Executive Spotlight

Executive Spotlight: Jay Anderson, president of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank

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PITTSFIELD — Jerome "Jay" Anderson, president and CEO of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, literally grew up in the banking industry. His father, the late Everett B. Anderson, spent 42 years in the profession, and served as vice president of the former Pittsfield National Bank in the early 1970s.

Jay began his career at his father's bank while he was a senior at Taconic High School. He was tasked with filing checks in a large roll file.

"I loved it," he told The Eagle shortly after being named CEO in April 2009.

Q First things first: Is the bank ever going to do anything with the two vacant parcels it owns, on Elm Street (where

Harry's Supermarket used to be) and on North Street (near Berkshire Medical Center)?

A We're probably going to sell them both.

Q You just passed your 10th anniversary as president and CEO of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank. Did the years go by like you thought they would?

A They've gone by very fast. ... It was different than what I thought it was going to be in terms of the economy's changed since I took over. But we've grown $90 million since 2011, so we've done very well and we've become very profitable and we've expanded our services to market the community that we serve.

Q Your father was a bank president; did you ever consider another career besides banking?

A I took a number of sports management classes when I was in college [at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst] and always thought it would be neat to be in a baseball or basketball front office.

Q Have those sports management classes come in handy in banking?

A The hardest part of running any organization is — we have 50 people — managing people and different personalities. I think you do it in a smaller scale in a sports franchise, but you see in sports all the time there's different personalities on a team and different talent levels. ... It is kind of like managing a team.

Q Is there any team you would have liked to work for?

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A Probably the Celtics in the NBA. I just think that they have a storied franchise, the winningest franchise.

Q In a way, it's like what you're doing now. You're running a storied franchise (Pittsfield Cooperative Bank was founded in 1889). I see a parallel ...

A In the last 10 years everybody in the industry thought smaller banks were going to go by the wayside. We're the smallest bank in Berkshire County, but we're doing as well, if not better, than the other ones. It was never a philosophy that you have to be a certain size. It was a matter of doing things to maintain your independence.

Q How have the changes in the economy the last 10 years helped community banks?

A The economy's gotten much better. I think the housing market's gotten much better, which helps us in two regards: number one, our consumers have done better through their jobs and our customers have done better based on how well the economy's been. I think the combination of those two things have really helped banks, in general, maintain profitability instead of in [2008-10], when we were all losing money and doing the rough work.

Q Lessons learned?

A One of the things I've learned coming through in being a commercial lender is that you don't want to make bad loans in a good environment. In banking, it's easy to make bad loans in good times. I've lived long enough to see the personal effect of that. When you see businesses going out in foreclosure, there's a human element behind that. ... I've tried to work very hard not to make those kinds of loans, because I know what the downturn is on the other side. ... We preach that within the organization. Some people would say that's overly conservative. But I think we take the fiduciary experience of lending money very seriously, and that's an important part that seems to get lost.

Editor's note: Anderson is the president of the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. for over a decade. PERC provides direct loans and access to a variety of public loan programs to help Berkshire County businesses that are unable to obtain conventional financing.

Q What's more challenging, being a bank president or the head of PERC?

A PERC is more challenging, because it's an all-volunteer board, so you immediately have a lack of resources to do all the things that you can do. And it's hard. It's hard helping small businesses and trying to attract businesses into any city, never mind Pittsfield.

Q In 2017, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer created the Red Carpet Team, a single port of entry for those interested in doing business. The team is comprised of the city of Pittsfield, the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and PERC. Has that framework done what is was supposed to do?

A I think one of the problems that you had in the past was that PEDA had their efforts, PERC had their efforts and there was no blanket effort for the city of Pittsfield. To [PEDA board Chair] Mick Callahan's credit, we talked about this six or seven years ago. It took this long before we could understand the right structure.

The mayor, once she heard what we were talking about, she completely got it right off the bat. There were a lot of joint efforts throughout the city on Wayfair. That's a classic example of something that could be done.

Tony Dobrowski can be reached at tdobrowski@berkshireeagle.com. If you have a suggestion for someone to profile, contact Dobrowski.


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