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Bank President Rose Through The Ranks

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By ED WATERS Jr.
The Frederick News-Post

DAMASCUS, Md. (AP) — When Cynthia B. Cervenka started part-time at the Bank of Damascus, she didn’t expect to one day sit in the president’s office of a different bank in her community.

That was more than 30 years ago. The Bank of Damascus was taken over by Citizens Bank of Maryland, and Damascus Community Bank was formed in 1987.

Cervenka left to join the Damascus Community Bank when Citizens Bank took over Bank of Damascus.

She was named president of Damascus Community Bank in 2005.

Cervenka and bank staff members are marking 25 years of service to the Damascus community and surrounding area. From 10 employees in 1987, the bank today has more than 80 employees in five offices.

A native of Damascus, Cervenka graduated from Brandywine College in Delaware.

“I was an accounting major and looking for something in that line,” Cervenka said during an interview at the bank’s headquarters in Damascus.

“I came up through operations, which is not always the way it is done. Most (bank presidents) move up through the lending part of the banking system. I had a lot of opportunities,” Cervenka said. She is one of eight female CEOs or presidents of banks in Maryland, according to the Maryland Bankers Association.

Kathleen Murphy, spokeswoman for the Maryland Bankers Association, said gender is no longer an obstacle for women in the financial field.

“To me, basically it comes down to experience, knowledge and having the right person in the right position,” Murphy said.

Maryland is doing well when compared with other states and nationally with women in leadership positions, not only as CEOs and presidents, but also in other senior management positions.

The Maryland Bankers Association has launched the Council of Professional Women in Banking and Finance. Murphy said it began as an annual conference, the first one this past July, but was so popular, the council was formed.

“Rather than a once-a-year conference, the council meets quarterly, and has other sessions and trade shows,” Murphy said. “The first conference, which could only accommodate 200, was sold out.”

There are a lot of opportunities and demand from women in the financial field for professional networking, education about the latest in banking trends and reconnecting with women they may have worked with at institutions in the past.

Cervenka said keys to the Damascus bank’s success have included a strong, supportive board of directors, community support and a good relationship with customers.

“Her office is on the first floor. You don’t find that in most banks,” said Brenda Main, vice president for marketing at the bank. “There is an open-door policy.”

Cervenka said that is a major point for customers as decisions about loans or other transactions are made at the bank, not through the office of a larger bank out of town.

“It gives us an edge,” Cervenka said.

Community banks can now offer, in most cases, the services provided by larger institutions.

“But we maintain the community ties. Our people know customers by name, and our employees are involved in community activities,” Cervenka said.

The challenge for banks, especially small ones, is the increasing burden of regulation. Ensuring required capital, higher insurance premiums and other mandates are being met, Cervenka said.

“Twenty-five years speaks a lot in today’s market,” Cervenka said.

Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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