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Updated: October 18, 2020 C-Suite Awards 2020

Marchessault grows American Eagle Financial Credit Union’s statewide presence

The increasingly popular business catchphrase “doing well by doing good” has a real-life exemplar in the career of Dean Marchessault, president and CEO of American Eagle Financial Credit Union.

In his five years at the helm, Marchessault has grown American Eagle’s assets to $2.1 billion from $1.3 billion — an increase of $800 million — by expanding the credit union’s footprint across Connecticut and into Massachusetts. He has also deepened the institution’s ties to the region by buying and renovating a new headquarters along the Connecticut River in East Hartford.

“Our mission is very much about our membership and our community,” Marchessault said. “We have grown the most out of any other credit union in this market, … it comes from a good place, it comes from the engagement our members have with us.”

After a stint working at commercial banks, Marchessault started at American Eagle in 2000, seeking to help modernize and expand an institution that began its existence as the East Hartford Aircraft Federal Credit Union in 1935. He had been promoted to executive vice president by 2014 and was instrumental in changing American Eagle’s charter from federal to state and getting approval to extend services into New Haven County and beyond.

Now American Eagle is Connecticut’s largest community-based credit union with 300 employees and 155,000 members in Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven and Tolland counties, in addition to Hampden County in Massachusetts.

“We have enough scale and enough brand within the marketplace even against the backdrop of Connecticut’s weak economy to continue to be successful,” Marchessault said.

Those decisions have been coming thick and fast since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the temporary closure of the credit union’s 15 branches across the region. Branches have reopened but as of late September, only 30 people were working at the 100,000-square-foot American Eagle headquarters in East Hartford due to pandemic restrictions.

Despite the ongoing economic damage, Marchessault is confident that the credit union will come through the crisis with a healthy balance sheet.

“We’ve spent millions and millions of dollars this year trying to help our members get through COVID,” Marchessault said. “The hope is that they’ll pay us back and be more connected with us in the future because of it.”

The pandemic has also sped up transformation in the banking industry that was already well under way, trending toward smaller and more technologically advanced branches and fewer in-person transactions.

“Branches are still a very important part of retail financial services,” Marchessault said. “There will be less reliance on transaction volumes, more reliance on engagement with people to solve financial problems.”

Meanwhile, Marchessault hopes to continue to pilot the credit union through the pandemic without severe impacts to staff and customers.

“We have the resources and the capital to get through it,” he said.

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