Q&A: Community Bank Leaders on Recruiting Talent

Publish Date: April 10th, 2024

Community Bank’s Pittsburgh-focused growth strategy began with a foundation of big-bank and middle-market talent fueled by an entrepreneurial appetite for growth and relationships. Now what?


When Community Bank began an ambitious, new, 10-year strategic growth journey three years ago from its roots in Greene and Washington counties into the heart of Pittsburgh’s commercial banking market, it invested heavily in new financial systems, technology, treasury management services, and a Warrendale-based Pittsburgh beachhead.

But it also took the idea of team building to a whole new level.

Instead of building a proverbial farm team to support its new Pittsburgh venture over time, the bank jumped right to the big leagues and recruited heavy hitters with regional big-bank institutional knowledge, experience - and an apparent level of entrepreneurial fortitude. The combination would help jumpstart the bank’s bold move into Pittsburgh and shore up its aggressive strategic plan.

“As part of our strategic plan, we specifically focused on building our team with experienced, seasoned professionals that have a deep understanding of the market and know how to serve clients,” said John Montgomery, president and CEO of Community Bank. “Our plan is to provide advanced technology, delivered by local professionals, based on our core values and mission to empower our clients to realize their dreams, protect their financial futures, and improve their lives. Seasoned banking professionals using good technology delivering value to our clients with the agility and responsiveness of a community bank is our plan.”

The recruitment efforts resulted in the addition of John Bartolini, regional president of Pennsylvania and head of health care banking; Nicholas Walsh, Pittsburgh market president; and Jeffrey Stuart, senior vice president and director of the bank’s new Treasury Services unit, along with additional team members.

“The team’s experience at large regional banks throughout the past two decades brings a deep understanding of the level of sophistication and expertise that are expected in today’s complex banking environment. We have a unique opportunity to bring that level of sophistication and knowledge to a well-capitalized community bank that is open for business and looking to grow,” Bartolini said of Community Bank’s strategic hiring decisions over the past 15 months.

We recently caught up with these three commercial banking leaders at Community Bank to discuss their startup and growth strategies as part of a Business Insights series presented in partnership with the Pittsburgh Business Times. Here’s what they had to say.

How do you approach the Pittsburgh market?

John Bartolini: Our focus is on the client experience. Community Bank is a people-centric organization built around the needs of our clients and prospects. We put our clients at the heart of everything we do and take a comprehensive approach to understand their financial needs. It’s important for us to understand their goals and serve as trusted advisors. In a world where banking is becoming more commoditized, we appreciate the value of growing strong relationships, and our clients do too.

What is Community Bank trying to build with the new team?

Nicholas Walsh: We’re building a niche-boutique, middle-market bank that thrives on providing value to our clients, with services powered by a local team of experienced bankers. We have the benefit of following 123 years of success at Community Bank and a strong balance sheet. We want to blend the delivery of banking sophistication, insights, and top-level financial products with a local delivery model in which we commit to helping our community excel by supporting our clients.

How does Community Bank define success?

Bartolini: We define success as our clients achieving their goals. The financial services industry is ever evolving, and so are the solutions that we can provide to our clients and prospects. We have a team of highly motivated and intelligent bankers, all with unique experiences and skillsets to cater to those evolving needs. In the end, our clients’ success is our success.

What do you think differentiates Community Bank from other banks?

Jeffrey Stuart: In addition to our core belief system that provides real value to our clients’ lives, we are creating a “Community Bank Ecosystem” where we work to bring our clients together to collaborate, share insights and do business together. When our clients win, we win, our communities win, and our shareholders win. Partnering with Community Bank is not just a smart financial decision, it is a decision that creates meaningful positive impacts to our region.

Do you consider Community Bank agile in its efforts to identify and create new products and services?

Stuart: The benefit of working at Community Bank means that traditional layers of bureaucracy are minimized, and that creates a quicker “time to market” for innovative ideas. Our President and CEO John Montgomery, along with our board of directors, have challenged us to be the best people-centric, technology-driven organization. We are living our mission every day by developing and implementing new products and services based on direct conversations from our clients. We have invested in operational talent to support our implementation and continually challenge ourselves to provide the best-in-class products to our clients. As technology continues to explode with artificial intelligence, we’ll help organizations move from reactionary decision-making to sound, proactive strategies that will fuel growth and profitability.

Tell us about Community Bank’s talent acquisition strategy.

Walsh: We’ve been very strategic in building a team that, first and foremost, believes and commits to uphold our mission, values and understands our identity — a people-centric, values-driven, and technology-centered financial institution that is agile and enthusiastic to make banking simple and easy. Once we have that base in place, we look for market knowledge, a diversity of financial knowledge, and the desire to work together to provide our clients with the solutions they desire. When it all comes together, we have a solid team in place with the right ability to make a true difference in our clients’ lives. By working as a team, we keep our focus on providing returns to all stakeholders: our clients, team members, and the communities we serve. So far, that message has been very well received in our market, and with continued growth, we will continue to bring in new colleagues who want to make a difference.

How has the market reacted to the sophisticated products delivered locally?

Walsh: Our cornerstone is “Client Experience First” and grounding our decisions and actions on that has been well received. We spend the time to build genuine relationships founded on trust and partner with our clients to help them achieve their goals.

Our delivery has resulted in welcoming new clients to Community Bank at a fantastic pace, which obviously is a good measurement of success. Overall, I can say that our existing clients have appreciated the intentional and elevated level of attention, and the market has shown a lot of interest in being a part of this boutique experience we’re providing.

What is it like to work at Community Bank, particularly after having worked at some very large banks?

Stuart: Community Bank is passionately committed to its people-centric identity and that allows us to keep our focus on our clients and their needs. It is a fantastic feeling to meet with a client, discuss an issue, and then be able to build and deliver a solution. There is never a dull moment but knowing that we are directly contributing to a 123-year journey and helping local companies thrive provides the energy to make things better each and every day.

For more information about Community Bank and its commercial banking services, including its Health Care Banking and Treasury Services units, go to cb.bank. MEMBER FDIC.