President and CEO, Genesee Regional Bank
Years in current role: 18
What do you enjoy most about your role?
As a banker, I get to see firsthand the innovative spirit that makes the Rochester community a great place to live and work. I’m a Rochester native and I’m proud of how this community continues to transform itself. Getting the chance to see extraordinary businesses grow and develop, and to talk to business owners with vision and ingenuity is certainly a highlight for me. When you think about it, Genesee Regional Bank (GRB) is a small business, too. We’ve grown from 17 employees to more than 160 during my tenure and we have been the top SBA lender in Rochester for the last three years. GRB has grown in parallel to the businesses it serves. Knowing that GRB is part of the stories of so many of the region’s businesses really reinforces the importance of community banking in our region.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?
Last year took everything we knew as a bank and turned it on its side. From recruiting new employees to managing customer relationships, everything was different. But the upside of being a nimble organization like GRB is that last year really helped us leapfrog ahead in a number of key areas. We fully leveraged our prior technology investments and were able to implement others that gave us the ability to serve our customers in new ways. We didn’t allow ourselves to get caught up in what was different, we looked at everything through a lens of both necessity and opportunity. We looked for ways to provide customers and employees with changes that were positive. I know our employees and customers never doubted our commitment to them and to this community.
What do you see as the biggest changes in the banking and finance industry in the next 3-5 years?
No question, technology and employee recruitment. We’re definitely seeing an increase in the number of tech-savvy customers we see today. More than 98% of our residential mortgage applicants choose to use our app to complete the mortgage process. But banking is very much built on personal relationships, so we’re careful to still balance the technology with a personal touch. Recruiting in the financial services industry has become increasingly difficult. But there are so many opportunities. I believe we have four or five open positions right now and we add new positions every year. We hire in a broad range of careers including IT, operations, risk management, residential mortgage, project management, etc. And we have a lot of fun! Don’t believe me? Follow our social channels!
What is the No. 1 tip you would give to people or companies about planning their finances amid uncertain times?
First, a cash cushion was critical in helping many consumers and businesses weather the initial impacts of the pandemic. Having enough money on hand to last a few months gives you the opportunity to make other plans, like talking to your banker or mortgage holder. It buys you time to work out a strategy so you don’t make rash decisions. For businesses, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have a solid banking relationship. Your banker should know your organization and what it needs, and be proactive in meeting those needs. Also, be open with your banker about any short- or long-term challenges. The sooner we know about something, the more options we’ll have to help.
What community organizations do you support as a volunteer and why?
I’ve been involved in a number of wonderful organizations throughout my years at GRB, including Scouts BSA, Compeer, Rochester Small Business Council, McQuaid Jesuit, and I recently became President-Elect of the Italian Heritage Foundation. I also advocate for other community banks as a board member of the Independent Bankers Association of New York State. I volunteer because this community is my home and it’s incumbent upon me to make it better every day. The interesting thing is that my volunteer opportunities have always given me far more than I could ever possibly give to them. Nothing else builds that sense of community, character and fulfillment. The experiences I’ve had volunteering have been enriching personally and professionally.
This profile is part of Rochester Business Journal's Power 30 Banking & Finance list for 2021. Information used in this profile was sourced from the honoree. View the full list at https://rbj.net/2021/12/17/rbjs-power-30-banking-finance/.