A college business class launched Michelle Plummer on her career path. “In class one day at Marist, they talked about the role of the Federal Reserve, and the topic intrigued me,” she recalls. “Then an economist from the Fed came to speak. I heard his lecture, and spoke to him afterward. He urged me to apply for a job there. I did, and got a job right out of Marist. I was there for about seven years.”
Plummer, who grew up near Glens Falls and went to Pace University for graduate work, found the big-time world of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York exhilarating. “The Fed does all kinds of things; I worked as a bank examiner in three departments — statistics, accounting, and bank examination. It gave me a great overview.”
America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve dates back to 1913. Its duties include conducting U.S. financial policy, regulating banks and other financial institutions, maintaining stability in the financial system, and overseeing U.S. payment systems. “The part that really intrigued me,” says Plummer, “was their role in monetary policies.
“I worked on one project for implementing daylight overdraft pricing,” she explains. “At the time, many banks had huge intercompany balances and balances outstanding with the Fed. The question was, if one of these banks went down in the middle of the day, how would that get resolved? Back then, everybody just sort of settled up at the end of the day. But what if something happened, and they couldn’t settle up? Those are big financial issues.”
At that time, before the nation’s financial crisis, “it was all sort of obscure, like, ‘That can never happen,’ ” Plummer says. “But years later, people thought, ‘Well, maybe it could have happened.’ With the Lehman Brothers situation [the largest bankruptcy filing in American history] in 2008, in the middle of the day, the Fed could’ve been the one on the hook with the large intercompany balance. Now, the timing of payments is better, the exchange of cash flow is more accurate.”
From the Federal Reserve, Plummer, now 48, moved to the Albany branch of accounting giant KPMG and got her CPA license. (“I passed all four parts of the CPA exam on the first try, which is rare — that’s a bragging point for me,” she laughs.)
In 1999, she joined the Bank of Greene County, and serves as its chief financial officer and chief operating officer. The 12-branch bank employs about 130 people.
“When I first got into community banking, it was a totally different world from the Fed,” says Plummer, who lives in Guilderland with her husband and three children. “This work involves commercial lending and taking care of your community. It was a natural move. My background is in a small community, and I was always drawn to helping your neighbors, which our bank does, so I’m very much at home here.”
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One challenge Plummer sees lurking ever larger is information security. “Technology can be a great tool,” she says. “But the world has gotten behind on the security side of storing and exchanging data.”
She believes opportunities continue to expand for women in banking and throughout the business world. “Part of it has to do with women ourselves; we’re more educated, and there’s more of us around now to be the band leaders for other women,” she says. “Years ago, I would attend business functions and was one of very few females. Now, you see many more females in leaderships roles and senior management positions.”
Her business advice for females: “Be self-motivated, surround yourself with good role models, and stick up for yourself. If you’re not confident, no matter what the field — and it’s not just a female thing — you’ll get overlooked.
“Portray yourself in a professional manner, regardless of what happens,” she adds. “And always believe in yourself.”