Massachusetts Bankers Association taps new vice chair

She offers insight into her new role

Massachusetts Bankers Association taps new vice chair

Meg McIsaac (pictured), the president of Bluestone Bank, was recently elected as vice chair of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Bankers Association. She took time to speak to Mortgage Professional America about her new role.

The Massachusetts Bankers Association represents roughly 125 banks. McIsaac joined the MBA board in 2018 before being tapped as treasurer last year. 

“Our team at Bluestone Bank and fellow members of the Association are deeply committed to improving and innovating our industry in the communities we serve,” she said. “I look forward to working with this talented board to advance the mission of the MBA and increase the positive impact it brings to the Commonwealth.”

With palpable pride, she noted how the MBA donated $100 million in direct contributions to non-profits last year, an activity she now oversees as chair of the group’s charitable association by virtue of her vice chairman’s position. As vice chair, she is now part of a six-member body that provides strategic direction for the MBA’s mission comprising advocacy, professional development, member services and public relations.

The prevalence of mutual banks in the northeastern part of the US tailors much of the association’s advocacy, she suggested. Mutual banks have a decidedly different corporate structure than commercial banks in that they lack shareholders and are instead owned mutually by their depositors. As a result, such institutions cannot be bought, answering only to their customers.

“We’re owned by our depositors, so we don’t have that same pressure for quarterly earnings and dividends, which allows us to have a much longer view of what we do, what we invest in and how we support our communities,” she said.

Yet the prevalence of mutual banks – Bluestone Bank included – doesn’t shield them from market shifts and economic pressures that affect their commercial counterparts.

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“We are subject to all the vagaries that every other bank is,” she said. “Right now, we have compression of our net interest margins, rising rates and a flattening yield curve. But we also have more personal issues such as labor shortages, pressure on wages, attraction, and retention of talent. One of the things that is most germane to banking is creating and providing products and services that keep us relevant to our current and future customers and how do we invest in that and make sure we’re hitting the mark?”

Even in years absent of such market forces, the MBA advocates each legislative session on Capitol Hill, tracking some 250 bills each time while testifying on around 100 of them, she said. “We really focus on trying to maintain a policy environment where we’re free to serve our customers and communities in a way that we feel is beneficial to them and helps us remain competitive vis a vis other financial service providers,” she said.

McIsaac’s career in banking began early, starting with a college internship at the venerable Bank of Boston more than 30 years ago before being hired as a management trainee. “What was interesting about my experience is that Bank of Boston had focused on hiring finance majors and accounting majors and, when I came along and was lucky enough to be offered a job as a management trainee, I was a psychology major,” she said. “It was part of their initiative to have more diverse trainees. Did I take to it right away? I had a pretty steep learning curve, but I liked it and liked the people I worked with and it’s been very satisfying.”

After a two-year stint at Bank of Boston following her internship, McIsaac worked at both large commercial banks and local community banks, acquiring the breadth of financial service experience – including commercial lending. She graduated from Stonier Graduate School of Banking, and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Xavier University. In addition to her vice chair’s role at the MBA, she serves on the board of trustees for the South Shore Health Foundation and the Sturdy Memorial Foundation.

It’s not lost on McIsaac that her career trajectory has propelled in an industry that is dominated by men. She commended the inadvertent timing of MPA’s observation on this matter given that the MBA just recently staged its tenth annual “Women in Banking” conference this year, the title of which was amended to include allies.

“The landscape is changing,” she said of the industry’s makeup. “I have a number of colleagues, CEOs who are women. We have a shared experience, and we used that to inform the policies and programs that help other women come up through the ranks.”

Still, she was generous in thanking mentors and supporters of both genders that have had an impact on her trailblazing career. “My personal career has been spent working mostly with men,” she acknowledged. “I was a commercial lender for a long time. I’m a grateful beneficiary of many, many people over the course of my career – men and women – who’ve been kind and generous with their advice and mentorship. I feel that comes in all packages.”

Kathleen Murphy, MBA’s president and CEO, lauded McIsaac’s appointment: “As a dynamic industry, it is essential that the MBA have perspectives of banking leaders like Meg McIsaac,” she said in a prepared statement. “She provides expertise and experience that enables us to achieve our priorities of exceptional  advocacy representation on Beacon Hill and in Washington, DC; high quality and timely training and education for professionals in the banking industry and communications and services that help  strengthen our members. The market knowledge that Meg brings enables the association to anticipate and respond to emerging banking needs and trends that help our members as they serve a very large consumer and business footprint across the Commonwealth.”

The bank McIsaac heads, Bluestone Bank, has $1.3 billion in assets, and is a full-service bank offering individual and business banking services, and financial planning services through its Bluestone Wealth and Trust division. The bank has 12 banking offices and two loan production offices across southeastern Massachusetts with branches in Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Lakeville, Mansfield, Norton, Pembroke, Plainville, Raynham, Taunton, and West Bridgewater.