Joseph T. Baptista Jr., president and CEO of Mechanics Cooperative Bank – known to all as simply “Joe” – embraces a familiar role model as a bank president.
“Ever see that movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?’” he asked of his motivation. Baptista joined the banking industry in the early 1990s, and the story of George Bailey resonated strongly. 1991 was a tough market for a young man with an accounting degree from Western New England College, and the job Baptista found was at the FDIC as a safety and soundness examiner.
“I learned a lot at the FIDC, but your job is to go in and examine, to find criticisms,” he said. “I’m thankful for the time I spent there, but I wanted to put deals together, to meet with customers, to be active in the community …. and hopefully make a difference.”
And according toRichard Feodoroff, Baptista has made a tremendous difference in the communities surrounding his bank’s Taunton headquarters. The bank runs a series of ads featuring Baptista on local cable channels, with the tagline “let’s keep it local.”
“He means it,” said Feodoroff. “He just wants to be involved, and assist in any way he can. He is what I think a community banker should be.”
Feodoroff is owner and president of Oscar Squared Inc., a homebuilding and residential development firm operating in Bristol and Norfolk counties. He said he has financed more than 400 homes with Mechanic Cooperative Bank. Feodoroff retired from the Mechanics Cooperative board last year.
“On a number of occasions, while playing golf together, we’ve been put together with two other guys, and I say to them – people I’ve just met – ‘I’d like you to meet Joe Baptista, the best community banker on the planet,’” he said.
Baptista’s office is on the first floor, where he can see everyone – and everyone can see him. He told Banker & Tradesman he’s so comfortable with his banking family, it sometimes doesn’t even feel like work.
“You know what they say, if you find a job you love, you never work a day in your life – it’s true,” Baptista said. “98 percent of the time I come to work and I don’t feel like I’m at work.”
During his time at the bank, he has been directly involved with two mergers with other mutual savings banks, Bridgewater Cooperative Bank and Lafayette Federal Savings Bank.
The mergers allowed the bank to bring its products and services to a larger market, but it also helped increase revenue – which went right back into the community. The bank pledged 10 percent of net profits to nonprofits this year.
“When I was on the board, if a local business was struggling, he would find a way to restructure their loan so they could stay in business,” Feodoroff said. “If there’s a bump in the road, they can call him, and he smoothes the path for them and keeps them in business. If they have grand ideas for a new business, he finds a way to finance part of it. He helps people look at things in a new way. I don’t know anyone else who would do what he does.”
But the best thing about Baptista, according to Feodoroff?
“He’s going to be serving his community for a long time,” Feodoroff said. “He’s only 42.”