There’s a banking war taking shape in Roxbury. And Roxann Cooke is more than happy to be in the middle of the fray.
While working as a regional manager overseeing 17 branches at Eastern Bank, Cook helped open Eastern’s new branch last year near the Roxbury Crossing MBTA station. It was billed as the first new bank branch in Roxbury in more than 20 years.
But she switched sides in February, joining JPMorgan Chase & Co. as a regional director to lead its aggressive Chase Bank expansion in Boston. One of the first retail branches that Chase will open here is being planned for a former clothing store in Dudley Square, less than a mile from the new Eastern branch.
Opening day is set for August. Bank of America, Citizens Bank, and OneUnited are already in the neighborhood.
“Competition is going to be a win for the Roxbury community,” Cooke says. “We all bring something to the table. . . . I’m not afraid of competition. We all have to up our game.”
Cooke was preparing for a career in medicine when a detour during her time at Dartmouth College set her on a different path. During a semester break, she needed a temporary job — and she found one at Boston Five Cents Savings. She returned to the bank after graduating, and stayed there as it was gobbled up by Citizens.
Eventually, she made her way back to Grove Hall, the neighborhood where she grew up, for her first job as a branch manager, working for Bank of Boston. It, too, would change names — first under Fleet, then Bank of America.
She joined Eastern in 2009 for a decade-long stretch. She considers opening that Roxbury branch to be the capstone of her career there. Now, she’ll do it again — for a competitor.
Chase’s plan: to open 50 branches over five years in Greater Boston. Roughly one-third of them, Cooke said, will be in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods like Roxbury. (No word yet on when Chase will go to Mattapan, where Cooke lives.)
Thasunda Duckett, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase’s consumer banking business, says Cooke was hired for her passion, knowledge, and commitment to the city. She says her team is ready for the challenge of taking on one of the most competitive markets in the country.
“There’s fierce competition here,” Duckett says. “But that’s how we roll.” — JON CHESTO
Digital health startup grows some wings
Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ CEO, Jeff Leiden, has been working for years to cultivate a cluster of digital health startups in Boston.
Now, one of those fledgling ventures has grown some wings.
PathAI, a provider of artificial intelligence software for pathologists, just secured $60 million in equity funding. The Series B round was led by a new investor, General Atlantic, along with a previous backer, General Catalyst.
Leiden takes personal pride in PathAI’s success, with good reason: He chairs the board and has invested in the company.
PathAI’s software can scan images of cells to identify cancerous tissues, aiming for a more accurate and quicker approach than with the human eye.
“This is a fundamental disruption in how these medical imaging procedures are done,” Leiden says.
Leiden had been thinking about solving this problem in pathology when he was introduced to PathAI CEO Andy Beck, he says. In 2017, Leiden went to his friend David Fialkow at General Catalyst and convinced him to invest in a Series A round. This time around, Leiden says, investors came knocking.
For now, the 60-person company’s software is used in R&D efforts at major drug companies, such as Novartis and Bristol-Myers Squibb. But the goal is to get the software into clinics so it can also be used in direct treatment of patients.
Leiden says it was crucial that local venture capitalists took an interest in the business. That helped ensure PathAI stayed here, instead of moving to California in search of funding.
“It’s all about the people who you can learn the most from, and who you want to have a lifelong relationship with, “ Beck says. “The ability to work really closely with Jeff and the folks at General Catalyst, it was almost a no-brainer to stay.” — JON CHESTO
PR shop decides it needs a website
For many new ventures, creating a website is among the top things on the to-do list. But not for Baerlein & Partners. Founder Joe Baerlein waited roughly two years before putting one together.
The reason? Baerlein says the long wait was, in part, a reflection of the fact he was trying a different approach with his communications business and wanted to see how that played out.
“This was an experiment on whether you could run a very different service model,” he says.
What he means is this: He once worked as part of one of the biggest public relations shops in town, then known as Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications. Baerlein parted ways with partners Larry Rasky and Ann Carter in early 2017.
Baerlein & Partners would be something different — a team of experts who all work independently, as opposed to a squad of in-house employees. Think security consultant Ed Davis, Element Productions CEO Eran Lobel, or PR adviser Peter Brown — all on speed-dial. They don’t work directly for Baerlein. But together, they operate as a “virtual agency,” as Baerlein calls it, when pitching and servicing business that he or his partners originate.
Baerlein says he had been fielding an increasing number of inquiries from potential out-of-state clients and knew he needed the website to better market his firm’s range of services.
So far, the experiment has worked well for Baerlein, but only because of the longtime friendships he has with his team members. “I don’t think this could work if you said, ‘Let’s put a new band together,’ ” Baerlein says. — JON CHESTO
Forcepoint expects to grow fast in Fort Point
Beware, digital doppelgangers. Matt Moynahan and his team at Forcepoint are keeping an eye out for you.
The CEO of the Austin, Texas, cybersecurity business came to Fort Point last Tuesday to celebrate the opening of its 53,000-square-foot office on Thomson Place.
It will serve as the company’s “Global Center of Excellence for Behavioral Analytics.”
Workers there will use artificial intelligence to ferret out cybercriminals who are pretending to be real people.
The ribbon-cutting drew Governor Charlie Baker, US Senator Ed Markey, and Raytheon CEO Tom Kennedy.
Forcepoint is jointly owned by Raytheon and Vista Equity Partners, born out of Raytheon’s 2015 decision to acquire a majority stake in the cybersecurity firm Websense. As a result, Websense is now known as Forcepoint, and Kennedy chairs its board of directors.
About 20 people work in the new office for now but Moynahan expects the number to exceed 50 by year’s end and reach 300 within a few years. (Roughly 3,000 people work for the company, which reported $634 million in revenue last year.) Forcepoint was drawn by Boston’s computer science talent. Plus, it helps to be down the road from the chairman’s office in Waltham.
“One of the nicer parts of the story is we didn’t apply for public incentives,” Moynahan says. “We wanted to be here, and we wanted to move quickly.” — JON CHESTO