Dianne Mercier, 2012 Outstanding Woman in Business

New Hampshire president, People's United Bank

After graduating from college, Dianne Mercier didn't know what career path she wanted to pursue. So upon a friend's recommendation, she landed a position as a bank teller while she awaited her calling.

Twenty-eight years later, Mercier is New Hampshire president of People's United Bank, the largest independently owned bank in New England. As Susan Manchester, one of her nominators wrote, "She got where she is the old-fashioned way," starting as a teller and working her way to the top "through determination, skill and devotion."

Mercier assumed the role of president in 2009, a transformative time for the bank as it underwent its name change from Ocean Bank and the recession took its toll. Mercier has worked tirelessly to elevate People's corporate brand throughout the Granite State. As president, she has launched a new small commercial lending program, solved an employee turnover problem, and established an annual giving day to support nonprofits across the state.

More than 10 of some of the state's most prominent businesspeople wrote letters in support of Mercier's nomination, pointing not just to her professional success but her unwavering commitment to community service.

As Melanie Gosselin, executive director of the New Hampshire Food Bank, wrote, "Her leadership and dedication to serving those in her community is evident no matter where Dianne applies herself."

The wife and mother of two serves on the boards of New Hampshire Public Radio, Rivier College and the Elliot Hospital — among many, many others — and has helped with the capital campaigns for organizations like the Food Bank and the Boys and Girls Club of Manchester.

Q. How did you end up where you are today in your career?
A. Banking is a remarkable industry. It is one of those places where you can absolutely get an entry-level position and work your way through a company over time. I am what I am 28 years later, but it's been a succession of new opportunities in new divisions and different people willing to teach you.

Q. What have been some of the biggest challenges to getting where you are today?
A. My challenge in my life has been getting the answer right to the balance thing. Having priorities for me is knowing what's important, and being able to recognize being busy versus being effective, and understanding what's urgent versus important. When you don't understand those things, you can get lost in minutiae, especially other people's minutiae.

Q. Did you have a professional mentor, formal or informal?
A. I never really was attracted to the formal mentor relationship. I really prefer the natural kind of relationship that doesn't have a lot of hierarchy to it. I appreciate peers exchanging ideas — those have really been the most important to me, the relationships you have on a day-to-day basis.

Q. How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
A. It's very simple, but it's very hard. Simple is not the same thing as easy. The best way is to try and not overly complicate the thing.
I can really only juggling three big things at a time, and today, for me, those things are my family, my work and my community service, so a lot of stuff that doesn't fall necessarily in there, that gets pushed aside in the nice-to-do but not must-do category. You learn to say no to the things that crowd out those priorities.

Q. What advice would you give to young women just starting their careers?
A. There are very few really big decisions in your life. The really important stuff is the result of all those little decisions you make — Should I go to that event? Should I participate in this fundraiser? — those little things add up to so much more than big, important decisions ever will.
And get involved. When I started becoming involved in organizations, this is how I met people that I've stayed in touch with my whole career. Outside of doing good deeds, you actually just get woven together like this tapestry that pulls the community together.

Categories: Outstanding Women in Business