By Nicholas Conley
June 12, 2018
A bank that donates 10 percent of its profits to charity, volunteers over 50,000 hours, and actively fights for women, gateway cities, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community? While Eastern’s Join Us For Good initiative has only recently drawn headlines from the Boston Globe, the company’s mission is nothing new. This year marks Eastern Bank’s 200th anniversary along with a heritage of inclusiveness, community, and standing up for good causes.
This philosophy is so embedded into the fabric of Eastern Bank that on every employee’s first day, they are given a card that lists Eastern’s core values: “Integrity, Innovation, Diversity and Inclusion, Commitment, and Teamwork.” The other side describes Eastern’s vision: “We embrace our mutuality, culture and creative spirit to build lasting relationships with our customers, colleagues, and communities in pursuit of a better, fairer, more sustainable world.”
Even though Eastern Bank is the oldest mutual bank in the country, its history of serving underrepresented communities goes back to the very beginning. Back in 1818, the bank’s first customer was a woman named Rebecca Sutton, which at the time was so unheard-of that a male attorney had to make the deposit on her behalf. Looking back on Eastern Bank’s 200th anniversary, many such milestones can be found. Though the company hasn’t always been called “Eastern Bank”—that consolidated name arose from the 1981 merger of Salem Savings Bank and First East Bank—the company has never abandoned its local roots.
The 1980s marked a key time in Eastern Bank’s growth, and the bank continued its expansion efforts in 2002 when it merged with the Allied Insurance Agency, now Eastern Insurance Group. Today, Eastern Insurance has become one of the top 35 P&C insurance agencies in the country. And of those 35, it’s the only one led by a woman—Hope Aldrich, whom Eastern Bank CMO Paul Alexander credits for Eastern Insurance’s current success. “They’ve done a phenomenal job, and hopefully, we’ve given them a grand platform that gives them a little extra topspin.”
Looking back, it might have been the 2010 merger with Wainwright Bank where Eastern cemented its reputation as a social justice champion. At the time, Wainwright was known for its strong foothold in Boston’s LGBTQ community. When Eastern purchased the company, it didn’t run away from those associations.
“Eastern embraced it,” says Alexander. “What Wainwright brought was an increased focus on the LGBTQ community, and that’s become a very important pillar in terms of a community whose business is important to us, and [that has] also influenced an area of human justice that we totally support.”
Another significant chapter in Eastern Bank’s growth was the 2014 merger with Centrix Bank. “What Centrix brought was a strength in commercial lending in Southern New Hampshire,” says Alexander. “That’s why Eastern went after that merger—because Centrix had that strength, and they had a similar value system to Eastern in terms of giving back to the community.”
The running theme throughout all of these mergers has always been a focus on growth, while not sacrificing the values that make Eastern stand out. “The more we grow, the more we’re able to give back to the community,” says Alexander.
Every year, Eastern Bank focuses 20 percent of its charitable donations on a specific cause. In 2017, it was immigration. In 2018, that cause is advancing women. As this 200-year-old mutual bank continues into the future, it aims to continue supporting the causes that their customers value. “Our focus [is] on social responsibility and doing the right thing, that’s our point of differentiation,” says Alexander. “You can choose a bank for a lot of reasons. We hope people will choose us not just because we serve our customers in a terrific way, but also because we’re devoted to causes—to communities—that other banks aren’t.”
Learn more about Eastern Bank’s Join Us For Good initiative and their work in supporting community members.
Learn about the milestones that made this mutual bank into the social justice pillar it is today and celebrate Eastern Bank’s 200th anniversary.