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By: Jay Fitzgerald, Boston Business Journal
Title: President and CEO, Liberty Bay Credit Union
Education: Bachelor’s degree, communications, SUNY Plattsburgh, 1986
Not many bankers – or heads of credit unions – get to say they got their start by waking up in the early mornings to milk the cows.
Lyndon “Lyn” Matteson can. He grew up in his early years on his father’s dairy farm in upstate New York, tending the cows, calves, geese, ducks and other animals as part of his chores, when he wasn’t doing typical kids stuff like fishing and attending school.
“It was hard work,” recalls Matteson. “My father used to say, ‘Never forget where you came from and the people who helped you get there.”‘
He hasn’t forgotten, long after beginning a distinguished career in banking that’s ultimately landed him as president and CEO of Braintree’s Liberty Bay Credit Union, an institution with $670 million in assets, 100 employees, four offices and a goal of doubling in size within three years.
Matteson, who joined Liberty Bay late last year as part of a succession plan that led to his assuming the top post this past September, was hired in part to expand Liberty Bay, which two years ago acquired Hingham Federal Credit Union.
The rationale behind Liberty Bay’s ambitious expansion plan: Grow bigger, organically and through acquisitions, in order to stay competitive amid rising regulatory costs and other market pressures. “To survive long-term, it’s my perception that you need larger scale,” he said. “So I was brought on for growth and earnings.”
Some of the areas Liberty Bay is now eyeing for possible growth include commercial lending – particularly within commercial real estate – and financial planning and wealth management.
Liberty Bay’s strategy comes as credit unions are generally experiencing solid growth, both here in Massachusetts and across the nation, as many individuals and businesses continue to flock to smaller financial institutions following last decade’s Wall Street and mortgage-market collapses.
“It’s a healthy and vibrant industry,” says Ron McLean, chief executive of the Cooperative Credit Union Association, noting that the Bay State’s 159 credit unions grew their membership by 4% to 3.1 million in Massachusetts in the 12 months ending this past June. Meanwhile, credit-union assets have grown by 4.7% to $41 billion during the same time period.
“It’s been steady, consistent growth,” said McLean of the credit-union industry in general.
For Matteson, his switch from traditional banking, where he’s spent most of his career, to running a non-profit credit union has been like “night and day,” with no more quarterly earnings reports and with more emphasis on community-focused services. “It’s absolutely been refreshing,” he said.
Matteson, whose father sold the family farm when Lyn was 9 years old, says he never dreamed of entering finance per se. His major in college was communications. But soon after college, his father, who later in life became a sales manager for Toyota, noticed an ad in the local newspaper for a “management trainee” at Key Corp. (aka KeyBank) – and Matteson has never looked back.
Over the years, he’s worked in a number top banking positions, mostly in New York, at KeyBank, CitizensBank/Charter One Bank and Cobblestone Financial Group. Mostly recently, he was executive vice president and chief lending officer at New York’s Upstate National Bank, a closely held public company. He was recruited to Liberty Bay Credit Union after a national search.
Whether at a traditional bank or at Liberty Bay, Matteson says he’s attracted to finance because he’s in a position to “help people meet their dreams and goals,” via structuring loans and financial services that work for both lenders and borrowers alike.
But Matteson, who’s married and has a 23-year-old son, still remembers his early life on a farm and in rural upstate New York – which partially explains his passion for fishing to this day. He loves spending time on his 28-foot sportsman boat fishing for stripers and mackerel off the Quincy coast.
“Don’t forget – I came from a farm, where we used to catch and eat fish,” he says. “I enjoy it.”