BRATTLEBORO — After a search that stretched across states and regions, Brattleboro Savings & Loan (BS&L) says it has hired Deborah Stephenson for the position of president and (1)chief operating officer. She will be succeeding current president and COO Dan Yates, who is retiring at the end of this month after 17 years in that post.
Stephenson comes to BS&L from Berkshire Bank in Massachusetts, where she served as senior vice president for compliance and was instrumental in growing its assets from $2 billion to $13 billion during her tenure. Having grown up in Adams, Massachusetts, she took her university degree in economics and finance into public service as a bank examiner for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
Seeing so many banks from the inside helped her to learn the fundamentals of banking as well as to become an expert at risk management and compliance issues. Her first job out of the government was with Woronoco Savings Bank in Westfield, Massachusetts, where it was suffering from compliance issues that wouldn't allow it to grow as it wished. She cleared up the issues in six months and the bank began to thrive. This became a specialty of Stephenson's that has followed her throughout her banking career.
“I love what I do and am proud of all that my teams have achieved,” she said in a news release, “however, I'm at a point in my career where my values must align with the bank and community I serve, and that's what brought me [to BS&L].”
She said she sees both the challenge and opportunity of BS&L remaining a mutual bank and a B Corporation - two things that stood out and attracted her to this role.
“BS&L stands out as a mutual bank owned by stakeholders rather than shareholders,” she said. “We are the last one standing against the mighty stock banks and our way forward is clear: to be the bank that builds community.”
“It was a really rigorous search for us,” said Carmen Derby, chair of BS&L's board. “We expected great candidates, but were a little surprised at just how much interest there was in taking this role at BS&L. Over and over, candidates talked about the values of the bank and the communities it serves, which means we're doing something really right.”
For Stephenson, values are at the center of all she's done in her career.
“I have loved my career but every decision I've made has always had to be compatible with my family and their needs,” she said. Her two daughters, 21 and 23, play soccer like their mother - the younger currently playing for Merrimack College - and Stephenson said she looks forward to other outdoor opportunities in the area.
“I've always enjoyed being with friends and family as well as hiking. I'm hoping my husband and I will be taking up snowshoeing this winter as well,” she said.
As for what's at the top of her agenda in her new roles, Stephenson said that meeting with people and listening is her first focus.
“This bank is special and it's not my goal to come in and start changing things,” she said. “Unlike many other banks I've joined, I'm not here to 'fix' BS&L, but to grow the things that already make it amazing and a true community bank.”
Stephenson is now working with Yates during the leadership transition and said she hopes to glean as much information and institutional knowledge as possible to continue the good things that BS&L has come to represent.
“I'm excited and humbled by this opportunity and I hope that we can maintain who we are in a way that's authentic to this bank and community,” she said. “I want us to grow as a vibrant and resilient community bank.”