March 8, 2017 — The Bank of Greene County has 150 employees in 16 locations, nearly $1 billion in assets and is publicly traded on the NASDAQ.
But the bank’s size is lost on most customers, who can count on saying hello to their neighbors at the local branch. One they’re sure to bump into at the main branch in Catskill: Donald E. Gibson, G’87, the bank president and chief executive officer.
“We operate in Greene, Columbia, Albany and Ulster counties. But we go out of our way to look small. People don’t really like big banks,” said Gibson.
Gibson has worked at the Bank of Greene County since graduating college, and at age 23 was manager of the Cairo branch. Along the way he has helped lead the institution into commercial lending, investment services and municipal banking.
As the institution has grown in complexity, Gibson has asked employees to pursue a graduate education. And he has recommended Saint Rose, where he earned his own MBA while working at the bank.
“We’d say ‘We’d really like you to get your MBA. There are a lot of schools you can choose, but we had a great experience at Saint Rose and you should consider it,’” he said recently.
A good number have done so. In addition to Gibson, Chief Lending Officer Steve Nelson earned a Saint Rose MBA, along with Municipal Banking Assistant Vice President Donald MacCormack. So did the bank’s senior credit analyst, commercial lending business development officers, the marketing director and the e-communications officer. Bank employee Jon Halligan is continuing the tradition, working in municipal finance during the day and heading to the College’s Huether School of Business at night to study for his MBA.
Halligan, 23, said not only has he benefited from taking classes alongside co-workers, he has seen where the degree can lead.
“It’s nice to see the head of the bank and my boss (MacCormack) and other top officers and know I’m on the same track that they are on,” said Halligan, a Greene County native who hopes to complete his degree this summer.
The Bank of Greene County now boasts nine Saint Rose alumni and two current students. Bank employees have, in fact, been enrolled at the College almost continuously since Gibson and Nelson started in the late 1980s. The bank doesn’t just recommend Saint Rose, but also contributes toward the books and tuition.
“They definitely look at my transcript,” noted Halligan. “You have to earn a B or better. It’s pressure but it’s good pressure and I’m very lucky.”
He and others say the education ensures a consistency among bank officers. Among them is Martha Keeler, G’14, a vice president and the bank’s first director of marketing.
“Since many of us have taken the same classes, we are able to talk about how we handled a course, what we learned and how we can apply it toward our jobs,” she explained, adding that the emphasis on team projects at Saint Rose has also paid off.
Gibson, a strong student and avid athlete, knew he wanted to go into banking from a young age. By the time he graduated from the State University of New York at Oneonta with his degree in business economics, he had worked summers as a teller. Gibson opted to stay local once he began working at the Bank of Greene County and saw the large variety of services a community bank can offer.
A few months after graduating from Oneonta, he started commuting to Saint Rose with his colleague Nelson, another Greene County native who decided to stay put.
Gibson said the College’s focus on the individual student was an eye-opener following the large classes he was accustomed to as an undergraduate. Saint Rose also was beneficial, Gibson said, because of the strong mix of students.
“We were in classes with other bankers, but also people from trade associations, private industry and state government,” he recalled. “The classes were a nice mix of theory and practice and there was a lot I could apply to my own work. “
Collectively, the team has faced the challenge of expanding without growing away from the community. Founded in 1889, the bank went public in 1998 but made sure that a little more than 50 percent of its stock was retained by its own holding company. As a result, this hometown, and expanding, organization will remain independent.
And despite all the change in the industry, the workforce, largely fueled by Saint Rose education, is nothing if not stable.
“We’re very lucky,” Gibson said. “We have talented employees who chose to stay local and work for a community bank, just like I did. With Saint Rose MBAs, they are highly desirable and could live anywhere. The bank, and our local communities, benefit from their contributions.”
— By Jane Gottlieb; photo provided by Bank of Greene County