Thomas Sharkey wanted to be a banker his whole life, ever since accompanying his father to the local bank in Lowell as a young boy.
“I just loved the environment,” he said.
Sharkey has realized his dream, spending more than 40 years in banking, including two stints as interim president and CEO of Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank.
“I may never leave banking,” Sharkey joked. “But that’s OK. I love it.”
Sharkey’s lifelong dedication and passion for community banking makes him one of this year’s Community Bank Heroes.
Sharkey grew up in Lowell and graduated from UMass Lowell. After earning an MBA at Suffolk University, Sharkey landed his first banking job at First Bank in Chelmsford. At the bank owner’s request, he transferred to sister bank Martha’s Vineyard National Bank, later moving over to Dukes County Savings Bank where he served as CFO. When Martha’s Vineyard Cooperative Bank and Dukes County Savings Bank merged in 2007 to form Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, Sharkey continued on as CFO. He additionally served as interim president in 2012 while the board searched for a new leader. Following a brief retirement in 2015, Sharkey was again asked to serve as interim president in late 2016, and continues to serve in this capacity.
Sharkey’s dedication to the bank, his calm demeanor, strong leadership and commitment to the community has provided Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank a sense of continuity during two periods of transition. He treats employees like family and emphasizes customer engagement at all levels.
“I feel the job of a community bank is to be an economic gateway for people and enhance their lives,” he said. “We provide products and services that people are able to use to better their lives financially. That’s how I view what we do – we help people proceed with their lives.”
He noted, however, that a large segment of the population is not served by the banking system, and he believes it is also the responsibility of community banks to reach out to these people and bring them into the economic mainstream.
“People who don’t use our services are mostly poorer, and as a result are left out,” he said. “They often get trapped using check cashing stores, payday lenders, pawnbrokers. We need to do more to open our doors and services to these people and bring them into the economic mainstream.”
He says community banks are well positioned to do this.
“We know the community, the agencies and nonprofits who work with these people,” he said. “I think we are positioned better than larger banks to resolve some of the barriers to people outside the banking system because we are so close to the community. Volunteering is a big part of it.”
Sharkey is proud of the community involvement and volunteerism exhibited by employees at Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank. He leads by example, volunteering every weekend for local nonprofits.