FLORENCE—Matthew “Matt” Garrity, a Lee native, launched a new era for Florence Bank today, taking the helm as president and CEO.
He is excited to return to Western Massachusetts and brings extensive experience as a leader and promoter of growth along with a broad base of knowledge in serving both business customers and general banking consumers. He specializes in team management and embraces Florence Bank’s nurturing culture because, “Our biggest assets are our people. They are critical to success.”
Garrity was formerly the executive vice president / chief lending officer and head of residential lending at Premier Bank, serving Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana. He replaces Michael Lynch, senior vice president / senior commercial lender, who has served as interim president since former president and CEO Kevin R. Day retired on November 25.
“Florence Bank is a real gem—a jewel in the community, and I take that very seriously,” said Garrity, who will initially live in Amherst. “The bank has been well-served by the people who came before me, and I’m excited about the opportunity to carry on the legacy.”
Garrity is pleased to be working at a mutual bank, where the focus is on the customers and the community, rather than pleasing stockholders.
“All the banks I’ve worked in have had mission-based objectives that impact the community,” he said. “In a bank like Florence Bank, those impacts on the community are accentuated. Giving back to the community is a big part of what Florence Bank is about, and that’s very attractive to me. We can be focused on how the bank performs and also on being as mission-focused as we can be to make sure the needs of the community are being served by what we do.”
In the first year—the 150th anniversary year for Florence Bank—Garrity expects to focus on getting to know the Florence Bank staff and, over time, on growth, particularly further expansion into Hampden County, where Florence Bank currently has three branches.
John Ebbets, chair of the bank’s Board of Directors, said the search for a new president and CEO began in July and was led by Kaplan Partners, which broadcast the position throughout New England, parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio.
A pool of 125 candidates was methodically pared to two finalists, each of whom met live with the full board, which sought a leader with vision, a history of execution and a willingness to embrace Florence Bank’s mutual culture. “Florence Bank has been a mutual bank for 150 years, and it will continue to be a mutual bank well into the future,” Ebbets said.
Garrity was chosen because he embodied the qualities sought and demonstrated he is a thorough, thoughtful leader. “Matt was excellent at offering analysis and strategic thought,” Ebbets said. “He came in with a framework of ideas. I believe Matt’s going to be really good at assessing and developing people as priority number one.”
Garrity lived in Lee until seventh grade, when he moved to Ohio. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Ohio University and chose banking as a career so he could help consumers achieve their financial goals. “It was an opportunity to help people and a good match for me professionally,” he said.
Garrity’s first job was in consumer banking, but he quickly learned he was drawn to commercial banking and took a job as a credit analyst; he rose into leadership steadily over the years.
In 2009, Garrity was recruited to serve as chief credit officer for a mid-size bank and rescued the organization from significant financial distress and the threat of closure via a federal cease and desist order.
Florence Bank had its strongest financial showing ever in 2022, and Garrity feels up to the challenge of forging future growth, particularly by continued expansion in Hampden County.
Ebbets explained that growth will not happen for growth’s sake. “That’s not the focus point. The bank’s expansion plan has been slow and steady. Going forward, that would continue to be the plan,” he said, noting that in addition to bringing jobs and increased philanthropy, the bank sees the opportunity to create products that will meet the distinct needs of people in the communities it serves as well.
The ability to affect customers’ lives serves as Garrity’s inspiration as a bank leader, and he appreciates that each day brings new economic and regulatory challenges. “Having direct input on customers’ lives and how the bank is performing at the same time is really impactful,” he said. “You can really get done with a day’s work and know you’ve accomplished something.”
Garrity, a volunteer and board member for many years with the American Red Cross in Greater Cleveland, will begin his work at Florence Bank by getting to know team members, customers and community partners. “That’s my job, and I take that very seriously,” he said. “Community banking is about developing relationships. That will be important. I’m going to be very busy.”