James Carriero’s father wanted him to be a teacher.
“I had no idea what I wanted to get into,” Carriero says. “My father said, ‘You will be a teacher.’ I was, like, ‘OK, it sounds good to me.'”
Born and raised in Stamford, Conn., Carriero enrolled at Southern Connecticut State University, earning a bachelor of science degree in secondary education. After student teaching during his senior year, he had second thoughts.
“It was not quite what I thought it was going to be,” he says. “It was kind of an eye-opening experience. I decided that, before I made that commitment to education, I needed to try some other things.”
His first job after college was as a management trainee at KeyCorp. Thirty years later, he is the new Rochester district president for KeyCorp subsidiary KeyBank N.A. He was appointed March 7.
“When I look to hire a seasoned executive, I don’t look at what that college degree was in,” says Thomas Geisel, the Albany-based president of KeyCorp’s Northeast region. “That degree helps shape a person, but their real-world experience is more important. That’s what I focused on with Jim.
“He is very diversified and has been very successful in running different financial service lines of business, not only for us at Key but for other organizations.”
Carriero, 52, previously served eight years as a senior vice president in charge of the McDonald Financial Group’s private banking division in KeyBank’s Capital region, Hudson Valley and Central New York districts.
McDonald Financial Group provides banking, investing and trust services to affluent individuals for the Cleveland-based bank.
“When I entered banking, I had a dream to someday be the president of a bank,” he says. “That was my professional objective. It took me 30 years to get to my dream, but I just stayed focused on that dream.”
Carriero replaces Leonard Hess, who retired late in 2005. A resident of Glenmont in the Albany area, Carriero will relocate to Rochester soon.
“I have mixed feelings about this,” says Michael Wach-older, director of the Rensselaer Technology Park in Troy. “I’m very happy for Jim, but I’m sorry to see him go.
“I could call him right now and say I need your help. Two weeks ago he’d say he’d be here in 10 minutes. Now it would be three hours.”
Wacholder has known Carriero for 10 years. Their professional relationship comes from KeyBank’s involvement with the technology park.
“We’ve become very good friends,” Wacholder says. “He’s an outstanding human being. As a banker, he’s a real people person. That’s essential, and I think a core need in banking. Jim knows how to handle people. He has enormous respect for the customer.”
Carriero is responsible for growing KeyBank’s Rochester client base in retail, business and commercial banking. He will work with sales managers at McDonald Financial Group and KeyCorp’s community development bank to deliver products and services to the Rochester-area market.
“Jim is unique in the way he fits into our community bank structure,” Geisel says. “Someone needs to be able to understand very sophisticated financial services and be able to deliver them in a community bank setting on Main Street.
“There are senior executives within all organizations, no matter what their background, that may not be able to pull those two together. What attracted me to Jim was his ability to do that.”
A team approach
Carriero oversees 131 employees from his office at 100 Bausch & Lomb Place.
“Everyone has a different style,” Carriero says. “My predecessors-Leonard Hess and others-have left value. My mission is to learn what things were done that were great things. Then you improve it.
“It’s not really just about Jim Carriero. You build teams of people, and it’s about what they do as they work toward satisfying clients. My impact will be decided much later down the road. Right now, it’s about the people here.”
Carriero’s late father, Anthony, was an upholsterer.
“(He was) a very intelligent man,” Carriero says. “In addition to upholstery, he made box springs and mattresses. But he was very well-read and very open.”
His father, a veteran of World War II, had “very strong feelings about patriotism and commitment to community, country and family,” Carriero says.
Those feelings, and knowing his son’s personality, Carriero says, led to his father’s suggestion that he teach.
But Carriero said he found during his student training that education tends to be inflexible.
“I found it very confining,” he says. “And I could see in kids that they needed a lot more deviation. But that deviation creates a lot of expense. Our country and most countries in the world try to standardize education as much as they can. That’s not always the best thing for kids.”
A second concern, he says, was the lack of teaching jobs available at the time to college graduates.
“There was a serious recession at the time and it was difficult to find employment. There were no jobs for my friends who did go into education,” he says. “Those who did go in ended up getting laid off.”
Along with student teaching during his senior year in college, Carriero ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Stamford board of representatives. His campaign caught the attention of a local community banker, who approached Carriero a few weeks later and suggested he pursue a career in banking.
“That was really my direction,” Carriero says. “Someone from the community pulled me aside and mentored me.”
A banking start
He joined KeyBank in 1976 and has stayed for 27 of the last 30 years, working briefly as a national sales manager for Advanta Mortgage Corp. in Pennsylvania and as a vice president for correspondent and broker lending at Advanced Financial Services in Rhode Island.
KeyCorp’s management training program included experience in each of its divisions. Carriero worked in the branch system in Oneonta for
1 1/2 years and also spent time in Cobleskill and Gloversville in Upstate New York.
The mentoring that pointed him toward banking, along with his educational background, has molded Carriero’s professional style.
“We need to do a lot more of that (mentoring) with young people today and not leave it to just education,” he says. “Educators have a lot of students to deal with. There needs to be a lot of support of education. That’s the role that, as businesspeople and community leaders, we need to play.”
Carriero has served as a mentor for students in Albany schools. He hopes to continue that in Rochester, personally and professionally.
For example, he says, a youngster who is unsure of his or her career path will express an interest in working on cars. Carriero would like to show them that experience.
“It might be through a dealership that does a lot of business with KeyBank,” he says. “It might be a mechanic that does business with KeyBank. It might be a gas station that does business with KeyBank. But I’ll make sure that I give them the opportunity to experience what it is to be in that business, to see if they really like it.
“It’s a matter of adults taking the time to mentor kids, especially in our civilization today. Information is very powerful. Our kids have a lot of access to the Internet, but that’s not the experience. The experience is going to do something and seeing what it’s like day-to-day.”
Carriero is in Rochester during the week, returning to his Glenmont home on weekends.
An avid walker-he often walks 3 1/2 miles in the morning and 3 1/2 miles at night-Carriero is impressed by what he has seen of Rochester so far.
“This is a great city,” he says. “You can see the different ages and architecture of certain periods of time.
“The churches are beautiful. A lot of the old buildings on corners tend to be banks. Once the population moved out of downtown centers into the suburbs, those banks became something else. You can just see the impact of change as you look at these buildings.”
Carriero also enjoys cross-country skiing and history. He is reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin.
He also is working on his master’s degree. He has been taking classes at SUNY College at Albany and will try to complete his degree here.
It’s a nice characteristic, I think, for people to go back to school continually,” Carriero says. “It broadens your perspective. We begin to think just about our own business. We need to hear a lot about other challenges that people have or society has or educational institutions have.”
Carriero is looking forward to becoming a permanent resident, he says, so he can enjoy Rochester’s museums, arts and culture.
“Those qualities are not in every area, and Rochester is rich with them,” he says. “Philanthropists have taken their personal money and committed it to the community. That’s very impressive.
“Everyone I’ve met that has had anything to do with Rochester always spoke so well of it. I always wondered whether I’d someday get the opportunity to experience these stories I’ve heard. So far they are valid. It’s a very nice quality of life. It has challenges, but everywhere has challenges.”
Perhaps the greatest challenge, he says, is job growth. Rochester consistently has lagged behind the rest of the country, and most of the state, in that area.
KeyBank had $523.5 million in local deposits in 2005, eighth in the Rochester market, data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. show.
Carriero declined to disclose his specific goals for the local market.
“We’ve restructured recently toward community banking,” Carriero says of KeyCorp. “Community banking is about relationships with people. Those have to be much more substantial than just advertising. It has to be more substantial than just price. It has to be close-knit communication with clients.
“The growth here is going to come from our ability to coordinate what we do, from all of our businesses focused on the client,” Carriero says. “When you coordinate all of those businesses, that’s very powerful stuff.”
The bank did those items well in the Hudson Valley, Albany and Syracuse, he says.
“That’s what we need to accomplish here as well.”
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04/21/06 (C) Rochester Business Journal