LOCAL BUSINESS MATTERS: Women Lead the way at Seneca Federal
BY CARMEN E. ZAFAR
Nowadays, banking has become a team effort, and for two Central New York women it has helped them learn their strengths and realize a shared motivation. As well, moving into an executive position at work can cause some anxiety, but when you’ve got the right team in place, the move can be one of great ease. Seneca Federal’s Katrina “Trina” M. Russo, president-Chief Executive Officer, has been in the accounting field for more than 25 years, and her right-hand woman, Executive Vice President-Chief Financial Officer Wendy K. Bodnar, are at the lead of the pack working to keep community banking going strong. Wendy, who has been in banking for 13 years, all of which have been with Seneca Federal, says her work relationship with Trina has been positive.
The duo never met each other until their promotions went into effect, but they realized they had similar goals and perception of the banking business. Instant chemistry made their entrance to executive management roles much easier. “Trina and I have a wonderful synergy that became apparent on day one,” Wendy said. “We communicate effectively with each other; have similar management styles and most importantly, we have the same vision for the business.”
Coincidentally, Trina agrees with Wendy’s perspective. “We share similar goals for the association as well as visions for navigating the economic conditions we have all found ourselves in the last couple of years,” Trina said. “We are all willing to lead and be led considering our areas of expertise. We find strength in each other through a cohesive team effort.”
While the duo has found a way to stay ahead of what could be categorized as a “dreary market,” each branch of Seneca Federal has taken an intense community focus since the economic decline. “All three of our locations have really pulled together to help us navigate these turbulent times in the financial industry,” says Trina.
And more than ever, Wendy says their group must “continue to navigate the changes in the financial industry and further the success of the business. And while it may sound unorthodox for a banker to tell you to get your exercise, it’s quite the opposite at Seneca Federal. In fact, she says she promotes healthy living to their customers and employees. Having taught fitness classes for more than 18 years, Wendy was so inclined to bring her two passions together. “I even introduced Zumba fitness dance to our employees last year!” Wendy said. “I held classes every other week in the basement of our Liverpool office. I continue to teach fitness classes and try to promote healthy living.”
It’s this sense of caring that Wendy and Trina maintain when it comes to the people they work with and the community members who bank with them. “We just believe in the community bank model and really want to continue being an integral part of each of the communities that we operate and live in,” Wendy said. Likewise, Trina sees this as a shared mission, one that’s been long-standing. “I believe our predecessors as well as the current management team and Board of Directors have had the goal of serving and supporting our primary communities of Baldwinsville, North Syracuse and Liverpool,” Wendy said.
According to Trina, the winds have shifted and the tough times are nearly behind them, and better days are ahead. “When we make a mortgage it is with the thought that it will be on our books for 30 years…not sold in a week for a one-time profit.” Trina says the team’s belief in helping people make long-term investments or signing for that dream house is what every day is about — it’s about community. “Wendy and I wholly believe in the community bank model and believe it provides basic banking for the communities we are located in.”