Westchester's Greatest Leaders and Bosses: Maria Freburg, Vice President and Westchester and Lower FairfIeld Market Manager at Webster Bank

Webster Bank’s Westchester market boils down to two historical periods: before Maria Freburg, and after. When Freburg, the 39-year-old vice president and market manager, was recruited in 2010 to resuscitate Webster’s ailing Westchester market, which ranked dead last in Webster’s portfolio, she knew how to fix it. “It’s understanding the individuals you work with, helping them discover their God-given talents, and then allowing them to use their talents on a daily basis to go after the bank’s priorities,” declares Freburg. After just two years, she has brought Webster’s Westchester market into a full renaissance, placing people in roles that maximize their performance, mentoring employees one-on-one, and communicating a clear vision for the market’s future. The numbers are impressive—year-over-year small-business loan production grew more than 100 percent in 2010 and 2011—but it’s the bank’s employees who have driven the growth, and for that, credit is due to Freburg, a Hopewell Junction, New York, resident.  

“We want this to be a place where people wake up in the morning and want to come to work,” she says. People who work in jobs that draw on their talents, Freburg insists, perform better and lead happier lives. Franklin Vasquez, Freburg’s former branch manager, says, “She is someone who focuses on the strengths of a person, not the weaknesses.”  

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Freburg mentors managers to work with clients. “I will go with them and do the talking first,” she says. “Then, I’ll give them an opportunity to do it themselves, and, as they become successful, I’ll use them as a model to help other employees.” Brendan Sachjten, regional president, can vouch for her hands-on approach: “She shares the pain and the joy of whatever they’re going through—they see her commitment and they bond to it.”

Sometimes it requires inventive thinking. “I have a manager who loves animals, so I gave her creative ideas on how to get in front of veterinarians,” says Freburg. “Now, she’s spending time with people who have the same passion, and it has nothing to do with banking, but the goal is to get their accounts.” Freburg uses this strategy with all of her employees, directing them towards personalized avenues of success, so they, too, can become leaders in the bank. “The only way to really have a major impact is to create other leaders, because it’s like a domino effect,” she says. “I gain their buy-in by teaching them how to reach a goal. When you’re doing things you never thought you could, you become a rock star, and it’s fun.”

Photo by Toshi Tasaki

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