Home Posts tagged Greenfield Savings Bank
Daily News

Shandra Richardson

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) promoted Shandra Richardson to chief operating officer and senior vice president. She will direct all aspects of the bank’s operations, which include compliance, retail banking, marketing, deposit, electronic, and consumer loan operations, as well as developing and implementing new policies and procedures for the organizational systems management.

“In the two years since Shandra joined Greenfield Savings Bank as senior Operations officer, she has been a leader in improving the efficiency and functionality of the many departments under her control,” said Thomas Meshako, president and CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank. “One of Shandra’s first successes was the complete transformation of the Customer Contact Center to dramatically shorten hold times, expand the team’s skill set, and implement technology to route calls to respective agents based on expertise and customer need. Shandra is helping our bank build the infrastructure it needs to improve the overall customer experience.”

Richardson has worked in the banking industry for more than 17 years. A UMass Amherst graduate, she received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and then went on to earn an MBA along with completing leadership and lean methodology executive education courses. She prides herself on being a lifetime learner and is continuously looking for ways to enhance her skills and those of the teams that she leads.

Since joining GSB and moving to Western Mass. from Boston, Richardson has volunteered in numerous local causes, and in October, she joined the board of directors of Safe Passage. She also serves as a member of the Harvard Business Review advisory council, an opt-in research community of business professionals.

Daily News

EASTHAMPTON — Greenfield Savings Bank has contributed $5,000 to the Chamber of Greater Easthampton’s co-workspace project, WorkHub on Union. This partnership underscores the shared dedication of both organizations to empower local entrepreneurs and enhance the overall prosperity of the Greater Easthampton community.

WorkHub on Union seeks to establish a dynamic hub where local professionals, creative minds, and innovators can converge. This project is envisioned to foster collaboration, idea exchange, and networking among individuals representing diverse industries.

The donation from Greenfield Savings Bank reflects its commitment to nurturing initiatives that contribute to the holistic well-being of the community. This collaboration symbolizes the mutual resolve of Greenfield Savings Bank and the chamber to promote entrepreneurial spirit and offer resources that uplift local businesses and residents.

“As a local community financial institution, we are committed to supporting the communities that we serve and our local small businesses that make those communities thrive,” said Tara Brewster, vice president of Business Development and director of Philanthropy at Greenfield Savings Bank. “As an incubator to local businesses, WorkHub on Union will provide local entrepreneurs with a productive environment to succeed and collaborate, helping to grow and strengthen the local economy.”

Moe Belliveau, executive director of the Chamber of Greater Easthampton, added that “we are incredibly grateful for the generous contribution from Greenfield Savings Bank. WorkHub on Union is not just a co-workspace; it’s a platform for our community members to unite, collaborate, and pave the way for collective success.”

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Peter Albero has been appointed chief financial officer and treasurer of Greenfield Savings Bank. He will be responsible for all aspects of financial operations of the bank, including internal and external financial reporting, investments, and asset and liability management.

“Peter brings a wealth of experience to our bank,” President and CEO Thomas Meshako said. “His knowledge and experience in the industry and his commitment to our mission of community banking will help us continue to grow and maintain our profitability.”

Albero joins the bank with more than 35 years in the financial industry. Most recently, he served as chief financial officer at Salisbury Bank & Trust. In addition, he has been a risk advisory consultant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, where he designed and implemented financial and risk data reconciliations for foreign banks. For more than 26 years, he worked at Morgan Stanley in a variety of senior roles in the Financial Controller group. He is also a licensed CPA in New York.

Albero has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Manhattan College and an MBA in finance and international business from New York University.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) promoted Panna Royal to the position of senior vice president and chief information officer. As CIO, she will oversee the operations of the Information Technology (IT) department, including the planning, management, implementation, support, and the security of the bank’s information and computer technologies.

“Technology is essential to the successful operation of the bank,” said Thomas Meshako, President and CEO of Greenfield Savings. “Panna’s experience working in the financial industry and her leadership and project-management skills, combined with her in-depth knowledge of IT, assure that our bank will continue to offer efficient IT services and build a robust long-term strategy.”

Royal joined GSB in November 2019 as senior network administrator with more than 25 years of experience working in IT. In 2020, she was promoted to the position of vice president and senior network administrator in the IT department. In 2022, she became senior technical program and compliance manager in the Operations department, implementing and overseeing the project-management program for the bank.

Royal and her team will support the bank with technology solutions to help the organization continue to provide customers with an outstanding user experience. She will also oversee training programs for upgrades and system changes, ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, and oversee the hiring and training of the IT department. She will manage the implementation and maintenance of existing information systems and will develop the bank’s information-technology roadmap for the future.

Franklin County

Putting the Focus on Community

Thomas Meshako

Thomas Meshako says Greenfield Savings Bank plans to grow organically and with a strategic expansion of its footprint.

Thomas Meshako acknowledged it was a quite a change moving from the large, regional institutions where he worked the first 30 or so years of his career in financial services to Greenfield Savings Bank.

But it’s a change he wanted.

“I decided I wanted to get out of the buying and selling of banks and really wanted to become part of the community — something I always felt was missing when you’re working in a bank and dealing with mergers and acquisitions and always trying to make the next quarter’s earnings,” he said, noting that most of the banks he’s worked for have been absorbed by larger institutions. “I wanted to be at a bank where we invested in the future, for the long haul, and that cares about the community it serves.”

He’s found all that GSB, where he arrived in 2016 as chief financial officer and serves now as president and CEO, new titles he was awarded late last fall following the search for a successor to John Howland.

Since arriving, and especially since becoming president and CEO, Meshako has been out in the community, taking part in events ranging from the Hatfield Bonfire music festival fundraiser to Northampton’s Pride Parade to Tapestry Health’s recent auction. As he talked with BusinessWest, he was gearing up for the Green River Festival, the massive three-day music fest (Little Feat is among the headliners) set for June 23-25 in Greenfield; the bank is a major sponsor.

He’s been at so many events, especially on weekends, that he’s spending far less time at his cabin in Vermont than he expected to be, but he acknowledged that “this is where I need to be.” By that, he meant Greenfield and GSB, an institution that crashed through the $1 billion assets mark in 2020 and is now focused on the next milestones — $1.5 billion and $2 billion — and what it will take to get there.

“When I looked at Greenfield Savings, I decided that it’s where I wanted to be. It’s a little different, but it’s exciting to work for a bank that was growing.”

The bank was celebrating its 150th anniversary when it passed the $1 billion milestone; when asked when he thought GSB might get to $2 billion, he joked, “sooner than 150 years.”

Elaborating, and turning more serious, Meshako said the bank plans to grow organically, and he is looking at expanding its footprint, specifically in Hampshire County, where five of its 10 branches are located. He didn’t pinpoint specific communities for new branches, but did say they would be towns deemed ‘underbanked’ by recent feasibility studies.

Meanwhile, GSB will be rolling out some new products, including a new rewards program for debit-card users, and continually upgrading its technology, with a new online product for loans and deposits, for example, to stay current and provide customers with what they want and need.

“Most people are looking for more convenience to bank from home, and we’re trying to make sure we offer that,” he said, adding quickly that brink-and-mortar branches, which provide visibility and other forms of convenience, are still a big part of GSB’s growth strategy.

For this issue and its focus on Franklin County, BusinessWest talked at length with Meshako about his new role, his long-term outlook for GSB, and his thoughts on Greenfield, Franklin County, and how this gem of a region is making major strides when it comes to economic development — and as a destination.


Generating Interest

As he talked with BusinessWest, Meshako gestured out the windows of GSB’s main conference room toward the other side of Main Street and the properties on either side of the Greenfield Garden Cinemas, one of the signature redevelopment projects of the past decade in this community.

“Just a few years ago, most of those storefronts were vacant,” he said, noting that they are now occupied, with everything from a book shop to a pop-up store that are, collectively, contributing to a new sense of progress and vibrancy in this city of almost 18,000 residents.

The GSB senior management team

The GSB senior management team includes, from left, Lori Grover, Mark Grumoli, Thomas Meshako, Steve Hamlin, and Shandra Richardson.

And there is more coming, he said, noting the highly anticipated redevelopment of the former Wilson’s Department Store, a few blocks down Main Street from the bank, into a mix of retail (specifically the Green Fields Market) and housing, which he believes is sorely needed in this community.

“Availability of housing is very tight in Greenfield and all of Franklin and Hampshire counties,” he explained. “This is something we desperately need, and that’s one of the reasons why this project is so exciting.”

Getting involved in a community at this level was an element missing for most of Meshako’s career, one that, as noted earlier, was marked mostly by work at larger, regional banks that have since been absorbed by larger institutions.

Most recently, he served as chief financial officer of Merchants Bancshares in Burlington, Vt., a commercial bank with branches throughout Vermont and the Springfield market. Prior to that, he served in several positions, including principal financial officer, at Brookline Bancorp in Boston. There were also stints at Union Bankshares in Vermont and Chittenden Corp. and the institution that acquired it, People’s United Financial.

After nearly three years at Merchants Bancshares, Meshako was a looking for a new and different challenge, and found it at GSB.

“When I looked at Greenfield Savings, I decided that it’s where I wanted to be,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s a little different, but it’s exciting to work for a bank that was growing.”

And it has continued that growth pattern, he said, noting that the bank posted record earnings in 2021 and 2022. It won’t continue that streak this year amid spiraling interest rates that are negatively impacting both the residential and commercial loan portfolios and tightening margins, but it will be another solid year, he said.

And while achieving solid growth on the bottom line, the bank has also been able to increase its contributions within the community by 10% a year since he arrived — a pattern of improvement Meshako is committed to continuing.

Looking ahead, he said the bank has essentially ruled out additional expansion in Franklin County, where there are currently five branches, and instead will focus its sights on Hampshire County, where GSB currently has a physical presence in Northampton (two branches), Amherst (two branches), and Hadley (one location).

“We’re always the number-one lender in Franklin County, and we’re now the fourth-largest lender in Hampshire County,” he explained. “And we hope to continue to grow that market share as well. Within the Five College community, there is a need for housing, and being primarily a commercial real-estate lender, that’s a niche that I think we can fill; we’ve done very well there.”

GSB has conducted feasibility studies on which communities would make suitable landing spots, he went on, adding that he considers some communities underbanked because of some of the recent mergers and acquisitions which have left fewer banks in some markets and larger institutions in others.

In the case of community banks, and especially this one, the investment — and the commitment — in a new location involves much more than brick and mortar that goes into the actual branch building.

“We don’t just put a branch up … when we move into a community, we give to the local organizations, we hire local people, and we try to make sure that everything we do makes us part of that community,” he explained. “So it’s more expensive than just opening a branch or putting people in a location.”


By All Accounts

Getting back to that view out the conference-room windows, Meshako said Greenfield, and Franklin County as a whole, is seeing progress on many fronts, from tourism to Greenfield’s downtown, which has many new businesses and projects in various stages of development, from a new town library and fire station to the aforementioned Wilson’s redevelopment initiative.

“Greenfield is on its way up; it has a lot of character, and I hope it continues to grow and evolve,” he told BusinessWest, citing not only the new building projects and the new storefronts, but a greater livability — and relative affordability — that is attracting residents and entrepreneurs alike. “The people moving here want to be part of a community, and that’s what they find — community.”

And he believes more people are finding it these days, and will be finding it in the future, especially as technology, and changing attitudes in the workplace, enable more people to live where they want and work where they want at the same time.

“Because more people are now able to work remotely, we’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of people buying properties and moving to Greenfield,” he said, adding that, while this trend will certainly impact housing prices in the long run, it will also bring more support businesses, hospitality-related ventures, and general vibrancy to the region.

As Meshako talks about his bank, its plans for the future, and its involvement in the community, and also as he talks about Greenfield and the many positive developments there, it’s clear why he made that career change seven years ago.

As he said, he wanted to be at a bank that didn’t just have a mailing address on Main Street, but a stake in everything that that is happening on Main Street — and many other streets as well.

As Meshako said, it was a big change, but a change he wanted — and needed — to make.

And he has never looked back.

Banking and Financial Services

Taking the Reins


Thomas Meshako

Thomas Meshako

Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) announced the appointment of Thomas Meshako as president and CEO. He brings to the role more than 40 years of experience in the financial-services industry in New England. He joined GSB in 2016 as treasurer and chief financial officer, and will continue in those roles as well until his replacement is hired.

Meshako was appointed by the board of directors after previous President and CEO John Howland’s resignation was accepted by the board of directors.

“I want to thank John Howland for his more than seven years as the head of the bank,” Meshako said. “John’s leadership and direction throughout the unprecedented time of the pandemic and his dedicated and genuine commitment to the communities we serve solidified the bank’s reputation as a community leader. We are grateful for his contributions to the bank and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Howland took over as president and CEO in 2015 from Rebecca Caplice, who had served in that role since 2006. Before joining Greenfield Savings, Howland was president of two banks, most recently the First Bank of Greenwich, based in Greenwich, Conn. He has worked in the financial-services field his entire career and holds a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and a juris doctor degree from the University of Maine School of Law.

Meshako, who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Bentley University in 1982, is a resident of Greenfield, where he lives with his wife, Mary Ann. They have three adult daughters.

Founded in 1869, Greenfield Savings Bank has 180 employees and offices and ATMs throughout Franklin and Hampshire counties. Its branches are located in Greenfield, Amherst, Conway, Hadley, Northampton, Shelburne Falls, South Deerfield, and Turners Falls.

The bank operates the only trust and investment management company headquartered in Franklin County. Total assets under management, including both the bank and the investment management company, exceed $1.4 billion.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank announced the appointment of Thomas Meshako as president and CEO. He was appointed by the board of directors after John Howland’s resignation was accepted by the board of directors. Meshako has more than 40 years of experience in the financial-services industry in New England. He joined the bank in 2016 as treasurer and CFO and will continue in those roles as well until his replacement is hired.

“I want to thank John Howland for his more than seven years as the head of the bank,” said Meshako said. “John’s leadership and direction throughout the unprecedented time of the pandemic and his dedicated and genuine commitment to the communities we serve solidified the bank’s reputation as a community leader. We are grateful for his contributions to the bank and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) recently announced six employee appointments and promotions.

Jocelyn Alvord was promoted to manager at the Shelburne Falls branch office. She will be responsible for overseeing the operations of the branch. She has been with GSB since 2015, starting as a teller and then quickly moving up to super banker in the new GSB office in Hadley. She was promoted to assistant manager in the Hadley branch before moving back to Shelburne Falls, where she has been serving as assistant branch manager.

Alvord actively participates in civic and charitable events such as Moonlight Magic and the Bridge of Flowers Road Races in Shelburne Falls and Monte’s March for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. She has volunteered at the Shelburne Falls Visitor Center and helped coordinate the Giving Tree Program with the Mary Lyons Foundation to provide holiday gifts to local educators.

She is a graduate of Leadership Pioneer Valley (LEAP), an intensive program where she learned how to provide community engagement and support for emerging leaders in the Pioneer Valley. She worked in the LEAP program with a team of young professionals to bring attention and additional sales to BIPOC- and women-owned local businesses. In addition, she attended CFT Manager Boot Camp and completed CFT classes (focusing on the principles of banking, consumer lending, human relations, and customer excellence). She holds the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. branch-management certification.

Sherie Lewis has been named vice president and Operations officer. In her new role, she oversees the Deposit and Loan Operations teams including deposit processing, operations administration and quality control, digital, and loan operations. She is leading a variety of projects to enhance the bank’s use of technology, improve automation, and increase efficiency. In addition, she works closely with other departments of the bank to ensure seamless operation and regulatory compliance. She joined GSB with more than 20 years of banking experience.

A 2018 graduate of New England School for Financial Studies, Lewis is now currently enrolled at the American Bankers Assoc. Stonier Graduate School of Banking, which provides graduates with both a Stonier diploma and a Wharton leadership certificate.

Lisa McKenna has been promoted to assistant vice president and Conway branch manager. She has worked at GSB for more than 30 years, starting as a teller in 1988 at the main office in Greenfield. She then worked in GSB’s Customer Service department and was previously manager of Greenfield and South Deerfield. She was most recently assistant vice president and the branch manager for South Deerfield and Conway before shifting exclusively to Conway’s branch manager.

McKenna is very active in the local community, volunteering for the Franklin County chapter of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, the Greenfield Kiwanis Club, and the South Deerfield Women’s Club. After graduating from Greenfield High School, she joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving two years of active duty followed by six additional years in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Josh Mozeleski has been named investment officer and Infinex investment executive. In his role as Infinex investment executive, he will be able to offer access to insurance and investment products through Infinex Investments. He joins GSB as a securities registered investment executive with more than nine years in the banking industry. He obtained a Massachusetts individual producer license as well as both the FINRA Series 6 and Series 63 registrations, plus a Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry license. He is also a Massachusetts notary public.

Mozeleski earned his bachelor’s degree from American International College and an associate degree from Springfield Technical Community College. An active volunteer in the community, he has previously helped organize a food drive at Open Pantry Community Services in Springfield. Most recently, he helped run his local Toys for Tots program.

Vyeluv “Mpress” Nembhard joined Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) in May as a CRA analyst and Community Outreach officer. She assists the vice president of Compliance/CRA officer in creating and updating financial aid outreach presentations to a wide range of community partners, businesses, schools, and customers, focusing on low- to moderate-income applicants and minority/women-owned businesses.

Nembhard is active in the local community, including being a commissioner of Greenfield’s Human Rights Commission, a member of the Greenfield Cultural Council, and CEO of her nonprofit, UACSAM. She also produces the “Moving Mountains Media” program on Greenfield Community Television. She most recently organized Greenfield’s first annual Juneteenth cultural and youth event celebration. She is taking business courses at Greenfield Community College with a goal of obtaining her bachelor’s degree in business/entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst.

Finally, Kimberly Zabek has been promoted to Greenfield Savings Bank’s South Deerfield branch manager and officer. In that role, she oversees the branch’s daily responsibilities, focusing on local business development. She continues to help build relationships with bank customers and assist with their day-to-day banking. She has been in banking for more than 25 years and with Greenfield Savings Bank for more than 10 years, most recently serving as the assistant branch manager in Hadley.

In addition to her managerial role, Zabek has been featured in many of the bank’s advertisements, including voicing certain radio spots, in GSB Teller Connect/ATMs and e-statement promotional videos, and on the Teller Connect/ATM welcome screens. Recently, she voiced animated videos for a GSB career fair. She also represents the bank at community events around the Pioneer Valley, such as the Northampton and Greenfield Pride events, the Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton, and Moonlight Magic in Shelburne Falls.

Class of 2022

She’s Put Her ‘Superpowers’ to Use to Help Those in Need


Leah Martin Photography

Tara Brewster says she’s probably bought more than 100 copies of the children’s book — and given them all away. She joked that she’s waiting for the author to call and thank her for her consistent support.

It’s called The Three Questions, and it’s based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. It’s about a young boy named Nikolai who sometimes feels uncertain about the right way to act. So he devises three questions to help him know what to do:

• When is the best time to do things?

• Who is the most important one?

• What is the right thing to do?

He then commences asking several different animal characters for the answers, and by book’s end he’s still asking, although one of those characters, a turtle, points out that, through the course of some recent actions — and especially his efforts to save an injured panda and its child — Nikolai had answered the questions himself.

Those answers are: ‘there is only one important time, and that time is now,’ ‘the most important one is always the one you are with,’ and ‘the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.’

And these, the turtle notes, are the answers to “what is most important in this world — why we are here.”

Brewster says the book and its message are more than a fun, informational, and inspirational story. The Three Questions sums up quickly and effectively how she has lived her life to this point — and what drives her, if you will, to lend her time and talents to several area nonprofits as a board member, cheerleader, and relentless fundraiser.

“These are questions that I really fall back on a lot in a day,” she explained. “They’re really simple, and they just help me think about what am I doing, who am I impacting, and when am I supposed to be doing the thing that matters most. When I get really stressed out and start thinking, I should do doing this, and I should be doing this, I realize that I can only focus on one thing at a time, and it’s the thing that you’re doing that you should be putting your heart and soul into.”

Brewster, who seems to possess enough energy to power all of Northampton by herself, is involved as a board member with several nonprofits in that area, ranging from the Downtown Northampton Assoc. (DNA) to the Hampshire Regional YMCA; from Double Edge Theatre to Cutchins Programs for Children and Familes.

“I can honestly say that I have never met anyone so dedicated to helping those that are less fortunate in our community than Tara. I’ve seen so many people join local not-for-profit boards for networking opportunities or to strengthen one’s résumé. Unlike anyone I’ve ever met, Tara works tirelessly to gain support and funding for the organizations that she serves.”

But she also volunteers for, and helps fundraise for, the Food Bank of Wester Massachusetts and Monte’s March, Tapestry Development Committee, Safe Passage and its Hot Chocolate Run, and the Cancer Connection and its Mother’s Day Half Marathon.

But it’s not what she does that makes her a Difference Maker, although that’s part of it, but how she does it. Bill Grinnell, president of Webber & Grinnell Insurance, who nominated her for this honor, explained it this way:

“I can honestly say that I have never met anyone so dedicated to helping those that are less fortunate in our community than Tara. I’ve seen so many people join local not-for-profit boards for networking opportunities or to strengthen one’s résumé. Unlike anyone I’ve ever met, Tara works tirelessly to gain support and funding for the organizations that she serves.”

To get some perspective on those comments, one needs only to listen to Brewster as she talks about how she set out to become the top fundraiser for the Hot Chocolate Run, and then made the goal reality.

Tara Brewster, right, poses for a promotional photo for the Treehouse Foundation’s ‘Stir Up Some Love’ fundraiser with A.J. Bresciano

Tara Brewster, right, poses for a promotional photo for the Treehouse Foundation’s ‘Stir Up Some Love’ fundraiser with A.J. Bresciano, first vice president and commercial lender at Greenfield Savings Bank, and Julie Kumble, director of Strategic Partnerships & Development for the foundation.

“Safe Passage has a leaderboard every year, and since I started doing the Hot Chocolate Run in 2009, it’s been my goal to be number one on the leaderboard,” she said. “And two years ago, I finally got there. How did I do that? I asked, and I asked, and I asked people that I knew — friends, family, those in the community — to donate to Safe Passage to help deal with domestic violence.

“That’s what it comes down to: doing what you can, and using your superpowers to help others,” she went on. “And everyone has the power to do something, some good, every day.”

Because she uses her power every single day, it seems, Brewster has earned her place in the Difference Makers class of 2020.


Buy the Book

Brewster grew up Florence, not far from where she lives now, which was certainly “not the plan,” she said.

She told BusinessWest that many of those she grew up with were firm of the belief that one had to leave this area to achieve whatever dreams they had made for themselves. And she came to that belief herself.

But her desired next destination was certainly different than most others had in mind.

“I wanted to go to Montana — I think Wyoming and Montana are my two favorites,” she recalled, adding that she had already been to several states by the time she was in high school, and had determined that the Rocky Mountain region was where she wanted to go to college. “I thought I would like Big Sky country and being out in the wilderness; I wanted to be a pediatrician, and I wanted to go the University of Montana Bozeman.”

But fate would keep her closer to home.

Indeed, her mother was diagnosed with stage-4 ovarian cancer when Tara was just 15, a turn of events that would not only alter her plans for college, but inspire her to continuously review how she was living her life, with the goal of reaching higher — professionally, but also in the way she was using her considerable talents to help others who were less fortunate.

“That completely changed the course of my entire life; I have no idea where I would be had that not happened. She fought like hell, and ultimately lost the fight,” she said, adding that, long before her mother died, she gave up the dream of going to Montana, knowing she could not leave her father and brother at that critical time.

Tara Brewster works a United Way annual campaign event with Markus Jones

Tara Brewster works a United Way annual campaign event with Markus Jones, senior Major Gifts officer at Northfield Mount Hermon School.

Brewster would eventually graduate from Smith College, majoring in government and anthropology, and found her way into the men’s clothing business. She started at Taylor Men, which had a store in Thornes Market, while she was at Smith, and would later be regional sales manager for seven stores in the Northeast before moving to Manhattan and working for a men’s wholesale apparel company and becoming what she called a “road warrior.”

Eventually, the road took her back to Northampton and where she started — sort of. Taylor Men in Thornes Marketplace had closed, and she began contemplating owning her own store on that site.

Later, she and partner Candice Connors would open Jackson & Connor, an entrepreneurial venture that would — with her already-significant involvement in the Greater Northampton community — earn Brewster her first honor from BusinessWest: a 40 Under Forty plaque. It would also help set the tone when it comes to how she would be “all in,” as she put it, with both her career and her involvement in the community.

“I call that business my ‘first child,’ because I gave it my all,” she said. “And Jackson & Connor really helped me understand purpose and place of myself as a human, as a community member, and as a business owner; it gave me a clear direction of how I wanted to be in my community and in my region, and how I wanted to use my resources, my influence, and my power to lead and have an impact. And from the epicenter, I’ve grown as a human, as a person, as an employee, as a member of a team.”


The Plot Thickens

Eight years after launching Jackson & Connor, the two partners sold the enterprise, which is still operating today, and commenced writing their own next chapters. Brewster segued into consulting before Mark Grumoli, senior vice president and commercial loan officer at Greenfield Savings Bank, who years earlier had helped the partners secure funding to launch Jackson & Connor when he was with Florence Bank, convinced her to become the new vice president of Business Development.

She recalls friends and family members saying she wouldn’t last long in that role, but five years later, she’s still in it. That’s because it gives her what she desires most in a job — a situation where each day is different, a role where she can flex her entrepreneurial muscles, and a position that gives her the time and opportunity to be ‘out in the community,’ in every aspect of that phrase. And it has allowed her to take both her career and her civic endeavors to a bigger stage.

When asked what a typical day is like for her, she said there is no such thing. Each day is different. But each one is filled with conversations — phone calls, e-mails, texts, and some old-fashioned, face-to-face meetings. And only some of them have to do with banking.

“They pertain to connection, encouragement, engagement, assistance, and more,” she explained. “I serve on five boards, and there are probably five boards that I do other things for. So a lot of my conversations are with community members, and nonprofits in particular.

“These nonprofits have a real piece of my heart because I believe that, if you focus on and encourage and support the nonprofits, then more of the people who need help in this world and this region will get the help they need, because they are the helpers,” she went on,” she went on. “The nonprofits, first and foremost, are the ones that are doing the professional helping in a day, so if you want to do something and you don’t feel you have the time or whatever, support a nonprofit — that’s the easiest way to ensure that you’re creating some impact for the people who need it most.”

Brewster has certainly lived by these words, assisting nonprofits in many ways, especially through leadership as board member and with the all-important task of fundraising, which is always critical, but particularly during COVID, when the need is greater and many nonprofits have been hurt financially.

As she does so, she said she draws inspiration from others who, like her, balance work, family, and giving back, and somehow find the time and energy for all three. She mentioned Monte Belmonte, the host and program director at WHMP radio, the creator of Monte’s March, and a Difference Maker himself in 2020.

“He has a job at the radio station that he gets paid for, but then he has this other thing that he doesn’t get paid for — it’s his heart desire, it’s his calling, it’s how he uses his day job to be more and do more, to make a larger stage, to make a greater impact for a call to action,” Brewster said. “I have some people in my life who I’ve looked to for guidance on how to live and how to make a greater social impact with the talents that we have, because we all have these spheres of influence, whether it’s connections, or an employer, or social awareness.

“We all have these superpowers that we have to tap into in order to do greater good, in order to make a difference,” she went on. “And people think, ‘oh, I don’t have anything, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the resources.’ But we do. We all do. We all have connections, we have have these superpowers. We just have to use them.”


The Last Word

When asked to list her superpowers, she mentioned ‘connectivity,’ ‘engagement,’ ‘compassion,’ ‘awareness,’ and even ‘caretaking,’ and she traces them to when her mother got sick and after she died.

“For me, I’m acutely aware of sorrow and pain and hardship and loss, and what that means to being a whole self and a whole person — how you show up and how other people show up,” she explained. “It’s impacted the way I serve the community and serve on boards.”

Brewster serves in a way that enables those fundraisers to carry on that work they do and provide the many kinds of help that are needed.

“There’s an old saying … “you only get one life to live, and if you do it right, one is enough,’” she said in conclusion.

She has certainly done it right, and because of that, she has earned her place as a Difference Maker.


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

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) announced the hiring of Kevin DeRosa as vice president for its Retail Distribution Network. He will be responsible for overseeing the retail operations of all GSB offices and the bank’s contact center, which includes teller and customer service in the lobbies, the call center, and the teller services offered through the bank’s network of Teller Connect ATMs, which provide GSB teller service via video.

“Kevin has joined GSB with more than 11 years of experience in the banking industry,” said John Howland, president and CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank. “Kevin’s experience in managing bank retail operations and customer contact centers, as well as his commitment to excellent customer service, mirror our bank’s core values.”

DeRosa earned a bachelor’s degree in business finance and an MBA from the University of New Hampshire. He graduated from the CUNA Management School as a certified credit union executive and has also earned the designation of credit union compliance expert. He has recently received a National Excellence Award from the Credit Union National Assoc. for developing a solutions-based sales program.

He is also an adjunct professor at Vermont State Colleges and at the Community College System of New Hampshire, where he has taught since 2014. He is very active volunteering in the Claremont, N.H. area at Riverstone Church and has been a past board member and treasurer of the Greater Claremont Chamber of Commerce. He is also a past member of the Norwich, Vt. Business Council.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank Wealth Management and Trust Services named Janice Ward first vice president and trust officer. She joins GSB Wealth Management and Trust Services with more than 19 years of experience in the industry, and will assist clients with financial-planning, estate-settlement, and trust-administration services throughout the Western Mass. area, including the Berkshires.

“Janice has earned an outstanding reputation in the industry for trust and estate settlement administration and financial planning,” said Steve Hamlin, senior vice president and senior trust officer. “Janice’s passion for serving clients mirrors our department’s core values, and she is a welcome addition to our team, especially as the GSB Wealth Management and Trust Services department is experiencing significant growth due to increased demand for our services.”

Ward graduated from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She then received a juris doctor degree at Western New England University and has been a licensed attorney in both Massachusetts and New York since 2005. In 2012, she earned the designation of certified financial planner.

She is the co-founder of the Berkshire County Estate Planning Council, and after serving as president for five years, she is currently a director. She has many active professional connections with CPAs, attorneys, investment and insurance professionals, and financial planners throughout Franklin, Hampshire, Hamden, and Berkshire counties.

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Episode 74: August 9, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Tara Brewster, Vice President of Business Development for Greenfield Savings Bank

Tara Brewster

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien has a lively discussion with Tara Brewster, Vice President of Business Development for Greenfield Savings Bank and one of five finalists for BusinessWest’s coveted 40 Under Forty Alumni Achievement Award. The two talk about her work, but especially her involvement in the community, her latest assignment as radio talk host, and her life as a self-described “recovering entrepreneur.” It’s must listening so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local.


Sponsored by:

Also Available On

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) named Shandra Richardson senior vice president and senior operations officer. She will direct all aspects of the bank’s operations, including compliance, retail banking, marketing, deposit, electronic, and loan operations, as well as developing and implementing new policies and procedures for organizational systems management.

“Shandra has joined GSB with more than 15 years of financial and banking experience at the executive level in consumer retail banking, operations, and regulatory functions,” said John Howland, president and CEO of Greenfield Savings Bank. “In addition, Shandra is the embodiment of our core values of commitment to customers and community.”

Prior to joining GSB, Richardson held multiple leadership roles at Citizens Bank N.A. and, most recently, at Santander Bank N.A. She specializes in operational life-cycle transformation, regulatory exam preparation, project management, and organizational development. She has also been involved in company diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, including active participation in multiple employee resource groups (ERGs) focusing on the support and empowerment of women and black and Latinx employees.

A UMass Amherst graduate, Richardson received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and then went on to earn an MBA along with completing leadership and Lean Methodology Executive Education courses. While working in the Boston area, she has been active in the Greater Boston and South Shore communities volunteering at a wide range of organizations, such as Cradles to Crayons, Dress for Success, United Way, Year Up, and OneBostonDay.org. She also serves as a member of the Harvard Business Review advisory council, an opt-in research community of business professionals, and has also served as the New England regional lead of the Thrive ERG, which provides resources and support to caregivers and individuals with physical or cognitive differences.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) announced the promotions of Kim Alli to vice president and commercial loan officer, Andrew Bresciano to first vice president and commercial loan officer, Tina Flagg to assistant vice president and commercial loan administration manager, Panna Royal to vice president and senior network administrator, and Aleta Smith to commercial lending assistant.

Alli is responsible for meeting with local business customers to determine their financial needs and helping them with a wide range of commercial-loan products and services. Her position also includes developing new strategic relationships for business development, as well as establishing commercial account relationships with area small businesses and serving as an ambassador for the bank with the community. She is a member of the GSB PPP loan task force and the bank’s contributions committee.

Bresciano is responsible for working with local business customers to assist them with their credit needs, including commercial credit lines, commercial real estate and development loans, operational and equipment loans, and inventory loans. Last year, he was appointed to the leadership team managing the bank’s PPP loan task force.

Flagg is responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the loan assistants and loan-servicing specialists in the bank’s Commercial Loan department to ensure quality customer service. In addition to monitoring the department workflow, she performs a broad variety of duties related to the documentation, regulatory-compliance requirements, and servicing of commercial loans throughout their life cycle and provides customer service and administrative support to commercial-loan customers and lenders. She is also a member of the GSB PPP loan task force.

Royal will manage the maintenance of existing information systems and develop and implement the information-technology roadmap for the organization, as well as coordinating with other departments to understand business goals and challenges and implementing technology solutions to help the organization meet goals efficiently. She will also develop training programs for upgrades and system changes, ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, and participate in the hiring and training of the IT team.

Smith is responsible for gathering various documents and the information necessary for the underwriting and approval of commercial-loan transactions, as well as preparing commercial-loan documents, including commitment letters. She was a member of the first-round PPP loan task force, helping prepare customers’ documents. She has also been a participant of GSB shred fests, helping customers and the public prevent identity theft by shredding documents containing personal information.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) announced the recent promotions of Logan Anderson, Jessica Duffy, Michelle Ozdarski, Mary Pomeroy, and Jocelyn Walsh.

Anderson been promoted to Customer Service Call Center representative. In her new position, she will work in the GSB Call Center, assisting customers with a wide range of account services, tracking voice mails, and returning phone calls. In addition, she will also work as one of the video tellers for the bank’s network of Teller Connect ATMs, which are ATM machines that provide teller service via a live video feed at select GSB locations in Franklin and Hampshire counties. Logan first joined Greenfield Savings Bank as a teller in September 2018. She is a 2017 graduate of Pioneer Valley Regional School. She has been an active volunteer at community events, including the Great Falls Festival in Turners Falls, the Relay for Life in Greenfield, and the Franklin County Fair.

Duffy has been promoted to assistant office manager of the GSB South Deerfield Office. In addition to supervising the daily activities of the office and staff, she will also concentrate on business development and assist customers with a full range of banking services. Duffy first joined Greenfield Savings Bank in January 2017 as a teller and was previously promoted to the position of super banker. She has an associate degree in accounting from Greenfield Community College and is currently working on a degree at the Center for Financial Training.

Ozdarski has been promoted to senior Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering investigator and fraud analyst, responsible for monitoring, reviewing, researching, and analyzing transactions for potential money laundering or other illegal activity, such as terrorism financing and tax evasion. She is responsible for assisting customers with identity theft and other fraud-related issues. Ozdarski joined GSB in 1999 as a teller and the next year became the teller trainer. In 2008 she became the senior Operations specialist and recently held the title of BSA/ID theft manager. She earned an associate degree from Greenfield Community College in 1998.

Pomeroy has been promoted to office manager of the Greenfield and the Shelburne Falls offices. As the office manager, she oversees the operations of both offices and staff development. In addition, she also works with customers on all aspects of their banking and lending needs, including mortgage origination. She first joined GSB in March 2019 as the assistant office manager of the main office in Greenfield. She most recently was the office manager of the Shelburne Falls office. Pomeroy has earned diplomas in consumer lending, general financial services, and advanced financial services, as well as certificates in introduction to financial services and credit analysis and consumer lending from the Center for Financial Training. She is currently enrolled in Cambridge College, working toward an associate degree in business administration.

Walsh has been appointed assistant office manager of the GSB Shelburne Falls office. In her new position, she will oversee day-to-day office operations and assist customers with a full range of account and banking services. She first joined Greenfield Savings Bank in December 2015, starting as a teller in Shelburne Falls Office and later was promoted to a super banker at the Hadley Office. In 2019, she was promoted to assistant manager of the Hadley Office. Walsh has been a volunteer at a wide range of community events, including the WGBY Hadley Asparagus Festival, Shelburne Falls Moonlight Magic, and the Great Falls Festival.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Anna Zadworny has been promoted to assistant vice president and training and staffing manager at Greenfield Savings Bank.

In her new position, she will be responsible for facilitating one-on-one and classroom training for employees with a focus on enhancing employee development, including product knowledge, internal systems training, and compliance course oversight. She will also be responsible for maintaining appropriate levels of staffing in all offices and will assist in maintaining vendor relationships, record keeping, and training budget oversight. In addition to her training role, she coordinates and oversees the external audit process.

Zadworny began her career in the banking industry in 1990, and she joined Greenfield Savings Bank in 2012 as manager of its Northampton office. In 2016, she was promoted to office manager of the South Deerfield office, and in 2019, she was promoted to assistant vice president and office manager of the Greenfield office.

She earned an associate degree in business management from Holyoke Community College and is currently pursuing a business management degree with a minor in leadership from Bay Path University. She graduated with honors from Babson College in the financial studies program.

Zadworny is an active community volunteer at a wide range of local events and serves on the boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County and as assistant treasurer of the Salvation Army of Hampshire County. She is also a volunteer for the United Way of Hampshire County.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Savings Bank (GSB) recently announced the promotions of Kim Zabek, Jared Cyhowski, and Elisabeth Porter.

Zabek has been appointed assistant manager of the bank’s Hadley office. She will oversee the daily operations of the office and assist customers with their banking. She first joined Greenfield Savings Bank in August 2011 as assistant manager in Shelburne Falls, and in 2015 she was promoted to manager of the GSB call center. Most recently, she held the position of assistant manager of the South Deerfield office. An active community volunteer, Zabek has served on the board of Friends of Children in Hadley and is a member of the South Deerfield Women’s Club.

Cyhowski has been promoted to Loan Operations specialist. In his new position, he will work with customers providing residential and consumer loan servicing. He started his career at GSB as a teller supervisor and was previously promoted to customer-service representative in the bank’s call center.

Cyhowski joined GSB in May 2016 after attending Fitchburg State University, where he graduated with high honors in communications and a minor in English. He is a member of the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Studies Honor Society. He has volunteered at a range of community events, including Superhero Nights for Kids, where he wore a Mario (from Nintendo) costume, and he has volunteered at the Great Falls Festival (a/k/a Pumpkin Fest) in Turners Falls.

Porter has been promoted to Corporate Support specialist, with responsibilities of assisting and providing support services to the bank’s CEO, COO, and financial officer. Her daily responsibilities include assisting in the preparation of reports, scheduling meetings and events, and maintaining official minutes. She will also assist other Greenfield Savings Bank executives as needed.

Porter joined GSB in 2018 as a teller, and by October was promoted to customer service representative. This past March, she was promoted to the position of super banker. She is active in the community and volunteers at many GSB-sponsored community events.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Prudence Blond has been promoted to vice president and trust officer at Greenfield Savings Bank. In her new position, Blond, as a client service officer, oversees the administration and tax departments and also works with the Bank’s internal and external auditors.

Blond joined the bank after graduating from Greenfield Community College in 1997 as a teller. In 1999, she was promoted to trust operations associate with responsibility for processing operational work along with administrative assistant tasks of the GSB Trust Department. Over the next 10 years, she began to work directly clients and was promoted to assistant trust officer, then trust officer, then to assistant vice president and trust officer before her new promotion to vice president and trust officer.

After graduating from GCC, she earned a personal trust diploma through the American Bankers Assoc. in 2011 and a general financial services diploma through the Centre for Financial Training. She has continued to take educational classes in administration, personal tax preparation, trust and estate-tax preparation, financial planning, and IRAs. She earned her certified trust and financial advisor (CTFA) designation in 2012 through the Institute of Certified Banks.

Blond is currently serving on the board of directors, personnel committee, and nominating committee at LifePath Inc. (formerly known as Franklin County Home Care Corp.). She is a member of the annual campaign team at Greenfield Community College. She has previously served on the board of trustees, as treasurer, and as Sunday school superintendent at Robbins Memorial Church.

Banking and Financial Services

Past Is Prologue

President and CEO John Howland stands by a display commemorating GSB’s first 150 years. I

Greenfield Savings Bank has marked its sesquicentennial in a number of ways this year — from a party with cupcakes in the spring to presenting elm trees to a number of area communities it serves in the summer, to displaying its proud history, something it’s done pretty much all year long. Overall, though, it has celebrated by doing what it has done since it was founded in 1869 — serving as a rock-solid corporate citizen. And a vital partner to its many types of customers.

John Howland jokingly refers to it as his “high-school history project.”

He was referring to the large display of photographs and other materials that trace the 150-year progression of Greenfield Savings Bank. And it’s quite an exhibition.

Indeed, across two walls just off the main lobby and outside the main conference room hang a number of photos, postcards, and framed advertisements and documents that collectively tell the story of an institution that has changed considerably since Ulysses S. Grant roamed the White House — but also hasn’t changed in many ways, as we’ll see.

There are photos of bank lobbies from several different decades, a host of board presidents, groups of employees, Howland himself, who became GSB president in 2015, and many images of the old Mansion House Hotel.

The bank was relocated within the hotel property roughly a decade after its launch — it was one of several ground-floor retail sites — and was still there when the Mansion House was destroyed in a massive fire in January 1959 (there are pictures of that historic moment as well). The bank built its new headquarters roughly where the front lobby of the hotel once stood.

The historic Mansion House Hotel and GSB’s location within that property.

“So we’ve basically operated in the same location since 1880, and that’s very significant to me,” said Howland, adding that this history project is important, for customers and employees alike, because there has been much to commemorate during what has been a year-long celebration, punctuated by a large party in the spring.

Starting with the name over the door. It was Greenfield Savings Bank all those years ago, said Howland, and it still is. This despite the fact that many banks, as they have expanded beyond their original home and added branches in other counties and sometimes another state, have dropped the city or town from their name, opting for something more global and seemingly less defining. Meanwhile, almost every other institution that had ‘Savings’ in its name has dropped that, too, on the theory that it’s anachronistic and doesn’t convey the full line of services.

GSB has done none of that.

“Why would you want to change a name you’ve had for 150 years?” he asked before answering the question himself. “The idea that we’re somehow different because we’ve changed our name and don’t have ‘Savings’ in it anymore is disingenuous to me.”

But the bank is celebrating more than continuity — although that’s certainly important. There has been growth and expansion into other areas, including Northampton, Amherst, and, most recently, the community in between them, Hadley. There has also been a commitment to remain at the forefront of technology, said Denise Coyne, executive vice president and COO (and 41-year employee of the bank), and as evidence, she pointed proudly to the new interactive teller machines, or ITMs, in the drive-through lane, an initiative GSB calls Teller Connect. Customers can speak with a teller based in Turners Falls who can handle a wide range of transactions from that location.

The bank is also celebrating its work within the community, a commitment that manifests itself in a number of ways and on many different levels, including multi-faceted support of Monte’s March, the trek undertaken by radio station WHMP DJ Monte Belmonte to raise money for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts (Howland himself was to be part of the second leg of the march, from Northampton to Greenfield).

Denise Coyne shows off one of the Teller Connect machines at GSB’s main branch in Greenfield.

But it also includes donating 30 elm trees in communities where the bank has a presence to replace just a few those lost to Dutch elm disease decades ago (these gifts, part of the 150th celebration, are resistant to the disease), and creating a foundation to support an ongoing project whereby students learning each of the trades at Franklin County Technical School collaborate to build a house from scratch (more on those initiatives later).

Mostly, though, the bank is celebrating what Howland called its “infinite horizon.” By that, he meant that this institution isn’t going anywhere, and it can act, and operate, accordingly.

“My job is to hand the keys over to someone else and have the company be better than it was when I got here,” he explained. “At the prior two organizations I worked for, and at many other banks, basically the mission was to figure out how to maximize the value for the shareholders in the shortest period of time and sell the organization; to that extent, our business plan is different than that of most other banks.”

For this issue’s focus on banking and financial services, BusinessWest talked at length with Howland and Coyne about GSB’s first 150 years and what will come next for this venerable institution.

Staying on Track

Hanging on a wall inside the conference room is a framed poster hyping the 20th Century Limited — the historic express passenger train on the New York Central Railroad that traveled between New York and Chicago — and its faster time for completing that run: 16 hours.

This might seem like an odd item to find in a bank headquarters building, but Howland offered an explanation that speaks volumes about how this institution celebrates its past but is by no means stuck in it.

“I put that poster up to remind us that we constantly have to be reinventing ourselves, constantly have to be figuring out how to do it better and faster,” Howland explained. “The poster represents the race between the New York Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad to attract customers to this high-profile route. When one company dropped their time, the other matched or exceeded it. They conceived idea after idea to improve service, cut down travel time, and maintain schedules. Banking today is just like that — we are all providing the same products. That’s why we continue to provide our customers with exceptional service, the most up-to-date technology, and offer competitive rates.”

And throughout its long history, the bank certainly has operated with that mindset.

Students at Franklin County Technical School work on the framing for a house they constructed in Erving through a program financed by a foundation created by GSB.

Indeed, while the name over the door hasn’t changed and the street address of the main branch has changed by just a few digits, the bank has evolved with the times and advancing technology, all while remaining a hugely important corporate citizen in a region that never had many and has seen those ranks decline over the past several decades.

Coyne, the bank’s longest-serving employee, has certainly seen this blend of change and continuity in her time.

She recalls doing most tasks by hand when she started as a teller at the Turners Falls branch (the only branch at the time) in 1978, and, in fact, she helped lead the institution into the computer age and a succession of improvements, including Teller Connect.

“The technology is so great that we can extend our hours — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, you can talk with a teller,” she noted, adding that there are extended hours on Saturday as well. “It’s no different than if you go to a drive-up and talk with someone who’s in the building; we can do almost everything you could if you came into the lobby.”

Over the past four decades, Coyne, who has held a number of titles over the years and handled pretty much every assignment other than commercial lending, has seen the bank greatly expand its footprint, first into other communities within Franklin County, then into neighboring Hampshire County.

There are now five branches in Franklin County — in Greenfield, Conway, Shelburne Falls, South Deerfield, and Turners Falls — and the same number in Hampshire County — two in Amherst, two in Northampton, and the latest addition, the branch on Route 9 in Hadley.

That addition to the portfolio wasn’t exactly planned, said Howland, noting that it came about by circumstance — the closing of a credit union — and was viewed as an opportunity to more conveniently serve customers in that area.

Looking ahead, Howland doesn’t see much, if any, additional expansion. But he does see continuous work to improve customer service, take full advantage of ever-improving technology, and, overall, take full advantage of the infinite horizon he mentioned.

“That’s the biggest challenge we face — the non-bank competitors coming in picking off pieces of our business. It’s kind of like Walmart being able to do an MRI for you; it’s large companies picking and choosing where they can make something work.”

And all those qualities will be needed, he said, because, while the pace of consolidation within the banking industry has slowed somewhat, especially in this region, other threats have emerged, especially from what he called “non-bank competition.”

By that, he referred to Apple, Google, Alibaba, PayPal, and a host of other major companies that are chipping away at traditional bank business by creating services of their own in realms ranging from lending to payments to credit cards.

“That’s the biggest challenge we face — the non-bank competitors coming in picking off pieces of our business,” he explained. “It’s kind of like Walmart being able to do an MRI for you; it’s large companies picking and choosing where they can make something work.

“And then we, as an organization, have to provide everything for everyone,” he went on. “And sometimes it can become expensive to provide some products. It’s just capitalism — it’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it’s a challenge for us as an organization to maintain as much as we maintain and be able to provide an array of services for our customers.”

Saving Graces

To counteract these powerful forces, GSB has to focus on what differentiates it from those non-bank competitors and the larger regional banks so prevalent in this market, said Howland.

These differentiators include both a personalized brand of service and a deep portfolio of services, including a trust department, something most area banks no longer have, he went on.

As just one example, he cited the example of a customer entangled in a fraud situation.

“Unfortunately, the bank on the other side is a huge organization that really doesn’t care — they will not help at all, they won’t talk with us, they won’t do anything,” he noted. “I think the way we differentiate ourselves is the personalized service and the fact that our customers know they can count on us — they know they can call someone who cares and is going to do something about their problem.”

Beyond the brand and scope of services, another differentiator is the bank’s long history of involvement in the community and a commitment to continue that tradition, said Howland.

“As an organization, we’re very proud of our position in the community,” he told BusinessWest. “We’re dedicated to being the best corporate citizen we can be, and we’re involved in our community in many, many different ways.

“Obviously, we’re important in terms of the local economy, but it’s not just the economy that we focus on, it’s just the financial aspect of what we do,” he went on. “It’s striving to improve the conditions in our communities as best we can. We’re one of the larger philanthropic organizations in terms of straight dollar donations, but on top of that, our employees are involved in all kinds of stuff at all kinds of levels.”

And by ‘stuff,’ Howland meant much more than time and energy donated to the boards of dozens of nonprofits — although that’s a big part of it. There’s also volunteerism and the many forms it takes, he said, adding that the bank prides itself on backing up such efforts with dollars and other types of support.

“If an employee comes to me and says, ‘I think this is really important, and I have dedicated myself to volunteering time for it,’ more likely than not, we’ll make a fairly significant financial contribution to that charity on behalf of that employee.”

Overall, the bank is keenly aware of its role and its responsibilities within the largely rural areas it serves, particularly in Franklin County, he went on, adding that it is often asked to step up and, when possible, pitch in. Such was the case with the initiative involving Franklin County Tech and a proposal to have its students build houses.

The bank’s response was to go beyond writing a check and instead do something for the long term.

“I got a phone call from the tech school asking if we would make a donation to this program to build a house,” Howland recalled, adding that the bank eventually created the Franklin Technical School Building Society Inc., a foundation with its own board of directors that essentially finances the home-building project and is replenished when the house is sold.

“They earned a lot of money on the first house, and the second house will hopefully be sold in the spring of 2020, and another house will be started after that,” he went on. “The point of it is to create something that becomes self-sustaining, and ultimately, we hope this grows to the point where it can be a benefactor for other programs at the tech school.”

Long-term thinking was also the motivation for the bank’s decision two years ago to create the Greenfield Savings Bank Foundation. Funded with profits from the bank, it’s an initiative in keeping with GSB’s long-term horizon, said Howland.

“We funded it with $200,000, and our expectation is to continue funding it at some amount per year,” he explained. “My vision, and it will not be in the time that I’m president of the organization, is that, at some point, this foundation will be as large as, if not larger than, the bank, and I think we have the opportunity to do that.

“I’m most proud of where we are as a corporate citizen in our community, and my feelings are a reflection of our board of directors,” he added. “Our board is incredibly committed to making us the best business we can be in Franklin County and Hampshire County.”

Time Passages

There’s some additional 150th memorabilia in the main lobby of GSB’s headquarters.

On one wall, the very first passbook sits in a frame. And a glass display case in the center of the room holds everything from a photocopy of the first mortgage document (a loan issued in 1869 to one Jeremiah Eagan for a building on School Street) to news photos of the Mansion House fire, to a box of fountain pen nibs, a symbol of how things were done more than a half-century ago.

This collection speaks to the two qualities that are really being celebrated with this sesquicentennial — needed change and continuity.

There are plenty of other pieces of evidence outside the bank, from the house built by the technical-school students in Erving to elm trees growing in Look Park in Northampton, Montague center, and a host of other locations, to those branches in Hampshire County.

Together, they speak of a 150-year-old success story — and of many chapters still to come.

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