Marino is a member of Habitat’s Board of Directors

The board of directors at FD Community Federal Credit Union had one goal in mind when it began its recent search for new leadership. It wanted to hire someone with a strong banking background who also had deep roots in the city.

It found that person in Ann Marino, a lifelong resident of the area and now, the credit union’s first female president and CEO.

Marino took over the top job at the Waterbury-based institution in September, bringing with her over 30 years of banking experience, most recently as vice president of residential lending at Liberty Bank in Middletown.

At 59, Marino said she was happy at Liberty and thought she might end her career there.

But according to board chairman Joseph Del Buono, Marino’s name kept coming up during the search and, he joked, “We had to twist her arm a bit.”

The FD Community Federal Credit Unions’ roots date back to 1934 when it first began providing savings and loans to area firefighters. In those days, the money was kept in a cigar box on the second floor of the Engine 2 station on East Main Street in Waterbury. 

FDCFCU board members, all volunteers, told Marino they needed someone to carry on the credit union’s long history of serving the community, which dates back to 1934 when it was started as a firefighters’ credit union and run out of a cigar box on the second floor of the city’s Engine 2 station.

Marino said she was confident she could maintain FD’s strong, hometown reputation, but knew it would be a significant change in direction. She admits there is a bit of a learning curve going from a large bank to a credit union format. “I guess I decided to be brave and try something new. I wanted to be challenged at this point in my life,” Marino said.

But before she agreed to take the job, Marino did have one final request. “I wanted to make sure it was going to be fun,” she said.

Del Buono said he assured Marino it would be and with that, she became the credit union’s fifth-ever president.

“It’s so nice to come home,” said Marino, who now lives in Watertown. “I know the landscape and I really want to be part of helping out Waterbury again.”

Marino said FD being a credit union is much different from the banking she is used to, with its 100% commitment to members and not shareholders. Earnings, Marino said, are returned to members in the form of lower rates on loans, higher returns of savings, lower fees and quality service.

The credit union today boasts $140 million in assets with 15,000 members, making it the 19th largest of its kind in Connecticut. It is a far cry from those early days when the only members were the men and women of the firefighting community.

The credit union is now open to anyone who lives, works or worships in the Greater Waterbury community.

The credit union was managed for 40 years by the late Bill Curley, a retired firefighter with a strong connection to the Greater Waterbury community.  The union’s nearly 90 years in existence is due to what Marino says is its personal service and its unending mission to enrich the financial lives of its members.

Among those who are credited with the bank’s longevity is the late Bill Curley, a firefighter who also managed things at the credit union for more than 40 years. Del Buono said Marino brings the same hometown feel that Curley did with her understanding of the many unique social and economic situations of those in the community. For example, Marino is a board member for Habitat for Greater Waterbury and the Waterbury Housing Fund. In addition, while at Liberty and Naugatuck Valley Savings Bank before that, Marino worked with Waterbury schools to teach students basic budgeting skills.

“We really, really liked the idea of her commitment to community reinvestment and her presence here, and the people that knew her,” Del Buono said. “Ann had that touch.”

These days, the bank has grown significantly from its cigar box days. It is now one of 94 of its kind in the state, a number that once totaled over 220 back in the 1980s, but has shrunk due to mergers and closings.

The credit union’s first move toward becoming more community-wide, and not just for firefighters, came in the 1980s when it changed its charter to allow municipal workers to join. The move involved a merger with what was the municipal credit union that had been housed on the third floor of city hall. Early on, the merger did not go over well with some firefighters, but proved to be a success.

In 2010, things really changed when the charter was amended to allow members to join from all walks of life, provided they were local. The move necessitated a change in the credit union’s name from Firefighters Credit Union to FD Credit Union, which, Del Buono said, gave the company a wider focus while still paying homage to its long connection to the firefighting community.

The credit union now has two Waterbury branches and a third in Watertown after its Aug. 1 merger with the former Greater Watertown Federal Credit Union.

Del Buono said after being run out of the firehouse in the early years, the credit union opened an actual office for the first time in the 1980s in a house on Highland Avenue across from Kennedy High School. It opened its Meriden Road branch in 2010 as its expansion to being community-wide meant it now had members all over the city.

Marino said she felt the warmth and strong connection the credit union had with its members the first day she arrived for work. She says she hopes to begin holding seminars to help those in search of financial direction, particularly when it comes to owning a home.

“That’s what we’re here to do, to enrich the financial lives of our members,” she said, noting the credit union’s new-car interest rate of 1.8 %. “You can’t find a better rate and it’s offered that way to help the members.”

Marino said she takes extra pride in being the credit union’s first female CEO and credits the board for its belief in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Story courtesy of the Waterbury Republican-American (