Cornerstones of the Community

Cape Cod Life  /  November/December 2020 /

Writer: Julie Craven Wagner

Local financial institutions provide a backbone of support for our community

At the core of our inter-connected community here on the Cape and Islands, a network of banking, investment and financial management entities keep local businesses running, depositors securely serviced, investors happy, and in so many ways provide an intricate web of connection and support for every tier of our unique society. Financial organizations are as common as the noses on our own faces, and equally as critical for essential functions, perhaps no more than within the charitable landscape of our community. It is easy to attribute the generous giving of the Cape’s financial institutions to be an expected by-product of merely managing large sums of capital. However, a closer look reveals an industry full of individuals who view their professional and personal commitment to giving as an extension of who they are.

Dorothy Savarese, chair and CEO of Cape Cod 5, the region’s largest financial institution, says, ”As a community bank, and as a mutual community bank, we actually feel as though it is our obligation, and it is in our DNA to support the community.” Savarese, who chose Cape Cod 5 among a variety of offers within the Cape banking community when she moved here over 25 years ago, says, “I came to Cape Cod 5 because of the bank’s focus on community. In fact, that year (1993) they were chosen to receive a ‘Philanthropist of the Year’ award.” Savarese reflects on the way the Cape has changed since she first arrived, and thereby how the needs and resources the bank administers have also evolved. “It has changed so dramatically, and yet the forces of that change were in place even at that time,” she recalls. “The expansion of tourism had been a strong economic driver for many years. Then, adding the expansion of the economy from second homeowners has been a good driver by offering opportunities to the home and hospitality industries. But at the same time, it has applied significant pressure to the availability of affordable housing. The attractiveness of our region, both for retirees and visitors, has provided welcome economic effects, and yet it has come with a lot of challenges.”

Therein lies the balance that local financial institutions continue to strive to maintain as they serve depositors, borrowers and investors. Like dropping a pebble in a pool, the prosperity of a community does not come without causing a ripple effect. “The bank recognizes the gap that needs to be bridged between the opportunity for prosperity as well as the challenges within the community, in order to create a desirable place to live that keeps that prosperity going,” Savarese confirms.

Theresa Richards grew up on the Cape. She still calls Chatham home. The vice president and district manager for Rockland Trust speaks with unwavering passion when she discusses her commitment to this community. “I am Cape Cod,” she confirms. “I feel so enriched to serve this community, professionally as well as charitably. So much of what we do in our communities extends beyond our banking workforce. I interact with people’s lives every day, and if I am not in tune to how I can help, I’m simply not doing my job.” Richards, who travels the length of the Cape says that the network of caring and cooperation is at the core of the bank’s values.

With the introduction of COVID, the banks found themselves in the midst of a variety of maelstroms, from the pressures and volumes associated with administering a tsunami of Paycheck Protection Program loans for the Small Business Association to re-assessing the allocation of charitable giving slated for the coming year. “Before, everything was so effortless. When we created our budgets, it was based a normal year. We quickly realized we couldn’t do that. We needed to respond quickly, but we need to be thoughtful about where we could make the most impact,” Richards states.

Lori Meads, president and CEO at Seamen’s Bank in Provincetown, says that their 169 year commitment to the Outer Cape communities presented unique challenges that had much to do with predicting the future, not a skill often taught in business school. “No one knew what the full effect of the pandemic would be on our primarily seasonal, tourist-driven economy,” Meads recalls. As a native of Truro, Meads understands the needs of the Outer Cape economy. “We were there for our local businesses and nonprofit organizations who provide the much needed services for the community. The Seamen’s Bank Long Point Charitable Foundation has taken a more focused position on supporting health and human services organizations during this time and I am proud of our team and how hard everyone has worked to make a difference.” Meads stresses the value of a community bank, “When people needed a place of support, they knew where to go, and we were there for them.”

Lisa Oliver, chair of the board, president and CEO of the Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, embodies the deliberate placement of the word Cooperative at the beginning of the bank’s name they seem to lead with that commitment. Oliver, who has been at the head of the institution for just over three years, launched The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod Charitable Foundation Trust, which significantly expanded the bank’s philanthropic reach. A self-described “full time wash-a-shore,” Oliver says she was struck by the realization the Cape was a real place. “When you peel back the layers of the Cape you discover it is not a postcard, but rather, a real place, with many real life issues.”

Oliver cites the 100-year-old bank’s commitment in their mission statement to give back to the community when she talks about the creation of the new foundation,  “As a mutual bank, philanthropy is part of our obligation,” she explains. “We have always actively supported local charitable organizations, but now we have a corpus of funds, that are permanently assigned to the community and to philanthropy.” Only six months into the bank’s 2020 fiscal year, the Coop has supported over 100 organizations to date, an increase over the 90 that had been served in previous fiscal years, and Oliver says she expects the demands to continue but believes her team is equipped to meet the need.

James Anthony has been the president of the Martha’s Vineyard Bank, with offices on the Vineyard as well as in Falmouth, for just over three years. Growing up in Maryland, his family ventured to New England whenever vacations allowed, so an offer to re-locate didn’t take Anthony long to make his decision. He says the unique collaborative nature of the area was one of the first impressions that confirmed that he had landed in a special spot in the world. “This region is different in that the helpers are intricately connected to those who are in need,” Anthony reflects. “During such an unreal time like a pandemic, the same people who were feeding your family yesterday, might need your help in some way today. And vice versa.” The island community, simply due to its proximity, benefited, as well as fell vulnerable to, the myriad complexities associated with the coronavirus. In many ways the population was able to shelter in place, but with that came the absence of the vital activity brought by visitors. Looking forward, Anthony and his team are committed to supporting  the area’s businesses, and the community as a whole, as the future unfolds over the next several months.

Stacy Reinhart was a familiar face on the local banking scene for years before she established the new office for Boston Financial Management in Centerville. Reinhart says she loves managing her client’s portfolios in a region where she also has deep roots. “Many of our clients are new to the area as residents,” Reinhart explains. “They may have vacationed here, but being newly retired allows people to see their surroundings in a new way.” Reinhart says as she gets to know her clients, and begins to understand what they are passionate about, she is able to make referrals and that includes organizations who would benefit from monetary or time donations. Reinhart, who has supported the Barnstable Land Trust for many years, explains how a commitment to environmental and conservation groups ultimately contributes to maintaining the lifestyle we all enjoy.

Dorothy Savarese may be the head of the largest bank on the Cape and Islands, but perhaps more importantly she is a representation of the heart of the banking community. By extension she and these countless other generous, empathetic, and bright professionals that manage the valuable resources of our growing community, are all part of the lifeblood that is committed to the essential functions that make the region a vibrant and vital place to call home.

Julie Craven Wagner

Julie Craven Wagner began her experience with Cape Cod Life in 2010 when she joined the sales team after 10 years of working with local businesses on the Cape and Islands with WMVY. In addition to sales, she is the Associate Publisher/Editor of Cape Cod LIFE, Cape Cod HOME, and Cape Cod ART. Growing up on the Outer Cape has given her a unique perspective of life on Cape Cod, from tip to bridge, and that is reflected in her appreciation and presentation of stories found within the pages of our publications. Julie lives in North Falmouth with her husband, Eric, and their yellow lab, Enzo. When she finds free time, she enjoys her Cape Cod life sailing on Buzzards Bay, spending time on the beach in Wellfleet, or exploring Martha’s Vineyard.