OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE PENNSYLVANIA ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY BANKERS

Pub. 2 2020 | Issue 10

a-word-from-pacbs-chair

A Word From PACB’s Chair

By Lori Cestra

I started working at a small private commercial bank during the summers through college. I had a desire to help people, but, like most, I didn’t associate banking with “helping people.”

Nevertheless, it was a good-paying summer job and as time progressed, I started to understand what banking was truly all about. Daily I watched the commercial loan officers play a part in helping small-business owners cultivate their dreams. Pretty quickly, what started as a summer job evolved into a passion. I eventually became a commercial loan officer here at Enterprise Bank, and from then on, I was hooked.

Years later, I made a move to a suburb of Philadelphia called Phoenixville. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to find a job, so I printed out a list of all of the community banks in the area and I went from door to door trying to get an interview.

I walked into Phoenixville Federal Bank and Trust and talked the receptionist into passing my resume on to the head of commercial lending. They called me for an interview and I jumped on the opportunity. After I left that interview, I felt pretty confident, but I decided to call my previous boss, Chuck Leyh, and let him know I used his name as a reference. Little did I know, he knew the CEO of Phoenixville, Dick Kunch, through PACB — so I was offered the job and eventually became their chief credit officer.

It was a privilege and honor to work for Dick Kunch and Doug Darlington at Phoenixville Federal. Dick Kunch has now joined many other noteworthy men and women in the PACB Hall of Fame, recognizing many distinguished people who have contributed significantly to their community, institution and the association. This definition represented everything I came to understand about Dick.

The moral of the story is that PACB impacted my life before I was introduced to the association, and here I stand today, accepting the chairmanship of this amazing organization — what a full circle.

Many years later, I returned to Pittsburgh and Enterprise Bank. I promptly joined the Board of PACB and watched how the organization advocated for the community banking industry and began to understand how one voice, one message, can make a difference.

It was clear to me early on that PACB had the capability of making a real legislative impact. I was amazed by the generosity of the member banks and the commitment to their communities.

Year after year, I watched as banks received PACB Impact awards designed to honor members who impacted their communities. The award winners are announced at our PACB regional meetings each year.

I was intrigued very quickly by the CEOs I came in contact with and their willingness to support each other even though they are technically all competitors. When I was asked to join the executive committee four years ago, I accepted with no hesitation.

Fast forward to 2020 — no one expected this year to turn out the way it did. I was at the ICBA convention in March in Florida when we realized the severity of the virus. We had no idea at the time what we were in for.

Kevin even jokingly told me recently that my boyfriend, Alexi, was the last person he hugged besides his wife and kids. That was six months ago. I laughed, but it really hit home how this virus has changed how we live our everyday lives.

When we returned from the trip, the kids were sent home from school and businesses started shutting their doors. Soon after, the CARES act was passed and it was OUR job as community banks to step up and “Help People.”

Jon pulled the executive committee together, and we started discussing the Paycheck Protection Program — the PPP for short. We had very little guidance and needed to quickly distribute the money into these small-business owners’ hands who desperately needed it. Our staff worked endless hours.

At that moment, watching my colleagues persevere through such unforeseen difficulty, I remember thinking I could not be prouder of our Enterprise Bank team or our industry.

Our employees came to work to help input PPP loan applications on evenings and weekends. We were an essential business in the height of the pandemic, and we acted as such.

Kevin Shivers wrote, “Community banks have processed the lion’s share of paycheck protection loans, which quite literally offered a lifeline for thousands of small businesses; to date, more than 158,000 small businesses in Pennsylvania are able to keep their doors open and employees on payroll thanks to loans received under the PPP. And loans made to Pennsylvania businesses have averaged just over $112,000, indicating they did reach the smallest of businesses across our state, as was intended by Congress.”

This summed it up perfectly. Kevin and his PACB team did an unbelievable job through the pandemic’s height, communicating with the membership and the media. I am honored and excited to work more personally with each one of them this upcoming year.

Someone recently said to me, we as community bankers collectively were the “nurses” for the economy.

I think my passion for the organization and the industry is obvious. That being said, it would be an injustice not to mention how proud I am to be the first woman to chair this organization.

I sincerely hope my involvement in the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force that Chairman Conklin created will be impactful. As CEO Shivers has stated, “the task force will be comprised of CEOs, executive management, board leaders, executive search firms and HR consultants and will hopefully create awareness to begin a conversation about what is needed to achieve more diverse leadership within community banks and how the association can help ensure that its institutional members are fostering equitable hiring and advancement opportunities throughout the industry.”

I hope to see more women in banking climb the corporate ladder and excel in executive positions. I can only hope that I will play a small part in making a young woman realize they too can have a successful career AND a family.

I have had the privilege quote

In conclusion, I want to give a few words of thanks. I want to thank our PACB team Kevin, Barbara, Jena and Todd, for their hard work and dedication. I look forward to getting to work with you this year.

I also want to thank the executive committee, Jon, Rodger, Tim and Troy. I have so much admiration and respect for each one of you.

I have had the privilege of working with so many amazing men and women in my career — some for over 20 years. The loyalty and devotion I see every day from our Enterprise Bank staff are incredible. I have learned so much from every one of you.

I also need to provide a special thanks to my boss, Chuck Leyh. Your unbelievable support, personally and professionally throughout the years, has been extraordinary. You have offered sound advice when needed and support when necessary. I cannot thank you enough.

I also wish to thank the Enterprise Bank board of directors for allowing me to take time away from my day-to-day job to chair this organization. It is an amazing opportunity, and I will work very hard to represent it and make the Board proud.

My parents, Dave and Mary, have set an amazing example of hard work that has permeated throughout all three of their kids. And to my brothers-in-law, George and Bill, and my sisters, Lisa and Kelly, my best friends, I certainly would not be the woman I am today without you. To Alexi, my plus one, thank you for stepping into my life at exactly the right time.

For those of you who don’t know, each year the chairperson’s “spouse/significant other” is required to host a breakfast at the convention. Well this year, for the first time, a man will be hosting this event. Needless to say, Lex will be lobbying Barbara this year to reconsider the theme of the breakfast — I am sure he needs to put his own spin on it.

Most importantly, to Mia, Ava and Bella, my three biggest reasons that I do what I do every day — I have the honor, privilege and the immense responsibility of raising three wonderful young ladies who are sitting in this room. They are smart, strong-willed and independent teenagers, and I am so proud to be their mom.

I love you girls and I hope to make you proud.

Thank you, everyone, for your time, and I look forward to this upcoming year and hope to see you all at the convention in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2021!!!

lori-cestra

Lori Cestra – Chair of PACB Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Enterprise Bank

This story appears in Issue 10 2020 of the Hometown Banker Magazine.

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