Barbara Mahoney
Leominster Credit Union
Age: 63
Industry experience: 35 years 

About a month after Congress authorized additional stimulus payments last December, employees at Leominster Credit Union received another $600, this time from their employer. Barbara Mahoney, who had just taken over as LCU’s president and CEO on Dec. 1, said the credit union wanted to support employees through the challenges of the pandemic, noting their commitment to the organization. 

Mahoney, who began her banking career as a part-time teller at Bank of Boston, has spent most of her career in human resources. She began working at LCU in 2003 and is the first woman to lead the organization, which was founded in 1954 and has about $785 million in assets, 47,000 members and seven branches. Mahoney grew up in Leominster, where her family owned an Italian restaurant for 60 years. She traces her lifelong interest in restaurants to Monday evenings, when the restaurant was closed and her father would take the family to establishments across New England. 

Q: What challenges have you faced taking over as leader during the pandemic?
A: The obvious one is the safety of our employees and our members. That is so critical at this point in time: making sure that iat the forefront of everything we do, as well as addressing the challenges that people are confronted with in this environment. Right now, our branches are closed, except for appointment only, and our drive-ups are open as well. So, we’re getting our members used to that and making them aware of all the other different types of opportunities for them to engage with us electronically.  

We have employees that are really dying to get back into work. Even in the headquarters building, were only at 40 percent capacity in all of our back office support departments. So, we have people that are dying to come back, and we have members who are dying for our branches to be open again. And then you have the other extreme where people are still very, very nervous and are very, very cautious  which they should be  in regards to their interactions and who they expose themselves to. Because everyones situation is different, you never know what someone is dealing with outside the organization – whether they have small children theyre caring for, whether they have elderly parents theyre caring for. Its a tough balance. 

Q: What are some of your goals for Leominster Credit Union?
A: We regularly are looking for feedback from our members as far as what we can do in order to stay competitive to meet their needs. One of the things that is a focus right now and was driven a lot by the pandemic was getting more of our members comfortable with the electronic channels and our mobile products. Especially for the Millennials and the Gen Z audience, that is a goal for us to try to further develop that channel and try and build the member base on that side.  

On the mortgage side of the business, we try to continue to be very competitive with first-time homebuyers. We offer seminars, and we try to be very competitive in regards to our rates in this market. Thats important. One of the other things that we focus on, and is a huge push for us that spans all of the generations, is financial literacy. At every stage in the members life, we try to address their concerns and the things that theyll be confronted with, and provide them with educational tools to get them the information that they need to make good decisions. 

Q: How did the decision to give stimulus checks to LCU employees come about?
A: The idea came from one of our board members. We talked about it internally with the senior team and then at the board level as to whether it was the right decision for the credit union at this point in time – making sure that it was a prudent decision and that from a financial perspective, it made sense. It was certainly something that we felt would be well received by our employees. The decision was made to do it, and it has had a very positive effect on our employee base.  

We encouraged them to spend it within the communities where we work and live, with smallertype businesses. I think that resonated with people. They really understood what that meant, and we received a lot of good feedback about how theyre going to pay it forward. 

Q: What are your thoughts on being the first woman to lead Leominster Credit Union?
A: I think its great. Im honored and humbled that the board had the confidence in me and that they felt that I had the experience and the knowledge to lead the organization moving forward. There have been some great people before me and specifically John OBrien, my predecessor, who had set the organization up very well to move forward. I am very excited to continue to build upon that and further grow the organization into the future. 

Q: Is there anything unique that you bring as a CEO, particularly given your human resources background?
A: I think the human side of it. Obviously coming from HR, theres that peoplepiece where I feel that Im very strongI bring those skills and can take a little bit of a different perspective in how we address certain things. Whether it be team building, collaboration, empathy, inclusion, I just think that having that HR background more or less rounds it out for the leader.  

Also, when I look back at the last two or three CEOs and presidents, I was probably the only one that was raised in this community, and I think thats a huge plus. Leominster isnt that big, and having members know or recognize – or have some familiarity or experience with – the individual thats leading the organization I think is really positive. My knowledge of the community and the individuals, whether they have small businesses, or are running a nonprofit or a different type of organization – I think the familiarity and the relationships have made a difference. 

Mahoney’s Five Favorite Restaurants 

  1. Clintons Bar & Grille in Clinton 
  2. Gina’s by the Sea in Dennis 
  3. Davio’s in Boston 
  4. Mamma Maria in the North End 
  5. Trattoria del Glicine, near Lake Como, Italy 

Bringing the HR Perspective to Leadership

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 4 min