Karen Kelly gets things done. That’s the consensus of her peers at the Stamford-headquartered First County Bank.
And really, who could blame them? In the five years since she’s joined the bank, Kelly has established the little bank’s presence across social media, she’s revamped the bank’s brand, and she’s hunted down local sponsorship opportunities across the bank’s footprint.
“First County now looks bigger than it is because of all the splash in the community,” said Chairman and CEO Reyno Giallongo. “We didn’t have a lot of press before, but we’re in the press often now. She’s really changed the whole image of who we are.”
Kelly began her banking career in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Independence Community Bank. She started in the retail division, but was quickly recruited to the marketing department, where she worked on everything from direct mail to branding.
She spent more than 20 years at Independence before Sovereign Bank acquired it and she moved on to an investment bank in Manhattan.
“It was a good experience, and it taught me a lot,” Kelly said. “It also taught me that I wanted to go back to community banking. You know who your customer is, you know how to help them, and it’s very rewarding.”
Meanwhile in Connecticut, Katherine Harris, president and chief operating officer at First County, started to feel like the bank could use a little bit of a marketing boost.
“I was looking for someone who could really move this bank forward,” Harris recalled. “Karen is very energetic and very savvy. She’s someone who gets things done, and she has a lot of industry experience.”
Kelly, now chief marketing officer, joined First County during what could euphemistically be called a bit of a rough period for the banking industry, but she wasn’t daunted by the challenge.
“Just as we were beginning to be more proactive, the banking industry was seeing a lot of negative press,” she said. “We looked at it as a great opportunity to talk about what First County was all about.”
By all accounts, it’s paid off.
Since Kelly came on board, First County Bank has also been more active in community events, sponsoring the Norwalk Oyster Festival and Norwalk Summer Concerts and getting involved with the balloon parade in Stamford. She also serves as an officer on the First County Bank Foundation.
Kelly serves on the boards of two local nonprofits, the Stamford Museum and Nature Center and Senior Services of Stamford.