In a nutshell, it simply calls for more of what of what the bank has been achieving under his leadership — smart growth.

Points of Interest

Tucker said he ventured into banking, if that’s the word for it, while he was in law school at Western New England University.

He took a teller’s job at the institution known then as Springfield Institution for Savings (SIS), while attending night classes, not knowing this would be his employer for some time to come.

He remembers his first boss, John Collins, telling him that his law degree could be put to good use in the banking industry.

“He said, ‘I have a lot MBAs who could use some help, because we have this new thing called compliance,’” he recalled, referring specifically to the Truth in Lending Simplification Act of 1981. “That was my first foray into banking law.”

He took the title ‘counsel and compliance officer,’ and later worked his way up to senior vice president and general counsel. When Peoples Heritage acquired SIS, Tucker, like many others, was soon out of work, but he eventually landed at what is now bankESB for several years before being recruited to lead GCB.

When he arrived in Greenfield, he took over one of the smallest banks in the region with a simple goal — “I told the board I was going to keep this place mutual and hopefully leave it a better bank than I found it” — and set about a course of steady if unspectacular growth, which was by design, as he explained with a little humor.

“Our growth is roughly 4% to 6% a year,” he noted. “If we were a stock bank, they would have thrown me out the door. Because we’re a mutual bank, we can take our time. Where I see banks get in trouble is when they try to grow too fast and lose sight of their basic principles.”

GCB hasn’t done that, and its strategic goal — and operating philosophy — are summed up by its web domain name, www.bestlocalbank.com, and a comment from the annual report. “As I’ve often said before, we’ll probably never be the biggest bank,” Tucker wrote. “But we always strive to be the best bank in Western Massachusetts.”

During Tucker’s tenure, the bank has, as noted, expanded to 10 branches. There are two in Amherst (although they will soon be consolidated; more on that later), one in Florence, another in Northampton, two in Greenfield, as well as a commercial and residential and loan-services facility, and single locations in Northfield, Shelburne Falls, Sunderland, and Turners Falls.

Meanwhile, it has also greatly expanded its commercial-lending team and its commercial portfolio, which, like that at many banks in the region, is dominated by commercial real-estate loans, but also reflects the diversity of the local economy, especially in the bank’s hometown.

Indeed, this is an intriguing time for Greenfield, said Tucker, noting that the community once dominated economically by manufacturing has varied its economy, making great strides in technology and hospitality.

“Our growth is roughly 4% to 6% a year. If we were a stock bank, they would have thrown me out the door. Because we’re a mutual bank, we can take our time. Where I see banks get in trouble is when they try to grow too fast and lose sight of their basic principles.”

“There is a lot of energy in the town,” he said. “We have the new courthouse and the new parking garage; they opened the Olver [Transit Center], and there have been many other new developments.”

Still, this region, and especially Franklin County, where many communities are struggling to maintain population and especially young people, would be considered a low- or no-growth area, he acknowledged, meaning growth is a challenge for any financial institution.

This is why many area banks, as he noted in his annual-report comments, have ventured into Connecticut, Central Mass., or both, and why others have grown through acquisition or merger.

GCB has done some of that with its merger with Northampton Coop, a move that Tucker described as “logical” for both institutions because of that overbanked nature of this sector, and the lack of population growth in Franklin County.

“That’s why we looked at Hampshire County and why I talked to Northampton [Coop],” he explained. “It would have been silly for us to build another branch down in Hampshire County and fight 10 other banks for the money when we can partner with another bank.

“That worked out well for everyone because we didn’t have to lay anyone off,” he went on, adding that he spends one day a week in Northampton at that division of the institution. “It was a smooth transition. We were both very small — and we’re still one of the smaller banks — but we now have more size, and that helps. It was a good merger.”

By All Accounts

As he talked about his bank’s branch strategy, Tucker reached for his cell phone and held it aloft.

“This is our fastest-growing branch,” he said, noting that internet banking is becoming an ever-stronger force in this sector.

But brick-and-mortar branches are obviously still needed, he went on, adding that they probably don’t need to be as large as they once were, and they are far less transaction-oriented than they once were.

But they serve an important purpose in that they give a bank a presence and enable it to better serve customers in a particular region or community.

Which brings us to the new South Hadley branch.

The most logical expansion point for the bank moving forward is probably Hampden County, said Tucker, adding that the South Hadley branch provides an opportunity to make some strides in that direction.

Tucker found the branch while on one of his many drives around the area looking for opportunities.

“We keep our eyes open, and I drive around the area a lot and take a look at the communities,” he explained. “South Hadley was a community that I thought had some upside, and I was surprised when I read that Bank of America was closing that branch because they had a fair amount of deposits in that office.

“With this branch, we can serve some customers that we have already in Springfield and Chicopee,” he went on. “But it also gets us to reach a base in South Hadley that BOA is telling, ‘if you want to bank with us, you have to drive over here.’”

BOA’s departure will ultimately lead to GCB’s arrival, specifically its Northampton Coop division, said Tucker, adding that, while moving into South Hadley, the bank will continue to look for other growth opportunities as well as ways to become the ‘leaner organization’ he mentioned in the annual report.

Toward that end, the bank will consolidate its two branches in Amherst into one, a nod to the fact that specific branches are simply handling fewer transactions these days.

“When I was a teller in Forest Park [for SIS], we had seven or eight tellers plus a manager and an assistant manager,” he noted, turning the clock back four decades or so. “People were lined up out the door — we didn’t have deposit — and everyone came in to cash their Social Security checks on the first of the month.”

Elaborating, he said the branches in Amherst that saw 10,000 transactions a month several years ago were down to 5,000 maybe five years ago, and are now seeing roughly 3,000 a month, thanks to ever-advancing technology.

This phenomenon will eventually lead to fewer branches, and, more immediately, smaller facilities.

“The industry is moving in that direction,” he said while again holding his phone aloft and explaining it is now a branch itself in most all respects. “But I don’t think branches will be obsolete; they will be smaller and leaner.”

As for future expansion geographically, Tucker said GCB will continue to look for potential landing spots. “We’ll continue to look south and possibly east to Worcester County,” he told BusinessWest. “A lot depends on what happens; with some of the branches we’ve opened, I didn’t anticipate doing it at that time, as in Turners Falls, but the opportunity arose.”

Bottom Line

In his annual-report statement, Tucker noted that, over the past 114 years, GCB has had three basic operating slogans.

It’s gone from ‘Traditional, Progressive, Locally Focused,’ to ‘In the Community, for the Community,’ to the current ‘Come on Over to the Coop.’

The words are different, but they say the same thing, essentially — that this isn’t the biggest bank on a block crowded with other banks, but it strives to be best, and it’s generally successful in that mission.

This is the strategy that has worked since Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, and there isn’t any sentiment to change it, said Tucker, because it works, not only for the community, but for the institution as well.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]m