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Globe 100 Innovators | Banking, Finance, and Insurance

Green power

Douglas A. Bowen of PeoplesBank is top innovator in banking

Douglas A. Bowen Douglas A. Bowen (Illustration by Joel Kimmel for The Boston Globe)
May 22, 2011

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1. Douglas A. Bowen, chief executive, PeoplesBank There are times when the people who drive change in an organization are those with the deepest roots.

Douglas A. Bowen, 57, joined PeoplesBank in Holyoke as a teller during the Ford administration. He steadily rose through the ranks, launched the bank’s commercial loan department in the 1980s, and became chief executive in 2007.

“I was fortunate because I was able to have several careers with the organization,’’ Bowen said.

In a conservative industry, Bowen has a reputation for bold moves; for example, the bank’s unusual commitment to green initiatives.

Despite its small size, PeoplesBank has provided more than $40 million in financing for renewable energy projects, including wind turbines in Princeton and Templeton, a solar farm in West Boylston, and a hydroelectric project in Holyoke. It has another $15 million in the pipeline. And the 126-year-old institution opened its first LEED-certified office in Springfield last year, and plans another in West Springfield next month.

“We do it because it is the right thing to do,’’ Bowen said.

And the bank has remained solidly in the black. It earned $8.6 million last year and is on pace to eclipse that figure this year. PeoplesBank has 242 employees, $1.6 billion in assets, and 15 branches in the Pioneer Valley.

– Todd Wallack

2. Robert L. Reynolds, chief executive, Putnam Investments Robert L. Reynolds, 59, built his reputation at Fidelity Investments in Boston, where he helped increase its 401(k) business dramatically and served as chief operating officer for seven years. But for the past three years, Reynolds has been busy turning around cross-town rival Putnam Investments.

The native of West Virginia recruited a raft of talented investment professionals and helped reenergize the firm's investment performance. He also persuaded investors to pump new money into the firm by launching more than 20 products, including "absolute return" funds that try to hit a fixed target — such as 3 percent above treasuries — in good times and bad. They've attracted more than $3 billion in investments, and have been copied by other firms.

But "the most important changes were bringing in people where we needed to bring in people, and leaving areas alone that were doing well," Reynolds said.

At the same time, Reynolds has become one of the financial industry's most outspoken executives on retirement issues. For instance, he's proposed creating a federal agency to safeguard products that promise a steady stream of income when workers retire, similar to the way the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. backs deposits.

Reynolds believes more people should speak out about subjects related to their work. "Now is the time," he said, "that people should be let their voices be heard."

– Todd Wallack

3. Andrew Lo, professor, MIT Sloan School of Management Quantitative analysts are known for scientifically dissecting vast troves of financial numbers to anticipate where markets are headed next. Andrew Lo has spent a career focused on how human beings making decisions about money influence those calculations.

Lo, 51, has put those ideas to work in the classroom and trading floor. A highly regarded academic, he is the director of MIT's Laboratory for Financial Engineering. Lo also founded a Cambridge hedge fund, Alpha-Simplex Group, that invests hundreds of millions of dollars based on his statistical measures about very human reactions to things like financial risk.

His approach to markets takes into account a range of human factors from basic psychology to evolutionary biology to the physiology of traders as they buy and sell securities.

Lo says that, as a youngster, he was drawn to the fictional science of psychohistory, predicting future behavior of large groups of people, described in the novels of Isaac Asimov.

"The field that seemed to be exactly like this broad focus on human behavior was financial economics," he said. "I got interested in that, and the theme that has characterized my research is understanding the dynamics of financial markets using scientific analysis."

– Steven Syre

Best in business - 2011
2011 Boston Globe 100 - Ranking of Massachusetts businesses
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