James J. Conlon was named president and CEO of Bangor Savings Bank on June 27, 2005, having previously served as the bank’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Q: What is the greatest challenge facing a new CEO?
A: As a mutual bank, one of the greatest challenges is the welcome responsibility of “stewardship” that comes with being only the 11th CEO in our 154-year history. Stewardship is defined as “the responsible leadership of something entrusted to one’s care.” That’s something I take seriously. It humbles me, and keeps me focused on keeping this institution strong for a very long time.
Q: What has been easier than you expected?
A: The transition from chief operating officer to chief executive officer. Our board had a well-thought-out succession plan in place and executed on it, with the full support of the former CEO and the entire bank family. As important, our customers have been incredibly supportive.
Q: Has anything been more difficult?
A: Perhaps I could better say that there’s something that remains difficult – effectively taking our brand and value proposition to a statewide Maine marketplace.
Q: What are the idiosyncrasies of doing business in your market area?
A: First, that we’re a local bank serving a statewide market – delivering the capacity of the regional and national banks through the business model of a community bank. And second, the predominance in the Maine market of micro and small business, along with their unique needs. Our commitment is to align our resources against those needs and contribute to their sustainability and growth.
Q: What past experience best prepared you for this job?
A: A lifetime of banking and, more specifically, the past 10 years of holding three different roles and levels of responsibility in this company. I know it well and I believe in it. Beyond that, another 15 years or so in a national bank allows me to take the best from that business model and integrate it with the best of the community banking model, with the outcome supporting our brand – to be an independent bank with the size and ability to act on it.
Q: What past jobs or experiences not related to banking have helped shape your views?
A: My long-time involvement in a number of community service activities and boards, which develop and strengthen a genuine appreciation for both the challenges and blessings of living and working in Maine. Find something that you have a passion for in your volunteer efforts, and it will be very rewarding.
Q: What advice would you give to those aspiring to senior management?
A: Take calculated risks, challenge and change or affirm present methods, and communicate results – positive or not. Openmindedness, flexibility and transparency are critical to building trust and confidence at all levels.
Q: What are banking’s greatest challenges today?
A: Frankly, there are a lot of us out there providing financial services to a limited audience, with more entering the picture every day. Mortgage companies, car manufacturers, insurance agencies, retail chains – all expanding their product-set to include companion financial services. That requires us to provide a more compelling value proposition to our customers and prospects. As it has always been, competition is a good thing.
Q: What publications do you read regularly?
A: I read most of the trade publications that include the American Banker, Wall Street Journal and specific pieces from the various Maine newspapers.
Q: What Web sites do you visit regularly?
A: I use the Web for specific tasks that I may be working on. For instance, I will go to most of our peer group sites to see how they are laid out and what information is contained. In addition, I use the ABA or regulatory sites as a resource for specific information.
Q: What books have you read recently?
A: I read extensively, and have a wide scope of books that I find interesting. The last four books that I have read are: “A View From The Top” by Graham Alexander, “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, “Freakonomics” by Steve Levitt and “A Salty Piece of Land” by Jimmy Buffet.
Q: Anything else that might be of interest!
A: With both of our children now graduated from college, married and starting their own life’s journeys, I can tell you that one of the most important priorities my wife Karen and I have is a three-year-old grandson named Nathan!