Twenty-five years after she graduated from the University of New Haven, Susan Shields ’87 MBA still keeps two of her old textbooks in her office at The Milford Bank – weighty tomes on finance and statistics.
“I still refer to them,” says Shields, who was named the bank’s chief operating officer in August.
Shields became interested in banking as an undergraduate at Southern Connecticut State University, where she graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and accounting.
“I liked numbers, and my first internship was at New Haven Savings Bank (now First Niagara),” recalls Shields, a Danbury native who currently lives in Hamden.
That early experience started her thinking about a banking career, and studying finance at UNH clinched the decision.
“I thought about going to law school but chose banking,” she says. “UNH was terrific. It fanned the fire.”
Shields landed a full-time job as a general-ledger supervisor at National Savings Bank in New Haven after completing her undergraduate degree, then enrolled in night classes at UNH after taking just one term off.
“I didn’t want to take too much time off,” she says. “There’s a certain flow that you develop when you’re in school. To advance you need credentials, and UNH gave me the credentials that allowed me to move up the ladder.”
In fact, Shields continued her education after earning her MBA, graduating from the National School of Banking at Fairfield University in 1990.
Shields joined The Milford Bank as controller in 1985 and became chief financial officer in 2000. Her new position adds responsibilities in compliance, commercial lending and other areas of bank administration.
“We’re growing,” Shields says of the mutual savings bank, which has 100 employees at seven branches. “We opened our first supermarket branch, at the Shop-Rite in Stratford, just about a year ago.”
The bank dates back to 1872, and Shields says she enjoys the challenge to stay relevant in a world of mobile banking and e-statements. “Community banks really do help people,” Shields says. “We decided to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy, such as waiving late charges and overdraft fees on a case-by-case basis.”
In her spare time, Shields has volunteered at the schools attended by her son and daughter and is active in the Devon Rotary Club and the Connecticut Amateur Athletic League.
Shields’ ties to the University of New Haven go far beyond the textbooks that remain on her office bookshelf: The bank’s board of directors includes UNH Board of Governors member Samuel S. Bergami Jr. and former UNH professor David Rubin.
“The people here are really dedicated,” Shields says, “and I feel that I make a difference. You’ve got to like why you get up in the morning.”