Woman leads 175-year-old bank

Aug. 10—Marianne Smith, who joined the Cape Ann Savings Bank as a vice president and treasurer on Aug. 5, 2013, is now the 15th and first female president of the 175-year-old institution.

But the mother of three — who succeeded retiring president Robert J. Gillis Jr. on Aug. 2— says growing up in Gloucester as Marianne Schlichte, she came from a long line of achievers, so is not, “in all honesty, all that impressed.”

“Obviously it’s major to be the first woman, and I’m honored, flattered. But truth be told, I don’t think gender played a role in the decision. There are so many impressive women in Gloucester, too many to mention. And I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house with three brothers and four sisters where expectations were equal. It’s what was expected.”

Certainly, she says, it’s what her great grandmother Agnes Muldoon Schlichte —who back in 1915 was one of the first women to graduate from Tufts Medical School— would expect of her. She set the standard the eight Schlichte grandchildren have followed. And that includes her two sisters, attorneys Catherine and Patricia, who as partners in Schlichte and Johnstone, succeeded in the business their father, attorney now deceased, started.

“We are deeply entrenched in this city,” says Smith, whose roots at Cape Ann Savings Bank actually go back to her students days in the 1980s. Working school vacations as a part-time teller then gave her a taste for banking.

Appetite whetted, she went on to earn her bachelor in business management at Westfield State University and her master in business administration in finance from Salem State University. Then in the 1990s, she worked as a bank examiner with the Massachusetts Commissioner of Banks. It was she says, “a fantastic way to learn all aspects of banking,” and one that led her to choose finance as her career path.

Smith spent “fifteen years working in other community banks,” before returning to Cape Ann Savings Bank in 2013. “I can tell you,” she said, “that those other banks are not the same as Cape Ann Savings. This is a true community bank, working hard for a hard-working community. Cape Ann Savings Bank is there for its people.”

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Promotions followed swiftly for Smith. In 2014, she was elected as a corporator of the bank. In 2016, she was named to the Board of Trustees. And in 2020, she was named executive vice president and chief financial officer. Unanimously elected president by the bank’s Board of Directors, she says that “to join the ranks of such illustrious individuals as Robert J. Gillis Jr. (who had served as president since January 2017) and his predecessor Harold J. “Bucky” Rogers is very meaningful to me.”

An active member of the Cape Ann community, Smith serves as board president of the Cape Ann YMCA, is on the Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Bankers Association Women in Banking, and is a board member of the state Department of Developmental Services North Shore Citizens Advisory Board.

She and her husband Robert are parents to three sons, Zachary, 27, Aaron, 25, and Isaiah, 21. When their middle son, Aaron, was diagnosed with autism, Smith became an avid supporter of the organization Autism Speaks, an autism research organization that sponsors research, awareness and outreach activities on a grassroots level.

Grassroots is a word Smith likes to use. As one of the few banks in Massachusetts led by a woman, it’s how she intends to lead, “helping customers through hard times,” most recently with support to small businesses early in the pandemic.

“I would say the greatest gift this city gave me is its work ethic,” she says.

“It doesn’t matter what your education or background, this is a community, a hardworking community.” And she intends to keep working hard for it.

Joann MacKenzie may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or [email protected]


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