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Greenfield banker heads state trade group

Recorder/Paul Franz
Michael E. Tucker, president and CEO of the Greenfield Co-operative Bank, is the new head of the Massachusetts Bankers Association.

Recorder/Paul Franz Michael E. Tucker, president and CEO of the Greenfield Co-operative Bank, is the new head of the Massachusetts Bankers Association.

As the new head of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, Greenfield Co-operative Bank President Michael Tucker is “a quintessential community banker,” says Bruce Spitzer, spokesman for the 180-member trade association. But he’s also an “innovative thinker who’s able to lead a statewide association consisting of large banks, small banks and everything in between.”

For the 56-year-old Tucker, who began as a teller in the old Springfield Institution for Savings in 1979 while he was in law school and came to Greenfield Co-operative as president in 2002, the banking industry has been in constant flux. It’s been driven as much by boom and bust cycles as by technological changes, with community banks still enjoying a growth spurt in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Tucker, who’s been on the bankers’ association board for six years and has been active on its committees since 1983, said the majority of the association’s leaders are from small and mid-sized banks, and since each member bank gets a single vote regardless of how large its assets are, “no one institution can dictate the agenda.”

“I don’t think I would have been as active as I have been if that weren’t the case,” said Tucker, who said the organization is dominated by its banks from around the state, rather than those from out of state that do business in Massachusetts.

Tucker has played a key role on the committee that helped in rewriting of the state’s banking laws for the first time since 1983 — revisions that are now pending in the Legislature. The statewide association has argued for beefed up state regulation in the aftermath of a mortgage crisis that “don’t overreach” to become burdensome on the industry.

“As an industry, because we were so conservative in Massachusetts, that’s one reason we haven’t seen the real busts in this state that we saw in places like Florida and Georgia,” said Tucker, pointing out that only one bank in New England failed during the recent financial crisis.

The association represents the interests of bankers in an arena that has seen growth of credit unions that have the advantage of not paying the 40 percent of federal and state income taxes that banks are required to.

Even though Massachusetts has half the number of banks it did 20 years ago, it has 15 percent more branches — 2,200 in all.

Greenfield Co-op, which had about $170 million in assets when Tucker took over from Lawrence Bean in 2002, has nearly doubled in size, at $330 million today, and its 15th consecutive year of growing Franklin County market share in terms of deposits.

With nearly one-quarter of the Franklin County market, only Greenfield Savings Bank is larger.

Greenfield Co-op is also the second biggest lender in the county behind Greenfield Savings, with about $69 million loaned last year and a little more than 12 percent of the home mortgages in the county.

Meanwhile, the bank, which was chartered in 2005, is renovating the vacated Bank of America branch in Turners Falls to add its sixth office.

Even though the mortgage companies, which were a big part of the mortgage crisis that caused the 2008 financial crisis, have lost ground to community banks in the state, said Tucker, the competition forced small, neighborhood banks to do more of their mortgage application business online.

In fact, Tucker said, online banking has become the fastest growing “branch” of all, with 2,500 Greenfield Co-Op banking customers online and 14 percent of all its electronic transactions taking place on a smartphone application introduced only a year and a half ago.

Meanwhile, he said, foot traffic at the branches continues to decline.

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

Mr. Tucker mentions the advantage credit unions have because they do not pay federal taxes. Yet his bank seems to have had no problem doubling in size in ten years to become the second largest for-profit bank in the county with fifteen consecutive years of growing Franklin County market share in terms of deposits. I don’t know of any credit union based in Franklin County that can make that claim even though they have this unfair tax exemption. Maybe it’s not such a big advantage after all. Maybe, just maybe this financial institution’s success is because they know how to run a bank and compete in the market regardless of the challenges. So congratulations Mr. Tucker on your accomplishments, but please stop beating up on credit unions, which as not-for-profit financial cooperatives are just trying to serve their member owners’ banking needs

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