Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

March 6, 2020

People’s Tengel: Let’s get small (biz)

PHOTO | Autumn Driscoll Quinnipiac University Tengel at Quinnipiac Wednesday: Think outside the box.

Small business is the engine not just of innovation, but also of economic growth for Connecticut.

So said Jeff Tengel, president of People’s United Bank, who spoke at the Quinnipiac University School of Business Wednesday as part of the People’s United Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s speaker series.

Even though gross domestic product growth in Connecticut is negative, Tengel stressed that a robust economic ecosystem is possible. And that growth is most likely to flow from collaboration.

“Connecticut is fifth in the nation in terms of advanced degrees, with about 40 percent of residents holding advanced degrees,” said Tengel. “On top of that, Connecticut ranks as the fourth most innovative state in the United States. The challenge is how to build on that.”

Tengel also said that 97 percent of companies in Connecticut employ fewer than 500 people and that fully 50 percent of all Connecticut employees work for small businesses.

“Small businesses are where much of our innovation starts,” said Tengel. “And that’s where banks come in. We can be a catalyst to help an idea take root.”

Tengel is in his tenth year at People’s United, which he joined as senior executive vice president for commercial banking at the beginning of 2011. Before that he was executive vice president for National City Corp., the Cleveland-based regional bank holding company.

At Quinnipiac, Tengel told his audience that innovation doesn’t always have to incubate in a room or a garage, Steve Jobs-like. Game-changing innovations have been born in unlikely corporate settings through product redesigns, efficiencies and improving the consumer experience.

He used his own company as an example: People’s United Bank recently re-engineered its loan application submission process so applicants can learn the status of their loan application in just a couple of days. Not a revolution, exactly, but the kind of commercial innovation upon which long-term success is built.

Tengel shared the two pieces of advice that he said he emphasizes to his children.

“First, always have an opinion,” Tengel said. “Don’t assume people don’t want to hear what you have to say.

“And, second, don’t be afraid to network across the organization,” he added. “Generally speaking, everyone likes to mentor young people and colleagues to facilitate their careers and think through ideas.”

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF