President and CEO, Reading Co-operative Bank
One thing that really gets Julieann Thurlow riled up is mutual thrifts converting to stock companies. She views it as just plain "stealing" for executives to profit from taking a depositor-owned institution public. "I understand it's lawful, but it's still wrong," she says.
As president and CEO of the $439 million-asset Reading Co-operative Bank in Massachusetts, she is working to preserve its legacy as a 128-year-old mutual. She has proposed an amendment to its bylaws that would require the approval of two-thirds of the board to initiate a conversion. The amendment, which is expected to come up for a vote at Reading Co-operative's annual meeting in December, also would prevent any officer, board member or employee from owning stock for five years, if a conversion is ever approved.
"What I'm basically doing is stripping from both the board and the management team any intention of allowing a lawyer to come and convince them that they could be very, very wealthy if they converted the bank," Thurlow says, adding that the board is supportive of her efforts.
She says mutuals are important because they are essentially owned by the people in the communities they serve and place great emphasis on giving back. Going public shifts their attention to shareholders instead.
"You see it in a lot of other communities where the banks go public and sell out to a larger organization that doesn't have any local leadership," Thurlow says. "Local nonprofits and the food pantries and the affordable housing projects, a lot of those things don't happen."
Thurlow is the incoming membership council chair at the American Bankers Association. She also meets regularly with state and local lawmakers, as part of the Massachusetts Bankers Federal Liaison Committee.