MACHIAS, Maine — For the past quarter of a century, Edward L. Hennessey, Jr. has led Machias Savings Bank through good times and expansions, as well as tough economic times.
Hennessey said Thursday that as of Oct. 1, he will be stepping down as president of the bank but will remain as CEO.
“This is just part of succession planning,” Hennessey said, adding that he will still be at the bank every day. “No one is going to notice any changes in the day-to-day operations of the bank.”
Lawrence Barker, 43, a 20-year-veteran at Machias Savings Bank, will assume the presidency. “I have some very big shoes to fill,” Barker admitted Thursday. “Ed is a legend in the state of Maine banking industry.”
Machias Savings was founded in 1869 and now has more than 200 employees and 13 branches from Houlton to Rockland, with another branch under construction in Brewer.
Barker said customers can expect no major changes. “Our focus will remain in the same place it has always been — taking care of customers,” he said.
Barker said he started in the Machias Savings Bank collection department in 1991. Seven years later he moved to the business-banking side of operations.
Reflecting on current economic times, Hennessey said that Washington, Hancock and Aroostook counties seem to be harder-hit economically than the rest of the country. “Between 2003 and 2007, we saw amazing growth,” he said. “They were great years for the bank. We’ve seen nothing since.’’ Hennessey said the strengths of the area’s economy are the natural resources and fishing industries.
“We have seen some of our borrowers struggle to make their payments for the last two to three years. Some have lost high-paying jobs and have replaced those jobs with unemployment or with lower-paying jobs that do not provide them with sufficient income to make ends meet,” Hennessey said. “Even though we have worked hard to help these borrowers, our foreclosures have increased to a level several times higher than the mid-2000s.”
Still, the bank remains committed to the region, and its new Brewer location will be the headquarters for the bank’s Business Services Department.
“In the coming year, Machias Savings Bank will be increasing its market presence and presenting a new updated image,” Hennessey said. “While several of our competitors are focusing their efforts on southern and western Maine, our primary focus will be coastal Maine, Down East Maine, and from Bangor and Brewer north.”