Jeffrey Mercado remembers waiting tables and lifeguarding to help pay for his tuition at the University of Maryland, where he studied economics. But it was a different type of job—an internship in investment management—that truly set him on the path to where he is today.
“I interned at Salomon Smith Barney, and that’s when I got introduced to the world of finance,” Mercado explains. “I realized that I really liked working with clients and coming up with a plan to help them reach their goals.”
Mercado continues to thrive on working with clients in his current role leading the law firm banking group at Connecticut-based Webster Bank. He brings a wealth of knowledge from both his longstanding tenure at Wells Fargo and the educational experiences he has sought out throughout his career.
He got his start as a financial specialist in the branches of First Union, which merged with Wachovia prior to the latter’s acquisition by Wells. As he advanced within the organization, he moved to Los Angeles to head up Wachovia’s sales expansion in Southern California, before returning to the East Coast in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. He ultimately moved into the law firm group at Wells—a precursor to the work he now does at Webster.
In the midst of growing his career at Wells, Mercado became a Certified Financial Planner and earned his executive MBA from Columbia Business School. “My parents moved to the United States [mother from Ecuador and father from Puerto Rico] at a very young age,” he notes. “My mother worked at a sewing factory for many years before transitioning to customer service, and my father was a welder for thirty-five years.”
His parents instilled the importance of education in Mercado, as well. “When I went to Columbia, we did an exercise where we had to figure out our values,” he adds. “One of mine was education.”
Indeed, Mercado credits going back to school with shifting his mindset at work, away from merely executing the business strategy and toward thinking about the strategy itself. When he connected with Sterling National Bank, now part of Webster, he recognized it as an organization where he could put that new perspective into action.
“They had an existing law firm banking team. I was brought in to help grow that team, build out the strategy and the products on the deposit and credit side, and to customize the credit underwriting specifics for law firms,” he elaborates.
Mercado quickly identified a way to bolster the bank’s law firm business by targeting a demographic outside the corporate firms on which Wells Fargo and its competitors tended to focus their energy. “I saw an opportunity for us to offer a similar white-glove service and similar products on the credit side, but we could offer it to midsize to large law firms,” he says.
Dedicated exclusively to law firm clients, Mercado’s team at Webster has a unique understanding of what its clients need and want. “One of our biggest differentiators—we’re one of only a handful of banks in the country to do this—is that we give law firms the ability to print out official bank checks right from their office,” he says. “And they love it. The bank has spent money investing in technology to make their life easier.”
Mercado also has an understanding of how best to support his team members as individuals. “I used to think that to be a top performer, you had to do things a certain way,” he admits. “I’ve since learned that everyone can be successful in their own way. If I have someone who loves networking, I can leverage that person to attend a bar association conference or an event.”
He strives to lead by example, which means he often sits in on client calls or attends in-person events to keep a finger on the pulse. He stays involved in the community—and builds relationships with local bar associations—by volunteering, including through partnerships with the Nassau County Bar Association and the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.
“When you sign up to be a corporate partner of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, part of the sponsorship dollars are automatically allocated toward their scholarship fund to support law students in need,” he notes. “The ability to provide students with financial support through scholarships programs like the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey has built should be a model other bar associations should seek to replicate.”
By strengthening ties externally and innovating on internal products and services, Mercado is committed to keeping Webster at the top of its game. “We can compete with any bank out there. I’m confident that our team can talk to any CEO, CFO, or managing partner and find something that we can do for them,” he says. “There are so many different ways we can help law firms of all sizes.”