President and CEO, North Easton Savings Bank
Industry experience: 22 years
After North Easton Savings Bank acquired Mutual Bank last year, it joined the state’s growing list of $1 billion banks. It also got a new leader, as Mutual Bank’s president and CEO, Rich Spencer, became head of the combined organization. Spencer had started his career as a certified public accountant at Wolf & Co. before joining what was then called Mutual Federal Savings Bank as chief financial officer 18 years ago, when the bank had $97 million in assets. Despite the growing size, North Easton Savings Bank plans to remain a mutual bank, Spencer said, while trying to attract younger workers and customers to community banking.
Q: What changes has the bank experienced since the merger?
A: As you grow over $1 billion, things become a little bit more complex, but we also want to position ourselves for growth in the future. We’ve done a lot of recruiting of talent to really augment the folks that we have at the organization already. For us, the talent management and the growth of our information technology group have been a huge thrust.
This new size has given folks many opportunities, and we have a process where we also work on helping folks in their professional career. They may start in one area and move to another, but we also just provide the training and guidance that they need to continually better their lifestyle. We have a great work–life balance. One of the biggest hires we had was a chief culture officer. We have our pillars of what we feel is our culture at the bank – our community, our relationships and our employees – and you really need to have somebody in charge and running the culture side to ensure the values of the bank are really fed through accordingly.
Q: How have employees responded to the merged organization?
A: For any organizations that combine, the changes at first can be a little nerve-wracking. I think there was some concern from folks about just change in general – what’s going to happen and how does it look. It’s a downside overall, but for us, the pandemic has really gelled our organization. It’s given us one common theme to tackle together, and folks have really collaborated and joined forces in so many different ways: whether cross–pollination between different departments or just stepping up and helping one another.
One of the examples I could use is the PPP. We weren’t even [a U.S. Small Business Administration] preferred lender. We had to get that up and running overnight, and then pull resources from various areas to assist our commercial group. In total, we were able to save over 4,400 jobs. Anytime you have merged organizations, you need to find a commonality and a common goal, and for us, it’s been throughout this pandemic.
Q: How can community banks attract younger generations to banking as a profession?
A: For the new generation, the community banking world is not glamorous. We have to do a better job of reaching out to those folks and letting them know what community banking represents. We also need to continually change and reinvent ourselves to the way that the younger folks are learning. As we continue to morph and move forward, we keep looking at the teamwork, the collaboration and being more inclusive as it relates to working with that generation and working with younger folks. When you start creating that environment and create it within our culture, it will certainly be a place that they can work.
We’ve worked here to shift and pivot folks out of silos. Growing up through the industry, you could be siloed and stay siloed. It’s more of a hierarchy format. We’ve really worked to allow folks to cross over into the other silos and learn and explore. I think the newer generation just wants to learn. They love to learn, and they want the sense of ownership of what they’re doing within the organization.
Providing them those other opportunities so it’s just not just this one singular function is key. We just have to do a better job. We have to get out to the colleges and explore and work with those folks, bring them in and talk to them about what goes on at the organization. Banking is highly regulated, so how do we morph and change ourselves to appear to them as something that they would want a career in? It’s been a fantastic career for me, and I hope it will continue to be a fantastic career for many folks that go into this.
Having been at the bank here 18 years and seeing what community banking and what a local bank can do and the differences that we make on an everyday basis, it’s amazing how we’re part of that life cycle.
Q: How can community banks bring younger generations in as customers?
A: Folks want everything at their fingertips, and we need to be more attentive to the servicing of the delivery channels and what are those delivery channels. Before it used to be that transactions were over the counter, and that’s completely shifted. One key factor is that folks do seem to want that one–on–one relationship with a banker when things go wrong. Where things have pivoted over the years is how we handle the information: less order taking and less pushing paper and more focus as it relates to the overall customer relationship.
It’s going to be difficult. We’re an industry that needs young folks, and we need more of them. And the folks that we hire have great ideas, and they allow us older folks to sit back and say, “OK, they have a better perspective as it relates to that generation.” Then we can morph and look at what we know of banking. The ideas sometimes from the younger folks look off the wall, but if you take their ideas and shift them with our banking knowledge, we can come out with some pretty good products and services for our customers.
Spencer’s Five Favorite Recording Artists
- Tom Petty
- Notorious BIG
- Stick Figure