A self-described washed-up music major, Julieann Thurlow didn’t exactly choose her current career. But after learning about community banking and lending, she was hooked.
She made the most of her opportunities and climbed the ranks all the way from a loan officer to president and CEO of Reading Cooperative Bank. Her dedication to community banking and the advancement of women in the industry has earned her the distinction of being a 2018 Women of FIRE.
“I love small business lending – seeing the bank’s capital deployed and leveraged to grow jobs and improve and create opportunity in our communities,” she said.
Before Reading Cooperative Bank, Thurlow worked at Winchendon Savings Bank, the FDIC and Lawrence Savings Bank.
Throughout her career, Thurlow can boast having worked in almost every area of banking except finance, although she has successfully filed one call report, she joked.
Under her leadership, the bank has grown from about $220 million in assets at the end of the first quarter of 2006 to about $550 million at the end of the first quarter of this year.
Her impressive work has earned Thurlow numerous accolades, including the Distinguished Leadership Award at the New England Women in Banking Conference; being ranked No. 43 on the Boston Globe’s list of Top 100 Women-Led Companies; and as one of American Banker’s top “25 Most Powerful Women to Watch.”
She is a staunch advocate for keeping community banks in their original form, despite the trend by many depositor-owned banks to convert into stock institutions.
“It may be lawful, but it’s just plain wrong,” Thurlow said in a prior statement. “It represents the conversion of a public asset to private ownership and wealth; we as mutual bankers were hired as stewards, not for our own gain.”
In fact, she led a vote on a proposal back in 2014 that made it more difficult for the bank to go public.
The proposal, which successfully passed, stated that the bank would need to get approval from supermajority of board members to go public. It also said that no officer, director or employee of the bank could own stock in the company for at least five years if the bank were to go public.
Thurlow has also been an advocate for women advancement in banking.
“The industry is shifting away from its old boys club, but still has work to do,” she said. “There aren’t many female or minority CEOs or leaders and the industry would benefit from diverse points of view.”
Part of the way Thurlow attacks this problem is not by just mentoring women, but by trying to engage male colleagues as well.
“The group of men in my network understand this – most are fathers of successful daughters and could be great advocates,” she said. “Multiple points of view drive real change and successful men should be part of this equation.”
But Thurlow also has some friendly advice for the men she mentors.
“Get off of the golf course and into neighborhoods – if you have five spare hours, mentor, teach or volunteer,” she likes to tell them.