On Friday, HYPE members attended a luncheon with Bill Crawford, CEO of both United Bank and its Holding Company, United Financial Bancorp, Inc. United Bank is headquartered in Glastonbury, CT and has more than 50 retail banking and loan production offices throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts. The markets United Bank covers stretches from lower Fairfield County up to Greater Boston and provides commercial and consumer lending as well as retail banking and financial advisory services.
Bill grew up in Virginia, and credits his father for his work ethic, encouraging Bill to work tough jobs as a teenager to save up for a car. His father was a fighter pilot as well as an airline pilot, and wanted Bill to value hard work and the responsibilities that come with earning wages. As a teenager, Bill’s risk management skills were also shaped by his learning to fly planes, as he learned to be confident, but never overconfident. While flying, Bill had to learn to adapt to situations and make calculated decisions, weighing the risks that each unique situation brought to the table.
These skills served him well, as he became a CEO at just 34 years old. By 37, Bill was a regional president for Wachovia, eventually becoming the Executive Vice President for Commercial Banking. Throughout his career, Bill has seen firsthand the consequences of CEO’s making poor decisions and the effect it has on the company and employees. After a failed merger, Bill left Wachovia in search of a CEO position at a smaller bank, knowing he wanted to grow a company. Eventually, Bill accepted the position of CEO of Rockville Bank. Shortly after, Bill and the CEO of United Bank met to discuss a possible “merger of equals” to create one larger company. Both banks were relative in size and had similar profits. These similarities were helpful, but the real challenge was getting all parties involved to be comfortable with the others to make the deal work. Bill remarked that the details are so important in a deal such as this, as well as the ability to build trust with not only the other CEO involved, but the board, employees, and eventually, the clients as well. Chemistry between companies can make or break a deal, and Bill worked diligently to ensure the merger went through, and became CEO of United Bank in 2011.
When asked how both teams handled the merger, Bill was honest in expressing that not all employees were happy at first. Rockville Bank had 200 employees, and grew to over 700, along with becoming a full public entity. Many were energized and excited, and those who were tentative have worked through the changes and most are in a good place. Also asked about the challenges of going public, Bill stated that the infrastructure had to change tremendously, and data management had to be reformed. Bill loves the freedom and independence of running a smaller bank, and encourages his team to challenge him or their supervisor if ideas don’t make sense. Bill believes in creating a culture of working through problems and dealing with them head on.
Bill has always focused on relationships, building and maintaining them with people who inspire him. From his flight instructor and father as a teenager, to his bosses and mentors during the early parts of his career, Bill has a plethora of positive and inspiring people in his life. His strong belief in building relationships translates into the workplace as well. When asked about how he manages the chemistry between different generations in the workplace, Bill explained that in both his office and board room the tables are round. This is meant to “take level out of the room” and “create an environment where people feel they can share their voice without retribution”. Bill is also focused on recruiting a diverse workforce, to better help serve United Bank’s diverse population of customers. He believes in hiring “smart and capable people”, and them empowering those people to grow and succeed. Bill is active on LinkedIn, connecting with many people on the site to expand his circle and the people in it. He describes his leadership style as relationship oriented; creating an environment that top talent can thrive in, with a culture that allows them to debate, ask questions, and talk out ideas.
Bill encouraged all young professionals to not only surround themselves with inspiring people, but to challenge their minds as well. An avid reader Bill believes that it’s “critical what you put in your mind, what you read”, and personally spends about three hours a day reading. He truly loves what he does, and believes that “every day you have to be learning”. When asked where he sees United Bank going, he stated that his main focus is customer satisfaction. He believes in “the pursuit of excellence in all things” specifically around delivering excellence for the clients, which leads to growth. Technology is an area of growth he plans to pursue, while still focusing on quality service in the current fields. Overall the “relationship with the customers, the relationship with employees” drives what he does every day.
Thank you to Bill Crawford for a great luncheon! Check out all of the photos on Facebook!