Since William Parent took the reins as president and CEO of Blue Hills Bank nearly three years ago, the bank has made big strides in giving back to the community.
It increased its donations to community groups from $32,000 in 2009 to $550,000 in 2012. Its loan-to-deposit ratio, an indicator of how much the bank invests in a community, went from 24 percent to more than 50 percent, according to Parent. And he says the bank, headquartered in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, is going beyond just giving money to the community: it’s giving man-hours by allowing staff to volunteer on company time and by having one of its employees run a financial literacy program for elementary and middle school students.
“The bank had done a great job of positioning itself more as an investment bank versus a community bank,” said Parent, 51, of Walpole. “We had an opportunity to take something that was very good and to improve it. And one of the areas to improve it was its connectivity as a true community participant.”
The bank was able to increase its community donations by establishing the Blue Hills Charitable Foundation, seeding it with $3.2 million and a commitment to take 5 percent of its pre-tax earnings and reinvesting that into the foundation each year, according to Parent. He says the foundation is on track to give as much to the community again this year and possibly more. Some of the organizations that benefit from those dollars include the YMCA of Greater Boston and The One Fund Boston, which was formed after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Janice Kenney, assistant director of the Menino Arts Center in Hyde Park and chairperson of the Blue Hills Bank Charitable Foundation, credits Parent with ushering in the bank’s newfound community focus.
“When he came on, the whole culture of the bank shifted more towards community involvement. It really started with him and with the board of directors of the bank. They are really committed to being a community bank and with being involved,” Kenney said.
Parent, a former partner at Grail Partners who also worked at Bank of Boston and its successor companies for 16 years, elaborates on that saying they are focused on building a “diversified community bank,” one that offers both consumers and commercial customers everything they can get at “larger, super-regional, and global banks.” And he said that’s one of the reasons the bank changed its name two years ago from Hyde Park Savings Bank to Blue Hills Bank.
However, it’s the bank’s community focus that Kenney finds attractive. She says Parent’s own commitment to volunteering has been a good influence on others.
“He volunteers his own time,” Kenney said. “He encourages the staff at the bank to volunteer their time. He’s been a fabulous influence and he’s doing amazing things.”
Parent serves on the board of directors for the YMCA of Greater Boston, Thayer Academy, and Wediko Children’s Services, an organization based in the South End that runs a residential treatment center and summer camp in New Hampshire for children with emotional and behavioral difficulties. He is also a member of the Honor Roll Development Committee for the Campaign for Catholic Schools, a non-profit dedicated to raising funds to rebuild Catholic schools in Greater Boston. And he rides in the Pan-Mass Challenge as part of the bank’s bike team, which raises money for cancer research at Dana Farber Hospital.
“I feel fortunate to have had some good opportunities and part of my commitment is that you pass that along. You pay it forward,” Parent said.
Parent helped his staff pay it forward by starting a program that pays employees for taking time off to volunteer in the community. And the bank recently put on staff an actress, who used to work for the bank under contract teaching students about financial literacy.
Julie Beckham travels to schools to put on musical plays that educate students about saving and about credit, Parent explained. “Ms. Money and the Coin” targets elementary school children with information on “needs and wants,” and how to save money. “Give Me Credit” targets middle school students and talks about the benefits and trappings of credit.
“We’ve done more than 100 shows with more than 10,000 children across Eastern Mass,” Parent said proudly. He added that the program is free and takes request from schools.