Cindy Merkle has a knack for process. She came up through the ranks during the course of her banking career, and has a grasp of how things are supposed to work, as well as the way they actually work.
She also has a knack for advocacy, both for her staff and for those in the nonprofit endeavors to which she gives generously of her time and effort. And her influence is felt far beyond the footprint of Eastern Bank.
She joined Eastern in 1992 as head of mortgage banking, always taking on new duties and challenges. Previously, she had been a group vice president at Fleet Bank in Providence.
In the late 1990s, Eastern Bank partnered with Allied American Insurance. It was a time when banks and insurance agencies were exploring ways to cross-sell to grow their respective businesses. These efforts sometimes did not work because of divergent customer engagement needs. But the management teams of Eastern and Allied took the time to get to know each other, and each other’s business. Today, their efforts have succeeded when others’ have not.
Meg Somerville, a senior vice president at Eastern Insurance Group LLC, a subsidiary of Eastern Bank and a successor to Allied, met Merkle during the collaboration of the two firms. She describes Merkle as “smart, focused, and keenly interested in discussing the process detail of the project we were planning. … I respected her immediately.”
Somerville recently worked with Merkle on a process for referral documentation involving a number of different areas within the bank. Merkle’s experience and familiarity with the inner workings of the different departments made it easier for all participants to visualize the right process and become as efficient as possible, according to Somerville.
“I’m hands-on instead of leaving it to others to ‘get it,’” Merkle says. “Being process oriented, I have to hold myself back from doing the work.”
She has taken to heart the lesson from a former mentor who told her that her successes would come through the success of her staff. She got to know them through a formalized one-on-one process. During her years at Eastern Bank, both her responsibilities and the development of her staff have grown significantly.
On the nonprofit side, Merkle currently serves as president of the Lynn chapter of Girls Inc. Under her leadership, the organization built a facility in downtown Lynn that serves as a center where underserved girls can learn and grow.
During her tenure as head of the mortgage banking division at Eastern Bank, she worked effectively with Fannie Mae and the Lynn Community Development Corporation on behalf of low-income families to develop a reduced down-payment program. Today, she serves on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Foundation, which was created in 2004. When she served as president of the foundation in the early 2000s, it was during the heyday of mortgage banking.
The trade association was doing well. Merkle pressed for seed money to create the foundation. She cites it as a career high point and praises former MMBA Executive Director Kevin Cuff for his support of the undertaking.
“It was an unprecedented collaboration of the mortgage trade association with numerous housing nonprofits,” Merkle says. “It was the first time both sides had worked together to serve the common goal of delivering homeownership literacy.”