A career banker, Essex Saving Bank’s Diane Arnold is not exactly someone you’d expect to find climbing ladders on construction sites. But Arnold, vice president, senior commercial loan officer and senior loan administration manager, counts many contractors among her clients, described the work zones as “incredibly enjoyable.”
“I love to go out on construction sites,” she said, “and I do that through all phases, from the time the foundation is poured to completion.”
Perhaps this should come as no surprise, as Arnold has spent her career hanging out in unexpected places: According to some surveys, the commercial lending field is more than 77 percent male.
“There’s no doubt that it is certainly a male-dominated part of the banking world,” Arnold said. But “I’ve never really considered myself a minority in what I do. I consider myself a peer to my male counterparts.”
Gregory Shook, president and CEO of Essex Savings Bank, has been a cheerleader of Arnold’s career from the beginning. Shook led a 15-month management-training program at Branford Savings Bank in the late 1980s, with Arnold as one of its participants.
“I had convinced the bank’s president to let me hire two people” who completed the program, Shook said. Arnold was one of those hires.
“She’s one person that I knew had what it takes [to succeed] in this business,” Shook said. “She’s just an impressive lady. … She’s phenomenal at building long-term relationships.”
Don Beckwith, senior vice president and chief lending officer at Essex Savings Bank, agreed that forming and maintaining client relationships is one of Arnold’s many strengths.
“She’s got a very, very large and loyal following of customers,” Beckwith said. “If her customers are out in the field and someone casually mentions that he’s looking for a loan, her customers will interrupt and say, ‘You’ve got to see Diane.’”
Arnold shows the same loyalty to her clients, as one of her favorite parts of her job is helping “fledgling businesses” get the financing they need, she said.
“I had one business come in and I had to turn them down. I said, ‘Look, you’re not quite there, but here’s what you need to become bankable,” Arnold recalled. The client took her advice, and when he returned a year later, she helped him launch his business. Today, it’s a nationally known company.
“I think that’s probably the most rewarding thing about my job: being part of someone else’s success,” she said.