LEOMINSTER – April 14, 2017 - Fidelity Bank posted a 27% increase in deposits in 2016, enough to earn recognition as the fastest-growing bank in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Business Journal.
A primary driver of this growth was a merger with Barre Savings Bank in 2016 that helped Fidelity Bank introduce its unique LifeDesign style of community banking to a broader market area, while strengthening its financial profile.
Completed last spring, the merger reverberated throughout Fidelity’s operations, improving performance across a number of metrics and positioning the bank to expand support for local communities.
The combined institutions are operating under the Fidelity Bank name and state charter, meaning Fidelity Bank remains a mutual bank—owned by customers, not shareholders.
“The merger made sense because our culture and values were so well aligned,” said Ed Manzi Jr., chairman and CEO. “Two great banks have become one to benefit our clients, communities and employees. We now have greater flexibility to make necessary investments, while never forgetting our community-bank values.”
With the merger, Fidelity now has 10 full-service banking offices in central Massachusetts. That includes three new Fidelity branches in Barre, Paxton and Princeton, which formerly operated under the Barre Savings Bank name.
Residents of the new communities are getting acquainted with Fidelity Bank’s LifeDesign approach. Fidelity Bank’s unique brand promise, LifeDesign guides every decision and interaction, ensuring that the well-being of clients and communities always comes first, Manzi said.
“Fidelity Bank has been helping clients get where they want to be for well over a century,” said Chris McCarthy, president and chief operating officer. “We are determined to be the most caring, trusted and respected source of financial guidance in the communities we serve.”
2016 by the numbers
Here are some highlights of how Fidelity Bank supported community growth in 2016:
It helped both business and consumers by providing over $220 million in new loans Highlights included
Giving its neighbors financial flexibility for needs like home improvements and college expenses by granting nearly 300 home equity loans or lines of credit (total value almost $30 million).
Helping strengthen or expand more than 160 local businesses with nearly $90 million in commercial loans.
Bringing the benefits of community banking to 220 new business customers, not including those that joined as part of the Barre Savings Bank merger.
Introduced its LifeDesign approach to community banking to 1,660 new households, not including those that joined as part of the Barre Savings Bank merger.
Earned the highest 5-Star rating for strength and stability from Bauer Financial Inc., the nation’s leading bank-rating firm.
Named the fastest-growing bank in Massachusetts by the Boston Business Journal—deposits grew 27 percent to $659 million.
Contributed to employment in our market area by increasing our workforce to 149, a 30 percent increase over the prior year.
LifeDesign Community Dividend
Of all numbers characterizing 2016, the one Fidelity Bank is most proud of is $290,000. That was the amount of the LifeDesign Community Dividend distributed to more than 100 worthy community organizations last year.
“Unlike a publicly owned bank that pays dividends to shareholders, we’re mutually owned by our customers,” Manzi said. “Consequently, we can pay our dividends to the community.”
Said McCarthy: “The LifeDesign Dividend is an integral part of our commitment to help improve the communities we serve. As a community bank, we’re very conscious of focusing on people, not just profits. When a business does right by people, everybody wins.”
Dividends support education, health initiatives, youth and senior organizations, cultural centers, and other causes that contribute to the region’s quality of life.
Since its founding in 2013, the LifeDesign Community Dividend has distributed more than $1 million in grants. Last year, recipients included the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, the YWCA Central Massachusetts, and the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, among scores of others.
The SHINE Initiative
The largest single recipient of a LifeDesign Community Dividend was The SHINE Initiative. Founded by Fidelity Bank employees in 2004, The SHINE Initiative spotlights mental illness in young people as a mainstream health issue.
In seeking to raise awareness, the nonprofit conducted presentations at dozens of high schools, health fairs and community forums last year, reaching nearly 11,000 students, parents and teachers.
Meanwhile, it dispensed more than $50,000 in grants to promote mental health education, while also hosting the first Student Mental Health Summit, attended by 60 students from seven area high schools.
“We’re truly grateful for the support Fidelity Bank has given us right from the beginning,” says Paul Richard, SHINE Executive Director. “We’re more committed than ever to engaging our young people and moving the conversation forward around mental health issues.”
Barre Savings Charitable Foundation
Fidelity Bank also expanded its philanthropic footprint in 2016 by establishing the Barre Savings Charitable Foundation, a Fidelity Bank endowment.
The foundation was seeded with $1.5 million from Fidelity Bank after its merger with Barre Savings Bank. Income from the endowment will be used to support community organizations serving the Barre, Paxton and Princeton areas.
“These communities supported Barre Savings Bank for 146 years,” Manzi says. “In honor of the bank’s legacy, it’s only fitting that this endowment be established. The foundation is designed to provide funding for deserving nonprofits in perpetuity.”
Blue jeans and ice cream
Other forms of community outreach practiced by Fidelity Bank are a bit more informal.
One example: Employees are invited to wear jeans every other Friday—but asked to donate $5 for the privilege. The bank matches the donation, then distributes the proceeds to nonprofits—nearly $11,000 last year to 15 community organizations.
Then there’s the Fidelity Bank ice cream truck. Branded with the bank’s graphics and colors, the truck visited 13 community events in summer 2016, along with multiple stops at each Fidelity Bank branch. In the process, it handed out more than 6,000 ice creams and prompted at least that many smiles—now that’s a refreshing approach to community banking.
Founded in 1888, Fidelity Bank is one of the oldest independent community banks in central Massachusetts. It offers a range of banking, investment and insurance solutions through 10 full-service offices in Leominster, Worcester, Fitchburg, Gardner, Shirley, Barre, Millbury, Paxton, and Princeton. As of Dec. 31, 2016, the bank had total assets of $779 million.