When James C. Potter enrolled in classes at Northeastern University in 1983, he thought he would major in computer science. Like many irresolute college students, Potter was unsure of what his true career calling was and learned quickly that computer science might not be it. This “it” was not far away, though. While spending time at home during winter break, Potter and his family watched the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life. No, Potter was not inspired by the heartwarming journey of James Stewart’s George Bailey. Rather, it was the film’s antagonist who bore the same surname, evil banker Mr. Potter, that inspired Potter into his extensive career in the financial world.
“At that point, I had an inkling that I was going to go into some type of finance and it clicked in my head as I watched that movie,” Potter reflects. “I was going into banking and going to be the nice Mr. Potter.” Now with decades of banking experience and his new role as vice president of retail banking at Merrimack Valley Credit Union (MVCU), Potter has more than achieved this goal.
Potter’s career began in the late 1980s as a teller at Shawmut Bank, which became Fleet Bank and later Sovereign Bank (now Santander) after several mergers and acquisitions. “I basically grew up in the retail branch network,” says Potter, who has held the positions of customer service representative, assistant branch manager, branch manager and cluster branch manager where he oversaw three of the bank’s branches. During this time, Potter earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Finance at Northeastern in 1988 and an MBA in Management from Babson College in 2000.
In 2002, Potter made his transition to credit unions when he became the vice president of operations at Hanscom Federal Credit Union where he managed the credit union’s branch network, back-office operations, call center and marketing department.
While that position was an enormous responsibility already, Potter’s passion for learning motivated him to assist in as many departments as he could and his responsibilities grew along with his knowledge. Potter was later promoted to senior vice president and chief operating officer, and even developed a new project management office at the credit union. Potter also temporarily oversaw Hanscom’s lending and human resources departments. Ironically, the one department that Potter did not work in was the one closest to his original college major of computer science: information technology. While working at Hanscom, Potter loved that his duties involved supporting both credit union members and his fellow team members and admired the credit union philosophy of people helping people.
“Credit unions have the right model where the member comes first,” Potter says. “The member is an individual, not an account number. So, there’s really a connection with the member and a relationship. I think credit unions truly look out for the member and the communities that we’re in.”
Potter’s passion for community shines both inside and outside of the workplace as an active member of the Milton, Mass., town government. In Milton, where Potter has lived with his family for more than three decades, he is an elected town meeting member and currently serving his second term as chairman of the Milton Public Library Board of Trustees. Potter has also volunteered his time at Milton High School to help promote financial education, offering talks on how to write a resume, how to choose a career in business and holding mock interviews with students.
When he is not working or serving his community, Potter can be found enjoying time with his wife and three adult children. He enjoys board games, reading (Potter is an avid fan of Lord of the Rings with a trip to New Zealand in the works) and traveling. Most recently, Potter and his wife embarked on a 17-day, cross country train trip from New York City to San Francisco.
In the winter of 2023, Potter found himself ready for a career change and joined MVCU. He now oversees the credit union’s retail branch and member support teams. Potter was drawn to MVCU’s recent growth and uplifting internal culture.
“What I really liked about MVCU is that it is growing,” Potter says. “I also loved the vision of being the best place anyone has ever worked or banked, and the credit union’s focus on financial education for both members and employees.”
As the new leader of MVCU’s retail team with decades of experience under his belt, Potter is looking forward to a bright future with MVCU.
“What excites me is leading a team of highly skilled and knowledgeable team members who are truly passionate about the financial wellbeing of others,” Potter says. “I’m really looking forward to expanding on these values, getting out into our communities and seeing our membership grow. The more people we help, the better.”
With that mindset motivating his work, Jim Potter has certainly achieved his aspiration to become the nice Mr. Potter.