Small-Town Style Gives Lift To Hanover Exec's Career
Kenneth W. Keller is responsible for Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co.'s commercial business in Brooklyn, a New York City borough of 2.3 million people, as well as in Staten Island and parts of Queens. But he says he views himself as "a small-town banker working for a big bank."
The small-town attitude has pushed Mr. Keller to the forefront of the local business community as chairman of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. His two-year term began on June 1.
Mr. Keller, 54, has spent his entire 32-year career with Hanover, beginning as a management trainee in 1959. He is currently a senior vice president in the New York banking division. Allowing for some minor adjustments in the wording of his title, he expects to continue in the post when Manufacturers Hanover Corp. completes its pending merger with Chemical Banking Corp.
"I like to think of Brooklyn as its own town," he said in an interview in his downtown office. Although the borough has 33,000 businesses, Mr. Keller pointed out that most are "mom-and-pop retail stores that look on our people as local bankers.
"We get away from saying we're just lenders," he said. "As relationship managers, our full menu includes cash management."
His activity in the Chamber of Commerce is at his own initiative, he said. "But the bank supports me.
"What's good for the business community is good for us," he said. "Manufacturers Hanover has been active in the Chamber of Commerce forever."
Involvement in such community organizations is "all part of being good corporate citizens - we're in Brooklyn for the long run."
Mr. Keller has been active in the organization since 1979. "Yes, I have to give some time to it, but it's rewarding. There's a personal satisfaction. It's an honor to be chosen as head of the chamber, with its members of all sizes and shapes," he said.
The chamber's broad-based membership, according to Mr. Keller, makes it a well-respected advocacy group: "It provides unparalleled access to elected officials and administrative agencies - helping its members cut through bureaucratic red tape, organizing networking functions to help members promote their products and services."
Mr. Keller recently accompanied Howard Golden, the Brooklyn borough president, on a visit to Brooklyn's sister city - Anzio, Italy.
"We're fortunate that [the chamber] has been a very active, well-run organization - probably one of the fastest-growing in recent years: 1,500 members, with a full-time president and staff," Mr. Keller said.