In her over 40-year financial services career, Diane Brown has seen a lot – from technological revolutions to drastic changes in the makeup of banking board rooms.
Now, as she approaches her retirement in early April 2023, she joined an episode of Mutual Growth podcast to share her reflections on her career and what comes next.
Despite rising to the C-suite and having overseen bank departments from Operations to Marketing, Diane says she didn’t necessarily set out on this career path.
“Like most bankers, I didn’t really plan to be one.”
After graduating college with an interest in business, Diane knew her liberal arts degree probably wasn’t going to get her where she wanted to go. When her local bank offered her a job and tuition reimbursement, she knew it was the perfect time to earn her MBA.
It was then that she first experienced all the banking industry has to offer, from investing in team members and opportunities for growth and development, and set her course for four decades in the industry.
Changing Industry, Changing Roles
When you’ve worked in banking for as long as Diane, you’re bound to see a lot of changes.
“Digitization,” she says, “has been the biggest shift. That’s happened in all kinds of industries and all across all walks of life, but 40 years ago when I started (in banking), PCs were not even a real thing in our bank. We had two of them – one for the treasurer and one for the CFO.”
And with changing technology came the changing needs and expectations of customers. As banking evolved with digitization – and became more competitive as consolidation increased – it created a work environment in which there became a constant need for improvement and development, something Diane is proud to have done. During her career, she grew to add new skills and take on new challenges – overseeing departments as varied as Operations and Facilities, and everything in between.
From the Beginning
Diane was instrumental to building Penn Community Bank’s from the very beginning – literally.
A few years after joining First Savings Bank of Perkasie in 2010, she was tasked with leading the project team for the unification with First Federal Bank of Bucks County which would become Penn Community Bank.
“The process creating Penn Community Bank was really a conversion of equals, so we had to work together to figure out everything we needed… organizational charts, staffing, products, pricing, policies, procedures, systems, everything was on the table” Diane recalls.
But her clearest memory from that entire process: the weather.
“The weekend that we were doing our systems and our branding conversion we had a blizzard. And since this was before working from home was a thing, we actually had a totally remote conversion because everybody couldn’t go anywhere, we were all snowed in.”
The Power of Mutuality
Penn Community Bank is the largest mutual bank in eastern Pennsylvania. But what does “mutuality” mean for customers and communities? It’s something Diane says she’s grown to appreciate.
“Before I came to work at First Savings, I didn’t really understand what a mutual structure was. But in the last 12 years in this part of the industry, I’ve really developed a very big respect for it. Being a mutual truly allows us to operate at a higher level. Our focus is community, it’s customer, it’s team members. As our saying goes, it really is about Greater Good Banking rather than shareholder driven value.”
In line with her belief, Diane has faithfully served as a member of the American Bankers Association Mutual Council – advocating for the importance of mutual banking in communities across the country.
Women in Banking
“The percentages have certainly improved since I started in banking, but we have a lot of work to do on all fronts related to diversity and inclusion,” says Diane when discussing the women in the industry.
While there has been progress over her career, she says things like Penn Community Bank’s Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, are invaluable to continuing the momentum. That’s why Diane serves as the executive sponsor of the bank’s Women’s ERG and has made developing the next generation of leaders a priority.
Her advice to women in banking – or anyone considering a career in financial services: take chances and trust in your ability to grow.
“Even if you don’t feel like you’re a hundred percent prepared or qualified, when you get an opportunity or a challenge, say yes. My very first chance to advance included an interview and it was full of jargon in technical terms. But I figured it out and it was the best thing I ever did.”
Looking Back. Looking Forward.
As Diane’s retirement from Penn Community Bank on April 3 approaches, she’s looking back on her time with the bank, but also looking forward to what comes next.
“I truly enjoy my work, so of course I’ll miss that. I’ll miss the team members because they make this bank very special,” she says. “But it’s the right time for me to focus on my family and my personal pursuits. I’m really looking forward to some family time and some travel adventures – the freedom to choose how I spend each day.”
Her message to Penn Community Bank team members is one of gratitude.
“I really think I just have to say ‘thank you.’ I can’t say enough how grateful I am to have worked with such talented and wonderful people here. Every person plays a part in taking care of our customers and our communities, and it’s been my good fortune to spend my last 12 years here at Penn Community Bank. I’m really happy to end my career that way.”
Congratulations and best wishes for a happy retirement, Diane. Listen to the entire podcast at PennCommunityBank.com/Podcast