Writing the next chapter of a small bank

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Marco Bernasconi Jr.
President and CEO, North Brookfield Savings Bank
Age: 52
Industrial experience: 34 years old

After 27 years of working with community financial institutions at technology provider COCC, Marco Bernasconi wanted to leverage the skills he had developed over the years and get back into community banking. Bernasconi had started his career at Chelsea Groton Bank in Connecticut, then worked at the FDIC for a year before joining the Southington, Connecticut-based COCC.

When he learned from Donna Boulanger that she was planning to retire as President and CEO of North Brookfield Savings Bank, one of COCC’s clients, Bernasconi joined to succeed him. . He joined North Brookfield Savings Bank as Chairman in April 2021 and worked alongside Boulanger for a year, taking over as CEO when Boulanger retired in April 2022 after 14 years at the helm of the company. bank. North Brookfield Savings Bank has approximately $350 million in assets and eight branches in Worcester, Hampden and Hampshire counties.

Q: What attracted you to the role of North Brookfield Savings Bank?
A: It is a very well managed financial institution, well capitalized, rich in products, rich in culture in its history. He had a very good base and worked with them for several years [at COCC]I thought this was an opportunity to leverage my skills that I learned, to focus on culture, to bring a number of efficiencies with technologies and capabilities that this organization has and to others in the industry just don’t profit.

It is possible to bring my skills to what I call the personal digital approach, where we delight our customers in person as well as through digital channels, or a mixture of both. Banking is changing, so I thought it was a real opportunity to bring my skills to this new chapter of banking. It was a real opportunity I also thought for growth. Being in North Brookfield and leveraging my skills in a co-op model – whether it’s payments, data analytics, etc. – I can bring other institutions together with North Brookfield, leverage technologies together, reduce costs and serve our customers differently.

Q: What are your goals for the bank?
A: My goals are to continue to grow talent and grow the organization – not necessarily to add more bodies, but to train people, pay them more, and serve our customers as the banking industry evolves. I want to focus on efficiency – how can we move banking away from a traditional style and really leverage our technologies and process efficiencies in the future. Do not work harder but, if you will, work smarter. We can’t grow the organization from $350 million to $650 million and just double our people. We weren’t going anywhere fast.

We have a fantastic image, but I want to continue to complete it. Showcase all the services we have, showcase all the community involvement we have – but that’s the next generation image. How are we involved in the tech space? This will attract millennials and different people to our community banks. I’ve been on a number of CEO panels, a number of podcasts, really showcasing our image and our brand a little differently.

Q: What are the keys to attracting young talent to work in a small community bank?
A: For financial institutions, especially North Brookfield, we have to be really contemporary. When we talk about digital, for me, it’s not just digital for the end customer. It’s organization-wide digital. Our tools, our solutions and the offers we work with must be contemporary, must have this type of orientation, in order to attract new talent to our organizations. We must also focus on our advantages. We’re just starting to explore that. It’s for everyone, not just Millennials. The market has changed and individuals’ needs for the different benefits of their organization have changed – what do we need to serve all of our different demographics and age groups.

Q: What feedback have you heard so far from current staff regarding the changes?
A: The feedback I got is that they really like being part of a collaborative environment, giving feedback, making changes, failing fast – we made some changes and said, “OK, let’s rearrange and do something else” – but it invites more and more questions and invites more and more creativity which creates more synergies as we move forward. Certainly people were wary of someone new coming in – different style, different attributes between me and Donna. They are really excited to be invested in and part of my vision for the next chapter of banking.

Q: What opportunities do you see in the banking market?
A: I think we have the opportunity to really focus on commercial lending. A bit of C&I, but CRE for sure. I think we have the opportunity to focus on mortgages and serving our communities. I think there is an opportunity for North Brookfield Savings Bank to go deeper into Central Mass., to focus on Connecticut and maybe Rhode Island. We have to serve this community, but I think we have a real opportunity to grow a bit. I think Worcester is a really attractive market. Some would say it’s overbanked; I would say get in on the game and show our service, our premium touch, our personal digital model, and be contemporary and involved.

Q: Could you achieve this by expanding the branch network?
A: Assuming there’s an opportunity out there, we’re looking at that. I think there are opportunities for some lending offices that we can tap into in that capacity. We would certainly grow in the right place – a small contemporary branch. I’m leaning more towards a loan type facility. I would like to have lenders in these markets. Here too, we will leverage our digital strategy.

Q: What about an acquisition?
A: We have to grow. So our goal is that we have to be over the next three to five years at $500 million, $600 million, $750 million. We would definitely like to work with an organization on a merger opportunity. We formed a mutual holding company on January 1, so there are opportunities there. But definitely, we have to grow.

Bernasconi’s Five Favorite Family Traditions

  1. Spending time at the family home on Cape Cod
  2. boating
  3. Deep sea fishing
  4. To go to the beach
  5. Cook together and go to a restaurant
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