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Updated: March 6, 2023 / 2023 Business Leaders of the Year

WBJ Hall of Fame: Alden nearly doubled the size of Bay State Savings Bank

Photo | MATT WRIGHT Peter Alden, president & CEO of Bay State Savings Bank

When he was growing up in New Hampshire, Peter Alden’s dad was a banker, but he didn’t start out wanting to follow in the family business.

In college, Alden worked at Boston Logan International Airport, and, although he studied finance, he was more interested in the logistics of moving freight than loans and deposits. Then he got a job as a teller at a bank in Nashua, New Hampshire and soon found himself rising through the ranks into branch management and commercial lending.

“Lending money became very interesting to me, and studying people’s businesses and the variety of businesses you’re in contact with,” Alden said. “I like the community involvement. I like helping people.”

So Alden stayed in the New Hampshire banking industry, helping to run community banks, cultivating close relationships with the people and businesses around them.

In 2011, he got the opportunity to come south to Bay State Savings Bank in Worcester. While he didn’t know Worcester well at the time, his mother grew up in Auburn, and he liked the fact Bay State is a mutual bank, meaning it’s responsible only to its depositors, not to shareholders who are watching its quarterly earnings to make sure they’re earning a profit.

Alden has connected tightly with the Central Massachusetts community, said William Fay II, chair of the Bay State board of directors and vice president of Worcester firm Fay Brothers, Inc., which runs three funeral homes in Central Massachusetts.

“He represents what Worcester’s all about: looking after each other,” said Fay, whose family business was founded in the city in 1870.

When Alden first arrived at Bay State, the bank was intentionally shrinking its operations to improve its financial situation. Alden made a plan to change that, putting it on a path of gradual growth. In the 12 years since he came on board, Bay State has nearly doubled in size, from $257 million to $512 million in assets.

For Alden, it was important the growth didn’t come at the expense of a personal touch. Bay State has kept up with the times, ensuring customers can do their banking online on their phones, but when they call with questions, a real person still picks up the phone.

“When you have a problem, you want to get to a human being,” Alden said. “We’ve talked about the capacity to change that, but that’s not who we are.”

A personal touch can be especially helpful for young people, who may be in the early stages of learning about financial matters, from the value of saving to the basic mechanics of writing a check. To help with this, Bay State Savings has a branch at Auburn High School and partners with Quinsigamond Community College and Worcester State University. This helps teenagers and young adults get a foothold in their personal finance and creates lifelong customers for the bank.

“People tend to keep that first bank account,” Alden said.

The bank, and Alden himself, are involved in local institutions. Employees participate in frequent community service projects like planting trees at New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill in Boylston. Alden is a board member and treasurer of Mechanics Hall, the Worcester concert venue. He’s been part of the Worcester Business Improvement District since its foundation in 2018 and is the treasurer of that organization as well.

Among other service work, Alden participates in the annual CEO Soak, benefiting the ALS Association by agreeing to be dunked in a tank of water, in order to raise money for the nonprofit.

“It’s a fun way to give back,” Alden said. “A very chilly way to give back, but a fun way.”

The WBJ Hall of Fame Class of 2023:

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