Home Posts tagged Matt Bannister
Class of 2024

Senior Vice President, Marketing and Corporate Responsibility, PeoplesBank

He Goes Well Beyond the Job of ‘Playing Santa Claus’

Matt Bannister

Matt Bannister likes to say that he has “one of the best jobs at the bank,” although some might consider it the worst.

His title is senior vice president of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility, a position that comes with many responsibilities, including a rather large role in determining and then implementing PeoplesBank’s philanthropic strategy, duties he described this way: “I get to play Santa Claus.”

Indeed, he’s part of the team that essentially determined how the bank apportioned $2.3 million in giving in 2022 and another $1.6 million in 2023, with donations averaging roughly $3,000 presented to more than 500 nonprofits and causes meeting some of the region’s most critical needs, such as food insecurity, housing, economic development, and literacy.

 

 

More on all this later, because this work is not why Bannister has been named a Difference Maker for 2024. OK, it’s a small part of the reason why.

The much bigger reason is the manner in which he has gone well beyond playing Santa Claus and well beyond helping decide to whom the bank will write checks — rather, he’s become closely involved with helping to meet some of those needs listed above.

Since joining the bank in 2015, he has served as a board member for agencies including Link to Libraries, EforAll Pioneer Valley, the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, the Springfield 9/11 Memorial fundraising committee, the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, Hilltown Community Health Center; the American Red Cross, and Revitalize Community Development Corp. (CDC), where he is current co-chair.

“You can say that he manages the pocketbook and he helps us disperse funds in the right ways, but when you see that expense report and you see that mileage — that’s not giving out money as much as it is participating and being part of the community.”

Involvement with the health-related agencies on that list continues a pattern to focus his time, energy, and talent on matters related to health and well-being (and he puts Revitalize CDC squarely in that category, as we’ll see).

Before coming to PeoplesBank, Bannister was executive vice president of Corporate Communications and Brand Content for the American Heart Assoc./American Stroke Assoc., and before that, he was vice president and group account director at Arnold Worldwide, working on integrated marketing campaigns with a focus on anti-tobacco efforts for clients including the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the FDA, and the American Legacy Foundation.

PeoplesBank President Tom Senecal, who nominated Bannister as a Difference Maker, says he can quantify and qualify how much of an impact his colleague has made. For both, he turns to statistics the company keeps on just how many hours each employee devotes to volunteer work — with Bannister logging at least twice as many on bank-sponsored activities, in his estimate — and especially the expense reports Bannister turns in.

“I see the expense reports; they’re three pages long with his volunteer mileage — three pages per month,” he said, adding a verbal exclamation mark. “You can say that he manages the pocketbook and he helps us disperse funds in the right ways, but when you see that expense report and you see that mileage — that’s not giving out money as much as it is participating and being part of the community.

Matt Bannister, seen here at the PeoplesBank booth

Matt Bannister, seen here at the PeoplesBank booth at Junior Achievement’s Teen Reality Fair last year in Chicopee, has become actively involved in the community.

“He goes well above and beyond what we ask him to do to represent PeoplesBank,” Senecal went on, adding that this involvement, this commitment to backing up the checks the bank writes with his work on boards and mowing lawns for Revitalize CDC, explains why he’s been chosen as a Difference Maker for 2024.

 

By All Accounts

Bannister loves to tell the story about his participation in career day at his then-9-year-old daughter’s elementary school. It conveys a little about what he was doing at the time — this was when he was with Arnold Worldwide working on ad programs to help curb smoking among young people — and a lot about why he has been chosen as a Difference Maker.

“Kids at that age don’t really have a strong sense for what their father does for a living,” he said, recalling that his daughter introduced him by saying simply, ‘this is my dad … he saves lives for a living.’

“I thought that was really cool,” he told BusinessWest, adding that this description of what he did certainly helped inspire some of his next career steps. “I said, ‘I want more of that,’ and it helped me go from doing the anti-tobacco work at the agency to the American Heart Association.”

“Our philosophy is to give a little to a lot of groups, and not a lot to a few groups. That’s because almost every nonprofit is worthwhile and doing good work.”

Tracing his work history, Bannister said he worked for the ad agency Hill Holiday in Boston and later with Arnold Worldwide, working on accounts ranging from Volkswagen to Puma to Ocean Spray. In the late ‘90s, he was promoted and told he’d be working on the Department of Public Health account.

“I initially said, ‘that doesn’t sound like a promotion,’” he went on, adding that this was at the time when a 25-cent tax was put on every pack of cigarettes sold, with the money going toward smoking-cessation programs and preventing youth uptake.

“Every ad agency had a beer, a car, a fast-food chain … now, a brand-new category was created — a $100 million category because of all the revenue that was being created,” he went on. “And it was untilled, fertile soil.”

In his role, Matt Bannister is often the face of PeoplesBank

In his role, Matt Bannister is often the face of PeoplesBank, such as at this occasion marking the bank’s donation — $250,000 over five years — to the building of a new facility for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Overall, it was more rewarding work than selling cars or cranberry juice, he said, adding that he changed course, career-wise, and joined the American Heart Assoc., serving eventually as executive vice president of Communications at its national headquarters in Dallas.

“At the ad agency, you’re selling pizza, sneakers, and sugar water — you’re selling a product,” he explained. “In public health, you’re selling behavior change; you’re selling ‘eat right, don’t smoke, exercise more.’ It’s not something you buy, it’s behaviors, and it’s marketing that’s a lot more challenging and rewarding.”

Desiring a return to the Northeast — he was born in Dedham and attended UMass Amherst — Bannister accepted the role of senior vice president of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility at PeoplesBank, a position with a broad job description that includes corporate responsibility but now also includes marketing, media relations, and social-media management.

And when it comes to charitable giving, he said the bank’s goal is to “say yes as often as you can,” he noted.

“Our philosophy is to give a little to a lot of groups, and not a lot to a few groups,” he explained. “That’s because almost every nonprofit is worthwhile and doing good work.”

Elaborating, he said that, while he supports a wide array of nonprofits and causes, within the giving strategy is an emphasis on certain areas, such as economic development, literacy, food insecurity, and public health, which translates into larger donations to some groups, such as the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Girls Inc. of the Valley, and Revitalize CDC.

 

An Involved Process

These have, in fact, become Bannister’s personal points of emphasis as he chooses the organizations and causes to get personally involved with — and there are many invitations to weigh.

As noted earlier, this involvement is the primary reason why he is part of the Difference Makers class of 2024. He said it’s a part of his job, and also a way to see first-hand the work being done in some of the areas listed above, and be a part of that work.

“The more I can roll up my sleeves, the better I feel about who we’re giving to,” he told BusinessWest, adding that he is certainly selective about the groups and causes he gets involved with.

“In the beginning, it was because they asked me,” he said with a laugh. “Now, it’s more the groups that are working boards that have a vibrant cross-section of the community involved, and that I think we can benefit by being involved.”

Since joining PeoplesBank, Matt Bannister has donated his time

Since joining PeoplesBank, Matt Bannister has donated his time, energy, and talents to several nonprofits and causes, including Revitalize CDC.

That includes Revitalize CDC, which undertakes a number of projects that fall into broad category of public health, including critical repairs on homes of low-income families with children, the elderly, military veterans, and those with special needs, but also initiatives involving interventions for adults and children with asthma, nutrition programs, and making home improvements that allow seniors to remain in their homes.

He is active with all those intiatives, but has carved out his own niche.

“My favorite thing is mowing the lawn — no one thinks to do that. It’s the curb appeal,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not a skilled laborer, and mowing the lawn is hard to screw up.”

Turning serious, he said the organization’s work is critical to improving health and quality of life in the region.

“Their work involves prevention more than treating the symptoms, which is what a good public-health person cares about,” he said. “It’s not as glamorous, and it’s harder to quantify, but it’s much more important work.”

As he talked about what he does for a living and within the community, Bannister made sure to thank the bank for giving him the opportunity to be part of a winning team, and to thank his wife, Sharon, for … well, being understanding and tolerant of a schedule that has him on the road a lot, maybe three or four days a week and sometimes for several events on the same day during the busy season.

It’s a big part of the job, he said, adding quickly that the job, the travel, and the events involve two states and a much larger radius now that the bank has made a push into Connecticut, one that promises to involve more zip codes in the years to come.

What’s not necessarily part of the job — and this becomes clear in Bannister’s expense sheets and Senecal’s reaction to them — is his commitment to getting very involved with several of the organizations that the bank ultimately writes checks to.

He admits to gradually learning how to say ‘no’ to those who ask him to serve on boards, but often, the answer is still ‘yes.’

 

Bottom Line

If Matt Bannister had to introduce himself at a third-grade career day, he might start by saying what he often tells people about his role: “I work at a bank, but I’m not a banker. And I absolutely love my job at the bank.”

Others who really know, people like Senecal and Colleen Loveless, president and CEO of Revitalize CDC, might be tempted to borrow the line used by his daughter and say that he saves lives.

Or … they could keep it very simple, yet powerful — and introduce him as a Difference Maker.

That says it all.

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest 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.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 153: March 13, 2023

George interviews Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee Member and Sponsor, PeoplesBank

Kelly McGiverin

The Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade and road race are regional events steeped in history and tradition. On this next installment of BusinessTalk, BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Kelly McGiverin, Co-Marketing Director of Fundraising and Sponsorships for the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, and Matt Bannister, Senior Vice President Marketing and Corporate Responsibility for parade sponsor PeoplesBank, about parade week and what these events mean to the city and the region. It’s all must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

 

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