Yanarella of Ion Bank looks back on 50 years of career
By Bill Seymour, Republican-American
NAUGATUCK – In the 50 years since Mark Yanarella began his career at the former Naugatuck Savings Bank, customer service remains then and today the cornerstone of banking success, said the long-time leader in the local industry.
Former CEO and chairman of the bank’s board, Yanarella said that whatever changes in technology or even banks pushing for more online transactions today, customers should always remain the top priority.
“You have to operate in and stay connected with your client’s best interests,” said Yanarella, reflecting on changes in the industry as well as the constants of the past half-century.
In December, he retired from his post on the bank’s board, which eight years ago changed its name to Ion Bank. He started in 1970 as a management trainee whose first job was to work on the front line as a cashier.
“At the time, we were a hundred-year-old bank, we had 16 employees and one building with three managers,” he recalls.
“This first job put me in direct contact with clients and influenced me for the rest of my career,” he added.
Over time, he turned to accounting, credit, loans and mortgages. They all gave him a first-hand understanding of the bank’s operations which, along with customer service, created mutual dependency.
A graduate in economics and a 1970 graduate from Saint Anselm College, Yanarella has become the rising star in senior management to watch. In 10 years, he supervised all the bank’s loans and became general secretary.
These jobs have given him a prominent place in the major changes facing the industry.
“It’s interesting. In 1971, I got an electronic calculator. It was a really big deal back then,” Yanarella said.
As this decade and the next unfolded, he saw the constant deregulation of a strictly supervised industry.
“There were a lot of changes and therefore new skills were needed,” Yanarella recalled, focusing on emerging technologies that included mainframes, personal computers, laptops, minicomputers. and bank interconnection networks.
“It leveled the playing field,” he said. “It was a very exciting time and a time of increasing competitiveness between banks.”
Deregulation has brought opportunities, he said, to develop a wide range of services, such as the introduction of ATMs or ATMs.
Some have become personal banking machines that offer live connections with customer contact center staff. This existing technology helped customer service when the COVID-19 pandemic reduced person-to-person visits, he said.
For Yanarella, who has thrived in managing the bank and pushing employees to change, opportunities have also developed for him over the years.
He was promoted to Vice President in 1983 and later elected to the Board of Directors and the Board of Directors.
He was promoted to Executive Vice President in 1990. In 1997, he was appointed President and CEO.
He eventually became chairman of the board and CEO of the bank and Ion Financial Mutual Holding Co.
The expansion of the small single bank was a goal. It included the acquisition of Castle Bank of Meriden and Southerland Insurance. In addition, he opened numerous bank branches in central Connecticut and the Naugatuck Valley area.
As this happened, a new name to reflect a regional presence was needed. He started discussions leading to the bank’s name change in 2013 to Ion.
The establishment in 1998 of a charitable foundation, now known as the Ion Bank Foundation, is as important as other operational changes, he said.
Since its inception, this charitable foundation has awarded grants totaling more than $ 8.8 million to benefit residents and non-profit organizations in local communities.
“Banking was almost a religion for us. We saw it as a sacred trust, ”he said of his mission to help people and stay solvent.
Bank officials and staff have worked hard to preserve the trust customers place in them, he said.
“In 2012, when I retired as CEO, people were talking about how I helped them years ago. There was an electrical contractor who thanked me for helping him and that financial help from the bank kept his business going, ”Yanarella said.
He paused for a moment as a memory nearly nine years old returned.
“A lot of people then reminded me of things that I had forgotten that helped them. It was something big for them, ”he said.
“Helping the community – our customers – is the raison d’être of our corporate culture,” he added.