Senior Vice President and Director of Retail Administration, Rockland Trust Co.
Industry experience: 33 years
While recent months have seen several banks announce plans to reduce their branch footprints, especially after the pandemic closed many lobbies and drove customers to digital banking, Rockland Trust has continued to expand by opening retail locations in the Worcester area. After entering Worcester County in 2018 by acquiring Milford National Bank and its three branches in Milford and Mendon, Rockland Trust has since opened two branches in the city of Worcester and another in Shrewsbury.
Overseeing the bank’s retail network is Margaret “Peg” McCarthy. She began working at Rockland Trust as a part-time teller in 1988 to help pay for college and has remained with the bank for 33 years. After working her way up to become a branch manager and take on other roles, she now oversees a network of nine districts with 10 to 13 retail branches in each. McCarthy in 2020 also took on responsibility for Rockland Trust’s three local contact centers in Franklin, Norwood and Plymouth.
Q: What is Rockland Trust’s plan for its branch network?
A: We’re constantly evaluating that plan. We’re looking at our footprint and making sure that we’re meeting our customer needs. Our new Shrewsbury branch [opened] March 29. We’re really excited to be part of Shrewsbury and continue to meet those demands that we’ve seen in the Worcester market so far. We continue to look for sites that will place us appropriately to expand our market area, meet the needs of our existing customers and, of course, always welcome in new customers to the Rockland Trust community.
Q: Why does the branch network remain important to Rockland Trust?
A: We really understand the strength of our branch network and the teams that run the network. As a community bank, we know the importance of having that brick–and–mortar where our customers can conduct their banking, meet with a trusted adviser and receive that personal service from an experienced knowledgeable banker. Much of that cannot be replaced by digital, as many are trying to do. But we also know and understand that there’s importance to having that leading–edge technology out there, and we continually look at how we balance that appropriately.
Q: How has the pandemic changed your perspective on branches?
A: Prior to the pandemic, all banks were seeing transaction volume decline. Customers are becoming more familiar with technology; they’re finding ways that they can do their banking outside of a branch. Adoption rates for us, and I’m sure for all banks – online banking, mobile deposit, even ATMs – grew exponentially during the first few months of the pandemic. But we also saw that when a customer needed advice, wanted to discuss their financial outlook, refinance their home because the rates during the pandemic were so low, they were setting up an appointment. We’ve seen many banks deemphasizing that relationship with the customer by just closing so many branches. At Rockland Trust, we believe that our physical presence is a competitive advantage.
Q: What have you learned from expanding into Worcester during the pandemic?
A: Our first branch opened literally 30 days prior to the state shutting down last March. When we opened our second Worcester branch on Nov. 30, almost 20 days later to the calendar day Rockland Trust made the decision to reduce back down due to appointment–only due to the surge of COVID cases that everyone was seeing post-Thanksgiving. Even with starting in those unfavorable conditions, both of these branches are exceeding the projections that we had outlined for them. We’ve learned that the Worcester market was looking for a community bank that was vested in the development and success of the city and its residents, and they’ve welcomed us with open arms.
Expanding into Worcester has been a longtime goal for Rockland Trust. We’ve really taken the time to put the right individuals out there. Those individuals are from the Worcester community; they’re passionate about making Worcester that reborn city. I think that despite the challenges that we face in the pandemic, we’re planning to continue our growth out in Worcester, and I don’t think that would change our growth elsewhere if we strategically feel it’s the right location to expand to.
Q: Is there anything different about the new branches that you’ve opened in the Worcester?
A: Something we started at some other branches is a role that we call the “relationship banker.” A traditional branch has tellers who help with transactions and bankers who do account openings, loan applications, etc. The relationship banker role is somebody that’s fully cross–trained to do any of the transactions or account set–up that you need. Having this one person being fully trained to do all of these types of transactions to service that customer is a better experience for the customer. So, that’s one change we made, and we’ve continued that over into our Worcester branches.
The other piece is something we refer to as a “transformed branch.” Banks have been experimenting with this for years. Instead of having your traditional teller line, it’s more of an open branch concept where we have pods, and these relationship bankers are freely moving about the lobby so that you don’t have that barrier between the customer and the banker. That’s a feature of our branches that we have been doing for a few years now, and we have seen the success of those branches. When we decided to open branches in Worcester, we copied that model there.
Q: As we hopefully move toward the end of the pandemic, what are you looking forward to at the branches?
A: I’m looking forward to the branches being able to welcome the customers back in without the restrictions and the barriers that we have today. There’s nothing like walking into a business and not only having someone recognize you but having them smile at you and you can see that smile, and have them use your name, and you can actually hear them. I’m really looking forward to our branch team being able to interact with customers in the way that they used to.
McCarthy’s Five Favorite Marinas
- Scituate Maritime Center
- Newport Marina, Rhode Island
- Champlin’s Marina, Block Island
- Constitution Marina, Boston
- Oak Bluffs Marina, Martha’s Vineyard