Mary Zelazny has seen lots of changes in 37 years with Medina bank
KeyBank branch manager retiring today
MEDINA – Mary Zelazny was 18 and working at Jubilee when she was approached to work at Marine Midland Bank in Medina as a teller. That was 37 years ago. Zelazny also typed loan documents early in her banking career.
She worked her way up through the ranks and became branch manager about a decade ago. Marine Midland would become HSBC Bank and about two years ago KeyBank bought the HSBC sites in Medina at 514 Main St. and also a drive-through on Maple Ridge Road.
Today is Zelazny’s last day at the bank. She is retiring. She will still be a Main Street presence. She will join her husband, Michael Zelazny, across the street at his accounting business. The Zelaznys have two grown children: Jacob works with Michael at the Walter Zelazny and Sons farm and Nicole is the marketing manager for Smokin Joes in Niagara Falls.
The following interview was conducted on Thursday at Zelazny’s office at the bank.
Q: You started as teller and typed loan documents, and then what happened in your banking career?
A: I worked my way up. I didn’t like staying in one spot. I liked learning. I wanted to help the customers. If we were slow at one time and we were idle I would ask if there was something I could do and that’s how I learned.
Q: You’ve been in this building the whole time?
A: I have been here the whole time which is kind of unusual for banking. I raised here. I’ve been here my whole life and I’ve been here my whole career.
Q: Were you thinking 37-year career in banking when you started?
A: Absolutely not. I had just turned 18, just graduated and I was working at Jubilee. Ken Sylvester came in and asked if I would be interested in putting my name in. I thought, “Maybe.” I didn’t really pursue it but he came in and asked me again. I thought I’d try it. I put my name in and got hired and I’ve been here ever since.
Ken used to go to the little grocery stores and that’s where he hired a lot of his people because they had cashier’s experience and customer service.
Q: What have you liked about this for 37 years?
A: My customers. I have to say I’ve made some great friends, great relationships along the way. I’ve been on all kinds of journeys of their lives, from going to school, graduating, going to college, getting engaged, getting married, buying a house, having children, going through everything in their lives. That’s been very exciting for me and now the next generation has come up.
It’s just knowing your customers, and not just waiting on them. It’s getting to know your people, building that relationship is what it is about. That’s where you get the trust from the people.
At this bank we’ve always been very family oriented. I don’t just treat them as a customer. I treat them as a family member because that is how I would want to be treated.
Q: It seems like there has been a lot of new technology in banking.
A: When I first started we had what you call scratch pads. You didn’t have adding machines and all that. It was a little scratch pad and you would write the customer’s name on and if they had a check and they were going to make a payment, you would write that down. You would actually do the adding and subtracting right in front of them.
The difference between then and now, you put the information in a computer and it tells you if you owe them money or if they owe you money. It tells you everything now. It was more manual back then.
Some of the other things that are different are your mobile banking today. You can take a picture of the check you are going to deposit, the front and back of it, and it’s automatically into your checking account.
Q: Do you mean take a picture with your phone?
A: With your iPhone. You have to sign up for the mobile banking. You just take a picture. Say you’re out of town and you can’t get to the bank. You just take a picture of it and it credits to your account immediately. That has become quite popular. It’s more for the younger customers.
ATMs, who would have thought years ago that you would drive up to a building and put a card in? You’re going to a wall and money comes out. Who would have thought that? ATMs are huge now.
Your on-line banking, internet banking, bill pay, transferring between accounts. When I first started here that had what they called a microfiche and it was like a screen. Everyday you would put in a fiche, and it would come up on a screen and give you the customer’s account number and the activity they did for the day.
Now you just put their name or account number in and it all comes up on a computer.
Q: With all the new technology, it seems like there would be fewer customers who actually come inside a bank these days.
A: There is a lot less traffic now, any bank will tell you that because they are using on-line banking and the ATMs, especially your younger generation.
Q: What do you see the roles being for the branches in the future, and the employees here?
A: They’re going to be here for a while. I’m sure as time marches on there will be changes. I still think you need that personal touch. If you got a problem, you have someone you can come in and see or call.
Banking is a lot different now. When a customer comes in, we look at the entire relationship. It’s not just a checking account. We look at the whole package. We talk to you about insurance, we talk to you about mortgages, refinancing. We’re trying to help you out and save you money.
It used to be you can in for a checking account and that’s all you got. Now we talk to you about your whole entire package: retirement, investing, everything.
Q: What are you doing for your husband’s accounting business after you retire from here?
A: I’m going to be smiling, filing and answering phones.
Q: It’s great that you’ve been able to stay and work here your entire career in the same building given all the changes in the banking industry.
A: I’m very happy I was able to do that.
Q: Do you sense a resurgence in Medina?
A: I think you can see in Medina, at least on Main Street with some of the new shops, you can feel that people are excited again. You have younger people coming in. I like the old in Medina with all of the history and believe it or not I think the younger people do, too. There are not many empty offices or buildings. There is some excitement. I think you will see more.
Q: Wasn’t there something about the sign on the bank, a discovery of some sorts when KeyBank bought the building?
A: When they took off the HSBC logos, one of the engineers got excited to see the original Central Trust sign behind. We wanted to keep it. Key is very much into the community and the history, so we kept it and the people have been very happy about it.
Q: Any other comments?
A: I just want to say thank you, thank you to my staff and my customers.