Posted Date: 01 Dec 2023
Meet Our New CEO: R. Brian Coakley
On the 1st of November, R. Brian Coakley stepped into his new role as CEO and President of North Country Savings Bank. For this Canton native, it was the unique journey to this career summit that has shaped his vision for the future of the bank.
“Growing up around a family business in the North Country, I gained a strong appreciation for community, family, and hard work. Those experiences have strongly influenced my professional development,” says Coakley. “I consider myself very lucky to have figured this out early enough to be able to return to the North Country and fully appreciate the balance of family, North Country culture, and a community-focused career.”
A graduate of H.C. Williams Senior High School of Canton, he spent a post-graduate year at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts before enrolling at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. There he played varsity hockey and graduated with a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Economics.
After college, Coakley spent several years in Boston working as a software engineer and IT consultant before he and his wife, Mary—also from Canton—decided that they wanted to return to the North Country to raise a family.
“I believe that life requires balance. While I enjoyed my job in Boston, something was missing,” said Coakley. “The most critical moment in my professional development was realizing that for me to be my best, I needed to live and work in a place where I felt comfortable and that I was passionate about.”
In looking homeward for job opportunities, Coakley reached out to a former Canton neighbor, David Swanson, who served as the bank’s CEO for 26 years.
“Dave expressed a few technical and financial needs that the bank was looking to fill,” said Coakley. “A few weeks later, we were on the road moving home.”
Coakley’s first position with North Country Saving Bank was working directly for Theresa Phalon, who retired earlier this month after 36 years, including the last seven years as president and CEO earlier this month. At the time she was the bank’s Chief Lending Officer. “Terry served as a role model and mentor throughout my career.”
In his nearly 22 years at NCSB, Coakley has served as the Chief Financial Officer for 10 years and the Chief Information Officer for five.
As the father of three, a youth hockey coach and someone who enjoys an occasional round of golf, Coakley has enjoyed the work-life balance to which he aspired.
Veteran Role Models
When asked who has been his strongest or most inspiring role model, Coakley acknowledges that he has been fortunate to have been surrounded by strong role models most of his life. There have been two, however, who have played a larger role than any other—his parents, Tom and Nellie Coakley.
“My parents, who both served our country during the Vietnam War, embody what it means to be courageous, humble, passionate, and hard-working,” says Coakley. “They taught me that life is not defined by the big things that may be out of our control but by the little moments that we can control. Those make us who we are.”
In many ways, it’s those little moments and gestures that characterize NCSB’s exceptional service–gestures that Coakley envisions building upon in the coming years.
“Professionalism with a North Country Touch”
Under his leadership, Coakley emphasizes that his priority is to preserve the history of and manner of which North County Savings has approached banking since 1909. As a community bank, it has been dedicated to serving local businesses and individuals for over 100 years.
“Our customers are also our neighbors and there is something special about being able to help on such a local level,” he says.
Yet to serve customers in the 21st century, he recognizes the need to stay agile and adapt to the more modern financial needs of those in the community.
“We want to grow responsibly but in a manner that we can provide an exceptional customer experience.”
An example of this vision would be the new, full-service NCSB branch in Malone that opened in June. The layout inside the branch is sunny and open with table space and tablets for patrons to open an account or discuss finances with a relationship banker. Customers also can take care of most banking needs using the indoor or drive-thru Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) for automated deposits, withdrawals, transfers and other transactions all on a digital display for customer use any time of day. Live NCSB tellers are also available to assist customers by video on ITMs.
“We will be focused on adapting and integrating technologies and service standards that improve the customer experience and make banking an easier, less intimidating part of life,” says Coakley. “Finances are an exceptionally private yet significant part of all our lives. We strive to form relationships with our customers rather than just being available to perform transactions.”
Another bank priority, he adds, is hiring the best people possible. NCSB has a strong tradition of hiring good staff and creating long-term careers for its employees. With more than two decades of service at the bank, Coakley is a leading example of the culture he aspires to nurture among staff and to provide the bank’s customers. He aptly calls it “professionalism with a North Country touch.”