By Michelle St. Onge
Hometown: Pleasant Valley, New York Family: Wife, Carol, and two adult children Education: B.A., Economics and Finance from the University of Hartford (Connecticut); M.S., Accounting from Syracuse University Occupation: President and Chief Executive Officer of Champlain National Bank Community Involvement: Board member North Country Chamber of Commerce, Elizabethtown Community Hospital and Willsboro Development Cooperation. Recently completed service on the board of the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA).
Steve Cacchio grew up in the Hudson Valley and was the youngest of three boys. When it was time to go to college, his original plan was to study engineering at the University of Hartford, not far from his home. During his junior year he had an epiphany while on a civil engineering job site — that engineering wasn’t what he was meant to do. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on a major road project, learning a lot from all the trades on the job and the skills required by operating engineers and teamsters for the use of heavy equipment. However, I realized a career in civil engineering wasn’t for me,” he shared. In a pivot, Cacchio shifted his studies to business before he finished his undergraduate degree.
After graduation Cacchio worked for J.P. Morgan in New York City for several years, trading U.S. government securities. His next move was to Syracuse University for graduate school to further his studies in accounting where he met his wife. He spent his middle career years in central New York, worked for the U.S. Treasury and settled down to raise a family. “I worked for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which is the branch of the Treasury Department that examines and supervises national banks,” he explained. Back in those days, technology was not as advanced as it is today, so the role required a lot of out-of-town travel. With a young family at home, he soon realized it was time for a change.
Cacchio remained in Syracuse and gained experience working at a local bank. A little less than eight years ago he was approached by the leadership of North Country’s Champlain National Bank to see if he would be interested in filling the vacant position of president. He was impressed by the 114-year history of the bank, and by the fact that it was a family legacy. “In conversation with them, I could tell this bank was a tremendous community partner and the board was terrific,” Cacchio recalled. “I knew it was a place where I’d be very comfortable and be privileged to be its president.” Cacchio accepted the position and has been enjoying the relationship building side of banking in the community ever since.
Following are excerpts from Strictly Business interview with Steve Cacchio.
SB: What do you like the most about your job? SC: I like the fact that as a smaller bank, we have a strong connection with the community. The North Country is our market — it is where we do our lending, where we get our deposits — so we really know the community. I like to say that, no one will “out-local” us. This is who we are. This is our area.
SB: What was the best piece of advice you ever received? SC: I had a professor who talked a lot about the importance of integrity. One day near the end of the semester he shared something that has always stuck with me. “You should always act with integrity. If you act in ways that sacrifice your integrity, you will always know that you did it. Even if no one else finds out, you can’t fool yourself.”
SB: If you could talk to your younger self, what advice would you offer him? SC: Now that I am further along in my career, when I look back, I can tell that I did not realize just how quickly time goes by. I would tell my younger self to stop and think about how the decisions I make today will impact the future. My sons are now 26 and 24, and I am already amazed by how much they have achieved in their lives.
SB: What advice would you offer to someone starting his or her business career? SC: Like what you do and always keep learning. It is important to think about that because you will spend a significant amount of time each day working. When you like what you do, you are more likely to learn something new each day. Even the smallest new things give you experiences that can help you make better decisions.
SB: What habits do you have that contribute to your success? SC: Sticking to a routine really helps me stay on track. I get up each morning, walk the dog, and read the newspaper so I can understand what is going on. I am a creature of habit who thrives on consistency and routine.
SB: How have you inspired or mentored others? SC: I try to challenge people by giving them opportunities that they are interested in doing and encouraging them. I work hard to maintain a positive outlook and being passionate about the work we do. It is very gratifying to see individuals move on and succeed.
SB: Tell us about your approach to management and leadership. SC: We have about 70 employees throughout the ten branches of our organization, and we are fortunate that we have a lot of long-time employees. My style is collaborative in nature. I like to stay accessible to everyone in the organization so I can learn from them and understand their feedback. I love to hear good news like we all do, but if there is bad news, I prefer to get it quickly so that we can collaborate to address things that need attention right away.
SB: What recent positive changes have you helped achieve locally? SC: I tell everybody that what we really sell in our bank is trust. With the trust of our customers, we continue to build upon a 114-year tradition of giving back to the community. We have made changes to operate more efficiently and this drives profitability. Our increased profitability allows us to bring increased benefits to our employees, our customers and our community. We just provided $100,000 to support the YMCA and are proud supporters of Mountain Lake PBS, the Strand Theater and Fort Ticonderoga, to name a few.
SB: What are you most proud of professionally? SC: Being part of positive organizational change is what gives me pride. Whether it was a former bank, or Champlain National Bank today, quantifiably being able to see positive financial changes that contribute to the success of the organization is rewarding.
SB: If you could start your professional career over again, what would you do differently? SC: I don’t have a lot of regrets when I look back. The choices I’ve made have led me to where I am today, and I am happy where I am now. My background working in the banking sector and as comptroller of currency, along with experiences from small banks to large banks gave me good overall knowledge.
SB: What is something no one would guess about you? SC: I love to scuba dive. I first learned how to do it when I was in school in Connecticut. I like to dive in open water offshore islands down south in the winter. My oldest son is also certified to scuba dive, so sometimes we dive together.
SB: If you could have dinner and spend an evening with any well-known person, living or dead, who would you choose and why? SC: Abraham Lincoln. He managed to lead a very divided nation. I would like to hear his thoughts on how that transpired. Unfortunately, today we have divisions and issues, maybe not to the same degree, but I think his perspective would be very helpful.
SB: What do you believe the North Country community should do today to ensure a prosperous future? SC: We have a diverse set of industries, and strong relationships with our Canadian partners. Our transportation options with road, rail and air provide good access for new and growing businesses. Stay focused on what the area has and expand on it.