Last month, his Leominster-based co-operative bank announced its merger with Colonial Co-operative Bank of Gardner, adding two branches to its roster and bringing its total branch count to 11. Last year, it completed its merger with Barre Savings Bank and the takeover of its three branches. If all goes well, Fidelity Bank, founded in 1888, will keep growing at an organic 5 to 7 percent annual clip, with perhaps some more mergers if the opportunities arise, as it slowly tries to push its footprint eastward to the 495/128 region of Greater Boston.
“The future is bright, but it’s getting harder to do things every year,” said Manzi, chief executive of Fidelity Bank since 2000, noting the increasing challenges of regulatory and technological changes and other obstacles facing the entire banking industry today.
But there’s one thing Manzi says he doesn’t see changing, no matter how much Fidelity Bank may grow: Fidelity’s mutual-bank commitment to its customers, as outlined in his bank’s “LifeDesign” business philosophy, and its commitment to a larger movement called “Conscious Capitalism,” or a business philosophy that believes profits and genuine caring for employees, customers and the community are not mutually exclusive.
“We’re committed to Conscious Capitalism,” says Manzi, who first learned of the movement after reading the book “Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose,”co-authoredby Rajendra Sisodia, a professor at Babson College and a founder of the Conscious Capitalism movement.
“I read the book a number of years ago and it validated what I already believed in, that all stakeholders should benefit (from sound business practices) and that we’re often given a false choice” to live and work by, he said, noting it’s indeed possible to both profit from and help customers at the same time.
The philosophy also buttresses Manzi’s belief in the mission of mutual banks in general. “It’s classic Main Street America,” he says of the mutual-bank business. “I really love my job, meeting local people, getting together and knowing them, helping the community, making an impact.”
A native of Webster, Massachusetts, Manzi never thought of entering the banking field as a youth, though his mill-worker mother stressed to him the importance of finances and even helped him start a “small portfolio” of investments when he was young.
The third oldest of four boys, Manzi, whose father was barber and a chef, initially thought he’d be an engineer when he first attended the University of Lowell (now UMass-Lowell). He eventually switched to a business major, accounting, and found he enjoyed it.
After graduating from college — amid a severe recession in the early 1980s — Manzi landed a job as a staff auditor at Wolf & Co. PC, then and now a highly regarded accounting firm specializing in serving banks. He stayed there three years before moving on to a post at Coopers & Lybrand, but found he “just had an itch” to do something different.
He ended up getting offered a job as treasurer at Winthrop Savings Bank, an institution he once did an audit for while at Wolf & Company. “It was fascinating,” he said of his work at Winthrop, where he also became CFO. “It was a steep learning curve for me. But that’s where I got the bug for community banking. I knew I wanted to be a CEO (of a community bank) one day, I could just see it.”
He later worked at First Northern Bank in New Hampshire and Shirley Co-operative Bank, where he finally got his chance to lead a bank as CEO. He ended up getting recruited to Fidelity Bank in the late 1990s, under a succession plan that called for him to start off as president and then later to become CEO – which is what exactly happened in 2000.
He’s been at Fidelity Bank ever since, helping it grow over the years from a bank with $135 million in assets and four branches to one with $800 million in assets and 11 branches, after the merger with Colonial Co-operative is officially completed. Next year, Fidelity Bank plans to open a new branch in Worcester and Manzi said he can see Fidelity Bank growing one day to more than $1.5 billion in assets.
“Overall, the (mutual bank) industry is doing very, very well,” said Skarin, noting the majority of banks in Massachusetts are mutual institutions.
When not working, Manzi said he likes spending time with his wife and three sons (ages 17, 23 and 25), and golfing and cooking. He’s also chairman of the “Shine Initiative,” a charitable group dedicated to raising awareness about mental illness in children and young adults and making it a mainstream health issue.