Androscoggin Bank Director of Corporate Impact Chris Lyon, left, and CEO Neil J. Kiely stand Monday afternoon in a conference room at the corporate headquarters in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Banking is in the midst of a generational evolution: prepaid cards, mobile deposits, online banking and a host of new products geared toward a changing generation of customers. A quote long attributed to now-billionaire Bill Gates from 1994 predicted the demise of banks. “Banks are dinosaurs . . . we can bypass them.”

It’s true, the number of banks in the U.S. is half what is was in 1994. But operating revenue since then has tripled, earnings have quadrupled and capital equity has quadrupled, according to 2018 data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

When Androscoggin Bank was founded in 1870, the industry was in its infancy in this country. Fast-forward to 2014, when the board of directors decided it was time for change. Neil Kiely, the current president and chief executive officer of the bank, was at the meeting. “Our board kind of came to the insight and the realization that the industry is going to change more in the next 10 years than in the last 50 years,” he recounted. “And that if we didn’t transform ourselves and stay relevant to the next generation of employees and clients, you know, we would be left behind.”

Kiely, who is a lawyer and not a banker by training or trade, served on the bank’s board for five years before he was asked to lead the bank’s transformation into the next generation. What he and his team accomplished in the ensuing years is a rare feat in the business world and even more unique in the banking industry. Androscoggin became a Certified B Corporation in January 2021. It’s the first bank headquartered in Maine to do so, one of nine in the country, and one of only 11 companies in the state to achieve the B Corp certification.

B Corp certification is a designation indicating a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability and transparency on issues ranging from employee benefits to charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. B Lab, the nonprofit organization behind the certification process, says B Corps work to reduce inequality, reduce poverty levels, create more sustainability for the environment and build stronger communities.

Companies like Androscoggin Bank that successfully achieve B Corp status are telling their communities and the consumers they serve that they are committed to a host of standards, and they are backing that commitment by getting an outside group to confirm it. Some call it the gold standard. For instance, Androscoggin Bank is moving to lessen its impact on the environment by getting 100% of its power from renewable energy sources. Also, part of the bank’s plan is to put its profits back into the community at a much higher rate than in the past in the form of long-term, sustainable giving to nonprofit organizations working for the betterment of the community.


In 2021, Androscoggin Bank supported 102 nonprofit organizations in Maine giving more than $316,000 in contributions and sponsorships. Employees volunteered more than 2,800 hours to local organizations. Nearly half of the bank officers are serving on a nonprofit or community board, according to bank information.

Chris Lyon was brought in to fill the role of director of corporate impact, and Kiely said Lyon is spearheading the bank’s efforts to reinvent how businesses work with nonprofit partners.

Androscoggin Bank Environmental Stewardship Impact Team leaders Jim Woolverton, left, and Genevieve Hering stand beside a recycling container in front of their corporate headquarters Monday afternoon in Lewiston. Among the bank’s environmental goals is to operate 100% from renewable energy sources. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

It’s actually getting to the heart of partnership,” Lyon said, “and giving up a little bit of power in the conversation to our partners to help inform us about what’s needed and where we can vet and support.” The reaction to this approach has been very positive, Lyon added.

For clients, the B Corp certification offers a number of tangible benefits. Kiely said purpose-driven companies attract purpose-driven employees. “The clarity of purpose and values within the organization translates into a kind of one-team approach to clients,” Kiely explained. “Where we work better across departments, we can be nimble, we can be efficient, and that has a big impact in terms of taking the friction out of the client experience. ”

Kiely says none of all this would be possible without involving and empowering the employees, whom he calls stakeholders. He says employees led the effort to define and write the company’s values, which the leadership team accepted without editing.

I think that by empowering them, to set the values that we were going to hold ourselves accountable to, we all signed up for this, ” Kiely added. “I think that was the foundation for trust. Trust building is a continuous process.”

The bank soon found itself in an enviable position. Employees began referring qualified, vetted candidates, frequently former colleagues, friends or family, for positions at the bank. It’s a sign the leadership did not miss. “People want to walk in, they want to feel valued, respected, safe,” said Kiely. “They want the opportunity to work with great people, they want the opportunity to grow and develop professionally and personally.”

In order to maintain its certification, which is a time-consuming and rigorous process, Androscoggin Bank must recertify every three years. The questions will be harder, the expectations higher and everyone involved knows it. Kiely said they are already working toward that, while simultaneously putting long-term goals into place and moving ahead with action plans.

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