CHATHAM –When Barbara Matteson applied for a teller's job at the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank in 1974, she had no experience in banking. At the time she was living and working at the Dolphin Motel, and a friend suggested working “banker's hours” might make it easier for Matteson to take care of her 4-year-old son.
Over the next four decades, she rarely worked “banker's hours,” but certainly found a home at the company she said goes above and beyond to support its employees.
After 45 years, Matteson, now a bank vice president and the Chatham branch's mortgage loan officer, is retiring. For many Chatham homeowners, from wealthy second (or third or fourth) home buyers to young families struggling to make a mortgage work, Matteson helped realize their dream.
“Every case is different,” she said in an interview last week. “We can help people afford [a mortgage], make it happen when they don't think it can.”
But that's changed over the years. In the past, home lending was just as much art as business, she said; things like family and character could be taken into consideration along with employment, credit history and other technical factors.
“If [an applicant] didn't fit the mold, you could still explain why,” she said. “That made a difference.” Today, with government regulations and a reliance on impersonal credit scoring, lenders have less latitude, she said, although there remains some flexibility.
Knowing the community was a big part of making those determinations, and Matteson is certainly a fixture in Chatham. She's worked at different Cape Cod Five branches—in Brewster and Centerville, and she opened the Yarmouth branch in 1987—but always came back to Chatham, where she became manager in 1989.
“Chatham is where I live, so it's always where my heart is,” she said.
At first, as manager, she handled all of the bank's lending, including mortgage, home equity, auto, personal and commercial. That changed in the 1990s as the bank established separate departments for different types of lending. In the late '90s she was named a bank vice president and offered several jobs; she chose to stay in Chatham as mortgage loan officer.
A native of North Carolina, Matteson moved to Massachusetts in the second grade. She earned a scholarship to Anna Maria College and moved to the Cape with her first husband. During her years in Chatham, she's become deeply involved in the community, something the bank encourages. “This bank really cares about the people and institutions in the towns,” she said, and gives employees the time necessary to get involved.
“That is good,” Matteson said. “When you get entrenched in the community like that, then you understand exactly what the bank is doing—supporting people.”
Matteson took the bank's recommendation to heart and over the years has put in countless hours on town boards and committees and working for local nonprofit organizations. She spent 20 years working with the Chatham chapter of the Citizens Scholarship Foundation and Dollars for Scholars, as—what else?—treasurer. She was also treasurer of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce for a dozen years, and served on the Chatham High School Advisory Council, the Chatham Affordable Housing Committee, the Barnstable County HOME Consortium, and the Chatham Planning Board for six years, including a stint as chair. Many years ago, she also served as scorekeeper and statistician for several teams in the Cape Cod Softball League. She said she always makes it clear that while she is happy to help, she doesn't do public speaking; when it comes time to deliver the treasurer's report, she'll provide the data but someone else has to deliver it.
She currently serves as treasurer of the Chatham Rotary Foundation and is in her second year as a member of the town's finance committee. Chairman Stephen Daniel said Matteson's financial expertise and knowledge of the community gives her unique insight into the committee.
“She's a person of such integrity, and she has close to 50 years of perspective” that's different than other committee members, he noted. It can take a while to get up to speed on the town's complex finances, but Matteson is “beginning to find her voice” among the members, he said. Daniel added that after talking recently with Matteson and fincom member Andy Young, also retired from the Cape Cod Five, he was so impressed with their knowledge of housing issues that he plans to enlist them in a small working group after town meeting to delve into the town's housing problems.
Although she's stepping down from the bank, Matteson said she is “definitely” staying in town. She's looking forward to the flexibility retirement will afford, and plans to do some “family” traveling, visiting her sister in California, a family compound in the Blue Ridge Mountains and friends in Florida. She'll also spend time at a vacation home in Vermont.
Taking over as the Chatham branch's mortgage loan officer is Patti Lotane, who was previously mortgage loan officer at the bank's Orleans branch.
“Everybody's been receptive and warm,” Lotane said, acknowledging the big shoes she is stepping into. “It's been nice.”
Matteson credits President and CEO Dorothy A. Savarese with creating a nurturing environment at the bank, especially for women. She was glad Lotane was chosen to succeed her. “Having a woman at the helm is important,” Matteson said. “To see that level of female influence from the top down makes a difference.”
“On behalf of the entire Cape Cod 5 family, we extend our deepest appreciation to Barbara for her years of dedicated service to the bank, Cape Cod and especially the Chatham community,” Savarese said in a statement. “It has been a privilege to work alongside Barbara, and her warm presence will surely be missed by all. We wish her the very best in her next chapter of her life.”
The bank will hold an open house in honor of Matteson's retirement today, April 4, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Chatham branch. That's also her last day at work, and not coincidentally, the birthday of her late son Fred.