First—and Lasting—Impressions

By Dorothy Savarese

The first impression I had of banking—at least as an adult—came courtesy of my father. My parents had always stressed the importance of service to others, so it was no surprise that in retirement my dad searched and found ways to make a difference. Among other things, he opted to serve on the board of the local bank. He knew that in a town the size of Berry, Ky.—population just barely 300—the bank was the major player in helping others.

The second impression I had of banking came through my work in economic development—in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky as well as across the country. I recall visiting one community where the government had to play the role of commercial lender because there were no banks headquartered there that could fund local small businesses.

Both of these early impressions of banking gave me an appreciation for what banks do for their communities and the economy. But it wasn’t until I became a banker—and looked at banking from the inside out—that my appreciation turned into passion.

I can think of few professions that offer the opportunity we have to make such a broad, deep, positive and lasting impact on the lives of so many. We seem to be equal parts consultant, accountant, counselor and social worker, working with businesses, social service organizations, local governments, homeowners and consumers. We facilitate things as ordinary as payroll and as extraordinary as economic development—as personal as homeownership and as universal as payments.

Of course, with so much opportunity to make a difference comes a lot of responsibility. But the men and women in banking that I’ve met over the years live up to that responsibility by putting their customers’ and communities’ needs first.

At Cape Cod Five, we spell it out for our employees and customers. We emphasize our bank’s commitment to community banking, responsible business, volunteerism, financial education and philanthropy. We call it our five pillars of community engagement. Your bank may express its values with different words, but I have no doubt they boil down to the same goal: building healthy communities and successful customers.

This is the most fundamental thing that all banks have in common. And it’s what makes me so proud to serve as chairman of ABA, representing banks of all stripes that share the same mission. That’s not to say we agree on everything—we don’t. And we don’t have to. (I learned this being one of eight children.)

We just need to agree on what’s important and what we’re willing to fight for. And as I talk to members from widely different bank asset sizes, business models, ownership structures and geographies, I see surprising consistency on that score.

I always say I have the best job in the world. I get to help people turn their dreams and plans into reality—whether it’s a business that wants to expand, a family that needs an affordable home or a couple planning for retirement. In other words, we bankers get to make lasting impressions—and those are the best kind.

ABA Chairman Dorothy Savarese is chairman, president and CEO of the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank in Orleans, Mass.