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Bank’s top diversity executive launches an expansive to-do list

<b>Berkshire Bank’s Malia Lazu (</b>CHRIS MORRIS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)

Berkshire Bank has been one of New England’s most acquisitive banks in recent years. But to Malia Lazu, the internal culture might not have kept up with the pace of the deal-making.

That’s one reason why Lazu joined Berkshire’s leadership team. Lazu had been working as a diversity and inclusion consultant when Berkshire contracted with her last year. That consulting gig evolved into a full-time job for Lazu in late May, when she joined the bank as an executive vice president and chief experience and culture officer.

As the Boston bank’s first executive focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion, one of her chief responsibilities is launching the Be First Initiative. The new social impact program will include a “Friends & Family Fund” providing seed capital for minority entrepreneurs.


“We thought it was really important that we put some stakes in the ground publicly about how we want to shape banking for the 21st century,” Lazu says.

On her to-do list: opening “storefronts” in urban neighborhoods that will offer space for coworking and community events. The first will open in Dudley Square this fall. Lazu expects others to open in Worcester, Springfield, and other cities within Berkshire’s Northeast footprint.

It’s still too early to know how much the bank’s trajectory might change under Richard Marotta, its new chief executive. Marotta, then the president, took over after Michael Daly abruptly resigned in late November. Lazu says Marotta was already passionate about improving the bank’s diversity efforts prior to Daly’s departure. Berkshire recently added two African-American businessmen to its board, William Hughes III and Baye Adofo-Wilson.

“We wanted to make sure that folks could see we meant business,” Lazu says. “We’re making sure we’re not only making diverse hiring, but we’re being intentional about how we develop our pipeline. A lot of times, if you stay in the networks you know, it becomes hard to find people.” — JON CHESTO


Vineyard Wind backers facing choppy waters

The race is on to save Vineyard Wind. But has that race already been lost?

The South Coast’s two representatives in Congress, Bill Keating and Joe Kennedy III, had been scrambling to save the Vineyard Wind project, a wind farm to be built south of Martha’s Vineyard. So it wasn’t surprising that Keating and Kennedy were among the first public officials to slam the news that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would further delay a crucial permit for Vineyard Wind. Ostensibly, the federal agency wants more time to study the cumulative impacts of other proposed wind farms off the Northeast coastline.

The latest delay makes it tougher for Vineyard Wind, a Boston developer controlled by two European companies, to take advantage of an expiring federal tax credit it needs to hit its aggressive price goals.

Kennedy accused the Trump administration of “trying to delay it to death,” while Keating said the postponement showcases the administration’s “hostility toward those seeking to combat climate change, as well as its overall rejection of basic environmental values.”

Senator Ed Markey, another Vineyard Wind proponent, said delaying the nation’s first major offshore wind project in the final stage of permitting “sends a clear and chilling message across this nascent industry.”

But some Democrats are also raising concerns about offshore wind. While not mentioning Vineyard Wind by name, Rhode Island’s all-Democratic delegation wrote to the federal agency in July asking for a more deliberative approach in approving offshore wind projects, primarily out of concern for the interests of commercial fishermen.


Vineyard Wind, for its part, hasn’t given up. On Monday, the company issued a statement saying its shareholders remained committed to building the wind farm, even though it will be done under a delayed schedule. — JON CHESTO

Wealth manager looks south after expansion

Not surprisingly, Paul Lonergan, went to California to find top recruits for his company’s first office in the Golden State.

The president of Congress Wealth Management ended up poaching three people who work there for Boston Private Wealth — his crosstown rival in Boston.

Lonergan just hired Gerald Graves, Chris Dudley, and Sarah Pearce away from Boston Private Wealth. They started with Congress Wealth last month, although the firm is still looking for space in Orange County.

Congress Wealth has already opened offices in Westport, Conn., and S cottsdale, Ariz., and Lonergan says his nearly 30-person wealth management firm will probably look to Texas and Florida next.

Graves will lead the West Coast team. The group will have a particular focus on individuals who have made their money in entertainment and sports. It probably helps to have someone on board like Dudley, a retired pro basketball player who once ran for governor in Oregon.

“He’s got an insight into the unique challenges of being an athlete or an entertainer,” Lonergan says of Dudley.

The goal is to use this Orange County office as a springboard for serving and landing clients in the West Coast. “There’s just a tremendous opportunity to grow there,” Lonergan says. — JON CHESTO


Ads for Boston Beer’s Truly set to hit the air

Feeding your plants. Washing your car. Igniting your grill.

Comedian Keegan-Michael Key has plenty of uses for all the whiskey and light beer that he doesn’t want to drink anymore — now that Truly Hard Seltzer has come along.

Key and his wife and writing partner, Elisa Key, have written five TV spots that launch this week to promote Boston Beer Co.’s spiked seltzer. Their catchphrase: “Find a new use for your old drink.”

Boston Beer developed the spots with New York ad agency Johannes Leonardo. The ads represent the first major campaign launched under Boston Beer’s new chief marketing officer, Lesya Lysyj. The spots will appear across cable TV networks and on social media and other online channels. They coincide with a nationwide rollout of Truly on draft.

Boston Beer is trying to capitalize on the rapid growth in demand for hard seltzer, driven in part by its low calorie count.

In a conference call last month with analysts, chief executive Dave Burwick and chairman Jim Koch talked about how the company is gaining ground on White Claw, the industry leader owned by Mark Anthony Group. Burwick said then that he didn’t expect an explosion of regional hard seltzer brands, like what has happened with craft beer.

“I think this is a game between PepsiCo and Dr Pepper,” Burwick said, in an apparent reference to White Claw and Truly. “There’s going to be three big players at most in this category.” — JON CHESTO


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