Bank’s first female president advocates industry diversity

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Maria Tedesco. Photo courtesy Union Bankshares

Maria Tedesco says her banking career grew out of her family’s business in Boston.

“When you run a family restaurant, you learn all about numbers and business as well as taking care of the customer,” the Boston native says. The family’s two restaurants taught her “life lessons — the rewards of hard work and persistence. It prepared me for banking, for serving customers and for leading teams.”

In September, Tedesco was named president of Richmond-based Union Bank & Trust, the first woman to hold that position in the financial institution’s 116-year history.

Union, which had total assets of more than $13 billion at the end of June, is the largest regional bank based in Virginia. In early October, the bank’s parent company, Union Bankshares Corp., announced plans to acquire Reston-based Access National Bank in a deal valued at $610 million.

John Asbury, president and CEO of Union Bankshares, says Tedesco is an industry thought leader who fits the bank’s culture. “Our backgrounds are complementary, and we are going to be quite the team,” he says.

Tedesco, 58, was chief operating officer for retail at Chicago-based BMO Harris Bank. During her career, she also served as senior executive vice president and managing director of the retail bank at Santander Bank in Boston, U.S. headquarters of a bank based in Spain. She spent 19  years at Rhode Island-based Citizens Financial Group, Inc. where she was group executive vice president and executive director of retail banking and business banking.

Tedesco was named one of the most powerful women in banking, a team award, by American Banker in 2012 and 2017. In 2015, the  banking publication also named her one of the most powerful women to watch.

When she became a banker in 1986 there were few female role models, Tedesco says.  “That was my biggest challenge. I am lucky I had the opportunity to have mentors that took an interest in me and believed in me. I am very grateful for the folks that helped instill confidence and a sense of purpose.”

While there are now more women in banking, it’s “still not good enough. We’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go,” she says, noting that diversity is a priority at Union. “It was important for me to have women around me that would support me and help me.” 

Tedesco believes in strong mentors and guiding principles. “I’m a mom with two adult daughters, and I say this to them, ‘I live my life by setting goals, going after them, speaking up, staying resilient and being good to others.’ ”

In her new role, Tedesco will oversee the bank’s 140 locations – 133 Union offices in Virginia and Maryland and seven Xenith Bank offices in North Carolina. Union acquired Richmond-based Xenith earlier this year.

Tedesco says she was attracted to Union because it checked all the boxes. “I felt like I had the opportunity to make a difference.”

Her goal is to continue the bank’s growth. “We are going to leverage what Union has built and deliver on promises to customers,” she says. “I am thrilled that the culture is very embedded in the fact that Union customers come first.”

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