For a bank that has been around for 163 years, Bangor Savings Bank has had relatively few presidents – fewer than a dozen.

But today, bank executive Robert Montgomery-Rice will take over as its 12th president.

He will add CEO to his title on April 1, completing a long-planned leadership transition from current top executive Jim Conlon. Bangor Savings said in February that Conlon planned to retire in spring 2015 and Montgomery-Rice had been chosen to replace him.

Since joining the bank in 2004, Montgomery-Rice has worked in a variety of executive leadership roles including as head of the consumer banking, information technology, human resources and real estate management departments.

We sat down with him to learn more about his background and what he hopes to achieve as president and CEO.

Q: How did you become a banker?


A: I didn’t start out as a banker. I actually started out in retail, working for TJX Cos., which owns T.J. Maxx stores. In the mid-1990s, the leading retail bank in Massachusetts, BayBank, was looking for people with retail experience. They wanted to hire people who understood customers. At that time, banks were still just banks, and they didn’t really focus on customers. BayBank wanted to change that. So I was recruited to go there, and I have been involved in banking ever since.

Q: What is the most exciting thing about your profession?

A: Banking is really interesting, and you get to interact with all types of customers. There is an opportunity to learn about something new every day. It’s a level of diversity that you won’t find in most other professions. I especially enjoy working with small businesses. Maine is a small business state, and as a bank we become a partner to them. That’s the exciting part of being in the profession.

Q: What are the biggest frustrations?

A: The greatest frustration is the level of regulation that we have to deal with today. There has been a lot of new regulation imposed since the economic downturn. Some of it needed to happen. Unfortunately, in some cases you have customers for whom things are now more difficult. An example is increased paperwork and longer wait times for home mortgage loans. The intent and the purpose of the regulation I actually agree with, but it has not been implemented well. We are still able to help our customers, but it doesn’t make it easy.

Q: How does it feel to be taking over as the 12th president and CEO of Bangor Savings Bank?


A: I’m honored – it’s a great opportunity. I see myself staying in this position for a long time. It’s a great bank, and I love being back in Maine, so why would I want to do anything else? I do think about what a big responsibility I have as president and CEO. We have over 100,000 customers and 750 employees. So there’s a little bit of gravity to that. Also, the history of the bank’s leadership is a bit humbling. The first president and CEO of Bangor Savings was Elijah Hamlin, the older brother of Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin. There have been a lot of great people before me, and I’m sure there will be a lot of great people after me.

Q: Describe the process of transitioning into your new role.

A: A proper transition is really important for the bank. There was a lot of preparation beforehand. I’ve been with the bank for 11 years, and I have worked closely with Jim Conlon the entire time. We knew we had a year to try to orchestrate this transition, and I put a lot of effort into it. I had more than 50 one-on-one meetings with both key managers and customers, then worked with senior managers to develop a three-to-five year strategic plan. Our board of directors approved the strategic plan, which was communicated first to a group of 225 employees, then to the entire bank. After the strategic plan was in place, the board then gave the nod for me to assume the title of president and to fully complete the transition to president and CEO in April.

Q: What are the primary goals you hope to achieve as president and CEO?

A: My primary goal is to continue to grow the bank. Mainers deserve a bank that is local and provides great service. Since we started in Bangor, we are pretty dominant in this county (Penobscot), but we want to build market share in Cumberland and York counties. We’re about 50 percent of the market in Penobscot County, but less than 10 percent in southern Maine. Another goal is making sure we are offering customers the latest technology to make banking easier. Technology is changing the banking industry. You don’t even have to step foot into a branch anymore. But we want to make sure those who do go into a branch still get the same personal experience they did before, that they can still go in there and speak to a real person.

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