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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.