START Bank appoints new leader

In the midst of an era of new leaders in New Haven, START community development bank is also appointing new leadership at the start of the new year.

Former President and CEO William Placke announced late last week he will retire at the end of 2013, and the board of directors at Start Bank has decided to replace him with Maureen A. Frank. Frank will work as acting President and CEO for the remainder of the year, assuming full responsibilities next year.

START’s two branches, located in Dixwell and Fair Haven, have been operational since 2004. As a community bank, START is involved in the enrichment of communities in Greater New Haven, in addition to functioning as a full-service commercial bank.

Frank hopes to continue Placke’s goal of helping New Haven’s small businesses and nonprofit institutions, as well as introduce new objectives.

“I expect some change in the direction of the bank,” Frank said. “My objective is to heighten public awareness of the bank. There are so few community banks left.”

Placke has six weeks left at START, during which he will be working with Frank to ensure a smooth transition period between leaders. He said he will acquaint Frank with START’s clients and development projects.

“We have been building relationships with small businesses and institutions in New Haven as a recognizable, commercial bank,” Placke said. “We also work to serve low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in the area.”

Frank hopes to lead the expansion of START in both its commercial roles and community development projects. The bank currently has about $52 million in assets, and Frank and Placke are optimistic about future growth.

START’s Vice President of Community and Development Patti Scussel said the bank’s financial literacy training program and partnership with Youth@Work are two of the most successful projects targeting New Haven area youth, one of the bank’s main goals. Through training, the bank has so far provided over 3000 New Haven residents with financial literacy skills and is expanding to surrounding towns.

New Haven’s Youth@Work initiative is a joint venture of the city, the Board of Education and the Workforce Alliance that seeks out employment opportunities for struggling New Haven youth. START invites these young people to sign up for direct salary deposits into savings accounts at the bank to ease their money managing responsibilities.

Scussel said START also works with Columbus House, a nonprofit homeless shelter in New Haven. START provides free financial literacy training sessions to Columbus’s clients and allows them to set up accounts at the bank.

John Brooks, director of development at Columbus House, said the sessions focus on the importance of saving. The training also includes general information about different types of bank accounts and bank transactions.

“We hope that with [Frank] as CEO, our relationship with the bank will continue as it is,” Brooks said.

Scussel and Frank do not expect the recent election of Toni Harp ARC ’78 as mayor to affect START’s business agenda. Frank said the bank’s relationship with the past mayoral administration was “a regulatory one.” She predicts that future transactions with the mayor’s office will run as smoothly as before.

Once he leaves office, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. will assume a seat on START’s board of directors.

“This was the previous mayor’s personal decision,” Scussel said.

START and the Quinnipiac Bank are the only community banks in the New Haven area.

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