Number one medium employer: Institution for Savings, putting family before work — and thriving

Executives believe it’s important to share the wealth, and apple pies, with employees like Samantha Fay.
Executives believe it’s important to share the wealth, and apple pies, with employees like Samantha Fay.

The Institution for Savings in Newburyport has all the trappings of a traditional bank: a heavy vault with a spindle wheel, iron bars on the teller windows, and dark wood fixtures throughout.

But the bank’s basement houses a thoroughly modern amenity: a gym equipped with weights, treadmills, elliptical machines, and a spa-like bathroom.

Similar gyms can be found in four of the bank’s seven branches north of Boston.

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It’s among the many employee-centered benefits that helped the bank earn the number one ranking among medium employers in this year’s Top Places to Work survey — the second time Institution for Savings has headed the list.

The bank also provides its employees with a fully funded pension plan, hands out $500 checks for first-time events such as a marriage or a new child, has a profit-sharing plan, and even sends everyone home with an apple pie for Thanksgiving.

Those benefits have helped the bank retain a significant portion of its employees — more than 35 of its 127 workers have been with the bank for 10 years or more, said president Michael J. Jones.

The bank, which has $1.4 billion in assets, is doing well as its lending portfolio grows, Jones said, and it’s important to share that wealth with the employees.

Last year, the bank reported a net operating income of $11 million, the highest in its history.

As home sales heated up over the summer, employees in the bank’s mortgage division put in long hours to keep up with a glut of applications. But they also know it’s OK to take time during the workday to attend parent-teacher conferences and other important events: “We really emphasize that family comes before work,” he said.

Pam San Antonio, 34, a human resources assistant who used to work full time, said she appreciated the bank’s willingness to let her work three days a week after she started a family.

“I’ve had the foot in the door the whole time,” San Antonio said. “I also get to spend time with my small children.”

San Antonio, who runs the bank’s wellness program, said she feels part of a close-knit team. Co-workers support each other with meals and rides when they are seriously ill. They’ve formed running clubs and even do yoga in the lobby after work.

When employees are happy about coming to work, they are more productive, Jones said, and that helps the company flourish.

“It goes such a long way,” he said.