Brattleboro Savings and Loan: Is a force of good

Brattleboro Savings and Loan, Brattleboro, Vt. signed up in 2018 to become a Certified B Corporation. The $277 million-asset community bank joined the ranks Patagonia, an outdoor apparel company, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream makers in putting social and environment responsibility above profit.

President and CEO Dan Yates stated that the bank was determined to live up to its core values or, even better, exceed them.

B Lab, a Berwyn, Pa.-based non-profit that established the B Corp status in 2006, started awarding it to for profit organizations that meet certain standards of transparency and accountability. B Corps stands for Beneficial. They are required to evaluate the effects of their decisions on customers, workers, suppliers, the community, and the environment. There are currently nearly 4,000 B Corps across more than 150 industries, and in 77 countries.

Joe Little, senior advisor in the bank’s wealth management section, suggested that certification be achieved. Joe Little, senior advisor to the bank’s wealth management division, recognized the importance of Brattleboro Savings and loan approval achievement of many of the required goals.

A field of solar panels located about one mile from the bank’s headquarters offsets more than 80% of its electricity requirements.

Yates states that “[The solar array] was really the first step towards saying, ‘Look! Everyone can contribute to reducing carbon footprint. And here are steps that banks have taken. We liked the idea for its potential impact on the environment. There were also financial incentives to put in a solar array. We were able to do something we care deeply about, while also making sure it was a responsible investment.

Be a part of a movement to do better

Brattleboro Savings and Loan successfully completed the B Corp Certification process. This is a lengthy, nearly one-year-long process that includes completing an 80 point assessment. The team discovered they had reexamined their core values and expanded upon them. They also updated the bank’s mission statement. Although the community bank had already met many of the requirements, this was an opportunity for the bank to improve its organizational structure.

Yates is proud that he has quoted the bank’s new mission. He states that the bank is a 100-plus year-old institution and “we’re committed towards reduced inequality, lowering poverty levels, stronger communities, and the creation of more quality jobs with dignity, purpose, and high-quality employment.”

Brattleboro’s mission includes commitments to serve at least 85% of local and/or unaffected customers, hire primarily local staff, managers, and support underbanked or under-resourced individuals. Yates states that “we fully buy into B Lab’s mantra, which says businesses must be a force of good.”

This required local hiring and local sourcing of products and supplies. Brattleboro Savings and card cash loan commission implemented a mandatory composting program in its locations. This reduced waste going to landfills by half.

The community bank also looked into eco-friendly initiatives. It also looked at improving corporate governance, such as employee engagement and transparency. Yates states, “I have always believed,” that, except for legal reasons, the more information our staff has about the bank, the better they will be as employees and the more part of the institution they are going be.

This meant that staff had to be more involved at all levels. The community bank’s management team chose five young, tech-savvy employees to choose an online banking platform.

Yates said, “They did an amazing job.” We accepted their recommendations and went ahead with another online banking platform. I believe they were very happy.

Brattleboro also adopted a $15 minimum salary several years ago. It offers 15 days of paid vacation for new employees, pays 75% employees’ medical insurance costs, and contributes towards higher education costs. It provides two paid full-time days of volunteering for employees, and donated 7% last year to local charities, including food banks and the local modern arts museum.

There is More Work to be Done

Yates will be creating a diversity equity and inclusion task force (DEI) to encourage people of diverse backgrounds to apply to jobs at Brattleboro Savings.

Yates says that as a young banker, she used to look around at other bank employees and think, “Well, there are a lot of women working here, but none of them run it.” Today, 56% of bank officers and 45%, of the bank’s board, are women.

Yates stated that he would love to see more banks join the B Corps, even if it is just a checklist for organizational improvement.

He says, “I would recommend to any bank that even though becoming a certified B Corporation might not be something you can pursue,”. “Because we can all do this together, we can make a difference.

Brattleboro Savings and Loan promotes Doleszny

Jessica Doleszny was promoted to Credit Analyst in Brattleboro Savings & Loan’s Commercial Banking Department. She will be responsible for reviewing and underwriting commercial loan applications and renewals, and presenting them to the Bank’s Loan Officers and advance loans Committee for approval. Peter Carvell (BS&L’s Senior Commercial Lender and Vice President) said that Jessica has been so driven to learn and grow at the Bank. He couldn’t have been happier to have her join his team.

Jess joined BS&L as an Operations Specialist in May 2018. She quickly learned a variety of responsibilities, including answering customer queries, processing wire transfers, and servicing Bank ATMs. She was chosen to join a team that evaluated new online banking options in 2019, and then she joined the project implementation team that launched the Bank’s updated digital banking platform in September 2020. She completed an intensive 8-week Fundamentals of Credit Analysis course to prepare for her move to the Commercial Banking Group. Jess stated that BS&L’s leadership is supportive and encourages staff development. The teamwork spirit is truly inspiring.

Brattleboro Savings and home loans was founded in 1912 to meet the financial needs of local residents. Today, BS&L is a state-chartered mutual saving bank and Certified B Corporation(r). It offers a wide range of consumer and commercial banking services. There are branches in Brattleboro and Wilmington, Bondville and a West Dover mortgage lending office. Park Place Financial Advisors is the Bank’s wealth management division. They offer financial planning and investment services.

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