When Eileen Bagnoli took a teller job at Pioneer Bank, she thought it was a temporary stop before she found a job as a teacher.

Forty years later she is helping to find her replacement for when she retires — as president and chief executive of the Troy, N.Y., company.

"I loved it from the beginning," Bagnoli said. "I did find a teaching job but by then I felt a good connection to Pioneer and what we do in the community. I turned it down. I've never regretted that."

The $768 million-asset company is in the early stages of searching for Bagnoli's replacement and already has eight or nine resumes. Bagnoli, 62, expects to step down in mid-2013 but is willing to stay on if the search for a new CEO takes longer.

Even though the process has just begun, Bagnoli already has a pretty good idea of whom she is looking for in her successor. A successful candidate must have experience in a very senior level position, but not necessarily as a CEO, she said.

Bagnoli will also look for "someone who is progressive in terms of understanding the technology side of the business and in particular the commercial piece." Over the last decade Pioneer has diversified its credit portfolio so that it is now split evenly between commercial and residential loans, she said.

But most importantly, Bagnoli wants someone who fits in with the bank's culture and values its 123-year history, she said.

"We are a family organization. I definitely feel that we are compassionate," she said. "We are not pushovers, but we take treating people with respect very seriously."

Bagnoli began her career at the bank in 1972, a time when women had fewer opportunities in the work force. However, Pioneer proved to be nurturing, Bagnoli said. She spent about a decade in the branch system in various roles before moving to the back office. She "had been on a progressive track" ever since, Bagnoli said.

She became president and CEO in June 2010 when her predecessor, John M. Scarchilli, passed away.

"I've worked for remarkable people," she said. "I have never felt anything other than having been afforded every opportunity."

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