NORTH ADAMS -- Amid a small protest Monday, MountainOne Financial Partners President and CEO Thomas S. Leavitt clarified how a merger of Hoosac Bank and South Coastal Bank will impact local employees and the identity of the banks.
Leavitt announced on Feb. 28 that 20 employees would be laid off as a result of the impending merger of Hoosac Bank and South Coastal Bank under a single bank charter.
Although the merger won't officially happen until July 19, several employees at Hoosac, Williamstown Savings and South Coastal banks were notified Feb. 28 that their jobs were being cut. Hoosac and Williamstown Savings merged under a single charter last year, with Williamstown Savings retaining its name and becoming a division of Hoosac Bank.
Of the 20 layoffs, 60 percent, or 12 jobs, will be cut in Northern Berkshire, with the remaining eight positions coming from South Coastal branches in Rockland and Quincy.
"Just a handful of jobs will be phased out in North Adams," Leavitt said Monday. "We'll also see positions phased out in our Williamstown offices. Some of those positions will be eliminated because of redundancies of services -- functions performed in both the eastern and western parts of the state, which are now being handled here in Western Mass. Others are the result of a review of our entire community banking organization."
He added, "We have posted three new positions in our customer care center, and many of our applicants for those positions come from the pool of employees that have already been notified."
However, for the three men quietly protesting outside of Hoosac Bank on Monday, any type of reduction in local staffing levels is unacceptable.
None of the three work for the bank.
"We're here today to support the workers of Hoosac Bank," said Mike Wilbur, of North Adams. "This is a blue collar community and any time one person goes down, we all feel it. Whether its 12 jobs or 20 jobs, it doesn't need to happen."
He added, "When you have $800 million in assets, you can come up with better ideas than laying people off. If it's not about financial issues, then why lay people off? There has to be more to the story than they're telling us."
Fellow protester John Armstrong agreed, saying that he was worried that the layoffs were "the beginning of the end" for the bank.
"It feels like its another nail in the coffin for this community," he said. "We've seen this before. When Sprague Electric started laying people off it was only a few at a time. That's how it starts."
Wilbur also took issue with the fact that following the merger, Hoosac Bank will be known as MountainOne Bank.
"Hoosac Bank is an institution in this community, and its customer service is what has made this bank," he said. "People know and trust Hoosac Bank. Take that name and people won't know who they're dealing with."
Leavitt said that changing the name of Hoosac Bank to MountainOne Bank is not a decision that was made without a considerable amount of discussion.
"We had originally planned to keep all three bank identities and make them all divisions of MoutainOne Bank," he said. "However, as we began the process of changing the surviving charter -- the Hoosac Bank charter dating back to 1894 -- we realized that it would be necessary for the main office at 93 Main St. to be MountainOne Bank. It didn't make sense for us to have our Pittsfield and Williamstown branches of Hoosac Bank be known as divisions of MountainOne Bank. It was a decision we made for purposes of clarity."
Williamstown Savings and South Coastal banks will retain their identities, but they will be known as "divisions of MountainOne Bank" after the merger.
"We'll be spending more time talking with our customers and the public about those changes as we move forward, but right now we're spending time with those employees who are being impacted by the actions [of the merger]," Leavitt said. "I spent time in each of our offices today, speaking with those people, making sure that they are able to manage through these difficult times. While many of them had questions, I was impressed that many of them were still diligently concerned about continuing to care for their customers. They are a source of inspiration for me."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email