I recently sat down with Wellesley resident and Needham Bank president Joe Campanelli, who’s been on the job for all of two weeks. He arrived at Needham Bank via New England Community Financial, and has also worked as the Chief Executive at Flag Star Corporation and, a bit further back, as President of Sovereign Bank Corp.
We bonded over our shared Connecticut roots, but the similarities ended fast. I graduated from a public high school in the New Haven area with a student body of almost 2,000, while he and around 400 others attended the prestigious boarding school, Suffield Academy. There was that time his youth hockey team came down to play our Hamden boys. Some burly local checked him right the heck into the boards, and Campanelli’s face came away with a chain-link imprint. Back then, chain-link fencing was the kind of barrier Hamden supplied to separate the players from the spectators, instead of today’s ubiquitous (and mandatory) Plexiglass. Maybe the (probably rusty) fence was there because that’s what finances permitted, or maybe it was a sort of Hamden tough-guy mentality — if you know you’re going to get slammed into chain-link fencing, chances are you’ll skate faster and not get checked in the first place, right? Sort of a training philosophy.
At any rate, before long we were chatting about the Wellesley resident’s new job as CEO of Needham Bank, which is a mutual bank (as opposed to one that is publicly traded). Here’s some insight on what it takes to run in the world of community banking:
The Swellesley Report: Do you know The Swellesley Report?
Campanelli: I’m getting to understand it. My wife always reads it.
How long have you lived in town?
Campanelli: 20-something years. My wife Carolyn and I have three children. We moved to Wellesley for the public schools, and then one morning I woke up and my daughter was over at Dana Hall, and one son was at Fessenden, and the other was at St. Sebastian’s. It’s interesting because they all self-selected their school, and they all chose single-sex education. My oldest is allegedly moving off the payroll, which is a good thing. She’s working for a Biotech firm and lives in Boston. My other two kids are 21 and 17.
Do you have time for any involvement in the town of Wellesley?
Campanelli: In the greater Boston community I have involvement. I chair the Tufts Medical Center, which is very interesting when you look at the whole medical/health care arena. Obviously Tufts has got activities throughout Metrowest…it really is a regionally based enterprise. I’m on the board of the Carroll School. I try to look at areas where I can have an impact and provide time and effort. My wife does the Wellesley Service League. She’s loving it. Every day she has a new activity.
The Swellesley Report: Service League? Whoa, that’s big league. It’s a real working club.
Campanelli: Right. She’s at a time when all of a sudden she does actually have the time to get involved in Service League. It fits into her schedule now. She’s probably doing things with them two or three times per week.
The Swellesley Report: Every time a bank opens in town, people roll their eyes. What direction do you see branches going in over the next ten years?
Campanelli: I think there’s a misconception that if you build it they will come. I believe you can put a branch in a community, fill the branch with people who are deeply committed and involved in the community, and it will become a cornerstone of economic development in that community for families and for businesses. Needham fits right into that model of banking. We really try to be right in the center square. Whether it’s your kids going to college, you’re trying to buy a home, you’re trying to start a business, we go over the concepts and ideas for making those things happen.
The Swellesley Report: What do you think about the different apps people are using today to do their banking?
It helps different demographics interface with their bank. Years ago it was thought banking would become channel driven. You would use a branch, you’d be online, you’ll use the call center. What’s actually evolved is that people have been using different channels for different needs. So what you really need is multi-channel options. If you are making a major life decision such as taking on a mortgage, you want to talk to somebody. You want to transfer funds, you might do that electronically. We want to be able to compete with the Venmos of the world and move money around. We’re becoming more of a cashless society. Apple Pay, is an example. For the millennials, if they can’t do it on a smartphone, chances are they’re not going to do it. Technology, used properly, will extend our reach. If we do our job right, kids who start out banking here will be our customers for life.
The Swellesley Report: What are you optimistic about or not so optimistic about with the new administration?
Campanelli: Generally, change is good, but with change comes uncertainty. Change brings the unknown, which can create volatility. I think that the voters voted, and pendulums swing back and forth, so I think there will be fewer regulations. But I do believe that all industries have a lot of regulation and I think it’s a question of streamlining the regulation process. I do think that the US economy has a lot of good things going for us. The bad news is that things that happen around the world can affect us. We have a global economy. What happens across the world affects us immediately.
The Swellesley Report: What’s ahead for Needham Bank in Wellesley?
Campanelli: We’ll continue to grow the marketplace. Increase our visibility. We have one branch in Wellesley, and that’s absolutely enough.
The Swellesley Report, interview reflection:
My 30 minutes were up, and it was time for me to allow Campanelli to move along with the rest of his day. I’d say my interview with a bank president exceeded my expectations on the interesting scale, and I learned a few things. Didn’t know, for example, that Needham Bank supports a financial literacy program at Wellesley High School that teaches students the nuts and bolts about finance such as how banks work, how checking accounts work, as well as the details about credit card use and student loans. I also didn’t know that there are 21 branches and banks in Wellesley — I’ve always been too lazy to count them up. Even Needham Bank agrees that is too many.
I did know, however, that Needham Bank was a major donor to build the Wellesley High School Track & Field, a project that was near and dear to Campanelli’s heart even before he signed on at NB. So no matter how you feel about bank branches in town, and I know very well how so many of you feel from your many comments on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, it seems they are here to stay. And so is the Track & Field, so there’s that.