Boston Business Jounal Outside the Box: Sushil Tuli of Leader Bank

Title: President, Leader Bank, N.A.

Age: 64

Education: Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, Punjab University, India, 1973; master’s degree in public administration, Punjab University, 1976; OPM certification, Harvard Business School, 2010

Residence: Belmont

Earlier this year, Arlington-based Leader Bank ranked among the healthiest in the country, with a so-called “Texas ratio” of .00169 — an indicator of few problem loans and minimal risk of failure, according to the financial information firm Sageworks.

That could only have been imagined when Sushil Tuli launched the local lender in 2002, a time when numerous community banks were being swallowed up by larger institutions. Already running a successful mortgage company, Tuli attributes the bank’s growth to skills he learned while enrolled at Harvard Business School’s executive education program, from which he tapped a few professors to join the bank’s board. He also had the expertise of his wife (who, at 54, succumbed to cancer two years ago) to run the mortgage company — “better than me,” he notes. Following him in the business is Jay Tuli, the oldest of three grown sons.

With $846 million in assets at the close of 2014, Tuli describes Leader, which is based in Cambridge, as a small family business akin to the neighborhood convenience store or pharmacy, albeit one with some prime locations. In June, the bank put down new stakes with a branch in Boston’s Innovation District. There, Tuli sat down with Business Journal correspondent Robin Washington.

A lot of the people who work in the Innovation District can do their work anywhere in the world. Is there an advantage to being geographically located here? There definitely is. Five, six years ago, it used to be a parking lot. You would come here and park your car and walk downtown. It has evolved. Thriving businesses are here. It’s becoming a neighborhood. There are apartment buildings, there are condominiums.

There are trees. There are trees, and some of the best restaurants in the city. So we felt that there was a need for a bank and we wanted to open a branch in Boston and we figured that this is the right place. And the proof is in five or six weeks, we had a $10 million branch already. So that’s true, you can do business virtually anywhere, but people still like to go to a bank, meet with a personal banker. The day we opened, (customers) stopped by. They said, “Oh, we can drop off mortgage payments here. We can deposit checks here.” So there was a need for a bank to be here, and it’s good that we are that bank.

So you have a geographic niche. What other niches do you have that you think that larger banks are missing out on? Being a small bank, we have the ability to develop products very easily and quickly. We don’t have the big bank thing where it has to go through so many layers. One is our Zeugma Rewards Account (the name is a figure of speech in which a word applies to two other meanings; e.g.: “He went fishing/he caught two fish and a cold.”) You have your direct deposit with us and it will pay a 2 percent interest rate. Also, we will reimburse you up to $15 for ATM transactions from another bank.

We started a program called Z rent. Small landlords can collect rents using our technology so they don’t have to get checks every month. We have for business customers a debit card that pays half a percent back every month to them. We have no-fee checking accounts, which is a big thing.

Is that a loss leader? It does cost you something to maintain the accounts.We’ll do a free checking account for you, but then you know us. You’re buying a house, you’re going to come and get your mortgage from us. You’re going to get your car loan from us, and we’re going to make money there. So this is the investment we make by offering free checking accounts. It’s not such a big loss leader because people have money. People maintain big balances here. The total balances are more than what it costs.

Did you have mentors in your career? When I came here, I worked in a bank and one of the persons I reported to really mentored me quite a bit. Not only on how to be a good businessman, but also the American way of living. His name is Peter Conrad. Also, the dean of Harvard Business School, Nitin Nohria. He’s a good friend. He was on my board and a co-founder with me.

So this is just a class assignment? Yeah, really.

If you couldn’t be a banker, what would you be? When I was growing up in India, I wanted to get a master’s in public administration, and I did that.

At what age did you know you wanted a master’s of public administration?Most kids don’t know what that is. As I was growing up, my dream was to be a politician in India. I thought if I can get my education, I can be one of the clean politicians. But after I did my master’s, I decided I was going to go to the U.S.A., which is the land of opportunity. I came here and I got my first job in a bank. I said, OK, I like banking, and I want to open my own bank some day.

How would you describe your bank to people back in India? It’s a culturally different thing. In India, the banks were nationalized in the ’60s. So when I told them that I’m opening a bank, it was hard to understand: “How do you open a bank? What does your bank do? Can you take deposits? Can you make loans?” But now in India they allow private banks. And once they understood, they took pride in that; a family member has opened a bank.

Could you open a branch in Punjab? No. The culture in India and the U.S.A. is completely different. Indians who are successful in the U.S.A., we are successful only because it’s the U.S.A. It’s easier to get the licenses, get the positions, and to prove that you can do good. In India, it’s such a big population, there’s just so much competition, and the political system is not that great.

What do you do for fun? You have to take some time off. I have a home in Miami. So in winter months if I’m not busy here, I go there. I like to ride a bike, I go to the gym, I have friends, go out to dinner, travel.

Is your cycling serious? No just for fun. But going to the gym is serious. I exercise every day. I take it very seriously.

And diet too? People are always looking for the magic food or the magic exercise program. You have to do both. There’s none. It’s determination.

Is there a person from history you would like to meet? And where in Boston would you take him or her? I enjoyed getting to know the Kennedy family here. If President Kennedy was still alive, I would want to meet with him. He was so influential for people like me to come to this country, opening up the opportunities of America. We were growing up listening to him, reading about him.

Do you remember where you were when he was assassinated? I was in college. I remember we were just completely glued to the TV.

And where would I take him? I’d bring him to my Innovation branch here. And show him you created the opportunities for us, and we are thankful.



Arlington’s Leader Bank opens in the Seaport

By Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff

Arlington-based Leader Bank has joined the suburban migration into Boston, opening its first branch in the city this month in the Seaport district.

Leader’s branch on the first floor of the Vertex Pharmaceuticals building on the waterfront is the bank’s first venture outside of Middlesex County.

The Seaport district is at the “epicenter” of the city’s growth and innovation economy, said Sushil Tuli, the bank’s president. And the bank is hoping to grab small business customers who have set up shop in many of the towers that have sprung up in the neighborhood in recent years, he said.

Boston itself has become a destination for suburban banks, drawn by the prestige of having a capital city address and to the city’s economic growth.

But unlike downtown Boston, where national players such as Bank of America and even small community institutions such as Wellesley Bank, have staked out prominent corners, the Seaport isn’t swamped with banks, Tuli said.

Santander Bank, Radius Bank, and Boston Private Bank and Trust have offices in the Seaport. But Bank of America only has an ATM and Hyde Park-based Blue Hills Bank has its name on a concert pavilion in the neighborhood.

Leader is incorporating newer technology into its Seaport branch. For example, the ATMs spit out cash in smaller denominations of $5s and $1s. In an area where new buildings have replaced old parking lots, customers may need small bills to tip the valet who has to park their car, Tuli said.

Boston Globe June 17th 2015 Leader Bank Grand Opening


Other posts include:

Banker & Tradesman Leader Bank Opening June 19th

India New England News

Stirring The Pot


Who in the world would host an event focusing on inclusion entitled “White Men Who Can Jump”?

Even better, who could get 12 white, male power brokers — including Boston Globe and Red Sox owner John Henry and Mayor Marty Walsh — in a Convention Center room together, laud them for breaking down racial and cultural barriers, then hold them accountable for continuing to create opportunities to all?

Colette Phillips, that’s who. Those who know Phillips wouldn’t be surprised by the success, or title, of last year’s gathering. And if you don’t know her, she’ll readily introduce herself, and have you stick around to meet other movers and shakers. It could be one of the U.S. presidents or corporate board chairs in the photos lining the walls of her State Street conference room overlooking Boston’s Custom’s House.

“Bringing together people of all backgrounds, in the same room, for doing business with each other — that’s what it’s all about,” she says, referring to Get Konnected, a monthly professional and social multicultural networking event that’s her latest venture.

“It’s taking Boston, a city that is so siloed, and getting people of all backgrounds to come together and network together across industries. Your network is your net worth.” Phillips recently connected with Boston Business Journal correspondent Robin Washington and spoke about her time in Boston and mentors.

Your first job was as press secretary to a prime minister (of Antigua.) Isn’t that the last job for a lot of people?

I was the first woman in the English-speaking Caribbean to have that job. I also worked in television because in Antigua the TV station is government owned, so I had a weekly television show.

It sounds like you were having fun, getting paid and doing something meaningful. Why did you leave?

I broke up with my fiancé. I thought it would be cathartic to go back to school. I went back to get my master’s in communication.

So you came back to Emerson … and I stayed. The experience I had with the whole busing thing inspired me. If you’re going to complain, you should step up and say I don’t like this and I’m going to change it. My whole business has been about breaking down barriers. Who was your first public relations client?

The Royal Sonesta Hotel. I had gone to pitch them initially and they said they needed a PR person to come in and be on board. At the end of nine months, I said to them, “Look, I can give you the same great service as a consultant as I’ve given to you. I don’t really need to be here five days a week.”

If you weren’t a publicist, what would you be?

I’d be a therapist. I love helping people solve their issues. The work that I do to a great extent is about really helping people to solve their challenges around their brand, around engagement, around connecting with people.

Why is it “Get Konnected” with a K?

Because I first created Kaleidoscope (a multicultural resource guide.) The other thing was when I tried to register it with a “C” it was already taken. It was about networking for computers and what-not. This will be my legacy in Boston, that I created an event getting people of all backgrounds … to come together and network with each other, across cultural lines, sexes and industries.

To hear more from this interview,
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Ribbon Cutting at Whittier Wellness and Fitness Club, June 2015!

Photo Credit: NA

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh; Frederica Williams, President and CEO of Whittier Street Health Center; Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson; Colette Phillips, President and CEO of Colette Phillips Communications

Photo Credit: NA

Frederica Williams, President and CEO of Whittier Street Health Center; Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

After S.C. shootings, what can we do that will make a difference?

Why are we surprised by the racially motivated shooting of nine black people in a South Carolina church? And what can we do about it? I’m not talking about sitting around, wringing our hands and pontificating. What can we do to truly make a difference? What sort of action plan can we develop to change the racially charged environment that has made racially motivated hatred and violence increasingly common in America?

First, let’s examine the environment that apparently shaped the suspect, a 21-year-old white man, and motivated him to kill nine innocent parishioners at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. What happened in his life? He was quoted as saying “blacks are raping ourwomen and taking over ourcountry.” Our country? Whose country? If we want to be completely accurate, the only people who have the right to refer to the United States of America as “our country” are the Native Americans, since this is a country comprised of immigrants.

The environment in which he was raised is one where the Confederate flag flies over the State House. Where the streets are named after generals who fought in the Civil War to keep black people enslaved. Think about how egregious and outrageous it would be if Holocaust survivors in America were forced to live in an environment where people fly the Nazi flag. The issue is supposed to be one of free speech. Really? The Confederate flag represents the most reprehensive period of our history. As a black person in South Carolina, you look up and see a symbol of a government and a culture that denied you your rights and reminds you that your ancestors were forcibly enslaved. It’s also a reminder to white people that they arethe superior people. Given this environment, why are we surprised that this 21-year-old allegedly turned into a machine of mass destruction? He grew up with all the trappings that enforce a racist point of view.

This racist environment isn’t limited to South Carolina or the deep South. There are purveyors of hatred on the radio and on television. And how do many media outlets and talk-show hosts portray mass murderers? We hear some of them described as “a lone wolf” or “a soft-spoken loner.” And yet if a shooter is black or of color, he’s more likely to be described as a “thug,” an “animal,” or a “terrorist.”

How do we begin to change this environment? We can call for South Carolina to stop flying the Confederate flag over the State House. This shouldn’t be a black initiative. It shouldn’t be a white initiative. For us to move past an environment that has become increasingly tinged with racism, people of good conscience of all colors and religions are going to have to take a stand together. We have to take action and demand change — not just sit around and wring our hands.

All of us must join forces to change the political, educational and economic environment. A good model of how to do this was articulated by Atlanta’s first elected black mayor, the late Maynard H. Jackson. He called his plan “the three Bs — the Book, the Ballot and the Buck.”

First, the Book. We have to make sure we give young black people the quality education they deserve. Successful black people must step up and become mentors and tutors. Forget about “I got mine so therefore you have to go out and get yours.” We all have to have a sense of ownership when it comes to black youth. All black adults should treat black children as their own, whether they’re a parent or not. We must educate them so they can learn what they need to have success in life.

Number Two is the Ballot. Black people must register to vote and then exercise their right to vote. In the civil rights era, people died so that black people could cast ballots in local, state and federal elections. Yes, I realize that many state governments have implemented voting restrictions that make it increasingly difficult for black people to exercise this right. We must unite to fight these restrictions, just as we did in the 1960s.

The third B is the Buck. We must rally our friends, every religious group and every ethnic group to boycott those corporations that fund the purveyors of hate on talk radio. No black person should ever buy any product that is produced or sold by those corporate sponsors. If we are effective in our boycott, we will win. For corporate America, the color that matters most to corporate America is green. If the purveyors of hate in the media lose their advertising, they will be off the air.

Effecting racial change and reducing hatred is not an easy task of for the faint of heart. It will not happen overnight. This is not the job of any one group of people. It’s the work of all people of good will. Just as the civil rights movement drew people of all races and religions, we must do the same today. We do have more tools at our disposal this time around — social media being one of the more effective tools we can use to rally people to the cause. But, unfortunately, we have almost as much work to do today as we did when we came together more than a half-century ago to fight for Civil Rights and social justice. It is going to take all of us, working together, to create an America that truly lives up E Pluribus Unum — out of many one people and the promise of our Pledge of Allegiance: “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Colette Phillips – HuffPost Blog, Rachel Dolezal

Does The Rachel Dolezal Story Hold Lessons About Race Relations in America?

The Rachel Dolezal story has sparked a national conversation about racial identity, and for the last week, the story has dominated the media stratosphere and has been the number one trending topic on social media. The tale of the now-former president of the Spokane, Wash., NAACP chapter — a white woman who passed herself off as black — has evoked a myriad of reaction and commentary, ranging from outrage to empathy to fodder for late-night comedians.

While I do not condone the dishonesty and deception of Rachel Dolezal’s actions, I think of her story as a teachable moment about race relations in America — about how the racial landscape has changed over the years. And about how far America has yet to go before blacks and whites are shown equal treatment.

As a Black woman, I understand, given the persistent systemic racism in America, why many blacks and, in particular, Black women, were angered by the fact that Rachel Dolezal seems to lack any understanding of how her choosing to identify as Black, sans any African-American heritage, is in fact a most compelling demonstration of white privilege. It’s not quite so easy for blacks in America to change their race.

No one knows the real motivation for this elaborate deception. Dolezal’s explanation to Matt Lauer on the Today Show was to simply say, “I identify as black.” She has done so, she said, since she was five years old, when she drew pictures of herself using a brown crayon. Whatever her motivation, the story got me thinking about what impact it would have on race relations in this country if White Americans had the opportunity to not just experience what it is like to be Black but to see what racism feels like first-hand.

What would it be like for White Americans to have to walk a mile in a Black person’s shoes? To be sure, race relations in America have improved since two white journalists passed themselves off as black more than a half-century ago. Ray Sprigle, in 1948, and John Howard Griffin, (Black Like Me) in 1959, reported on what it was like to use “For Colored” entrances and take Jim Crow taxis.

Racism today is more subtle — but it is most certainly still with us. If you’re Black, you’re more likely to be followed by security staff in a store. You’re more likely to be the subject of a traffic stop. If you’re a Black woman, you earn roughly 64 percent of what a White male makes — compared with 78 percent for White females.

Would race relations improve if whites could truly experience what it is like to be black in America? Would there be fewer police shootings of unarmed black men? Would there be more economic opportunity for African Americans?

In order for race relations to improve in America, Whites and Blacks must move away from seeing each other through a Victim/Villain prism. Walking a mile in each other’s shoes would go a long way toward accomplishing that.

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Get Konnected! : 2nd Annual A Taste of Ethnic Boston this coming July 28th, 2015

Get Konnected! in partnership with the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy will present its 2nd Annual A Taste of Ethnic Boston, spotlighting a select group of Boston’s most exotic ethnic or neighborhood restaurants (6-8).  The restaurants should represent an ethnic variety — Indian and/or South Asian, Asian, Caribbean, African, Middle-eastern, Hispanic, Brazilian, African, Cape Verdean and New England Seafood.

EachJuly 2015_Taste of Ethic Boston_Get Konnected Flyer restaurant will be asked to bring a sampling ‘bite-size’ for 150-200 people for about an hour. Participating restaurants will also have the opportunity to leverage this as a promotional venue for their respective establishments. Get Konnected! has a database of close to 10,000 people and they will be featured in our e-blast on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).   Restaurants will be asked to submit their logos and/or a JPEG photo of their restaurant or chef to be used in the invite. 

WHO: Restaurants and Chefs from Boston’s ethnic restaurants

WHERE:  Harborside Inn Hotel. 185 State Street Boston, MA 02109

WHEN: Tuesday, July 28th 2015 (5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m)


America’s Diversity Lesson

The following is an op-ed piece written by Colette Phillips, President and CEO of Colette Phillips Communications and founder of Get Konnected, published on on November 12th 2012.

If there was ever a case to be made that “diversity” pays and pays big, it was made convincingly last Tuesday’s election. It was a significantly diverse electorate that gave President Obama a second term and Massachusetts its first female senator in Elizabeth Warren.

Those who viewed “diversity” only through politically correct glasses have come to recognize that it was President Obama’s secret weapon. The Obama campaign tapped into the diverse groundswell that got him elected in 2008, particularly people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, young first time voters, Gen-Xers, and blue collar white men.

The 2010 US Census made abundantly clear that racial and ethnic minorities, especially Hispanics, are growing at a rate faster than the white population, and will continue to dominate national growth for decades to come. The Obama campaign understood what the Republican Party, the political pundits, the pollsters and the media all did not: that demographics and diversity was on their side and would play a deciding role in several key swing states.

It is not just political parties for which this “diversity” phenomenon we witnessed on Tuesday holds lessons, but also for corporate America, nonprofits and other democracies around the world grappling with issues of inclusion and immigrant emersion. Diversity should be — must be — regarded not just as a business and political imperative, but a competitive advantage as well.

Blacks, Latinos and Asians now represent more than 30 percent of the United States population. They have tremendous purchasing power, with a combined income of more than $3 trillion – a figure that exceeds the gross national products of Canada, Sweden and Mexico. Diverse voters, like diverse consumers, and diverse donors notice candidates, political parties, companies and nonprofits who notice them, and reward them with their votes, their loyalty, their donation and their business.

Any political party, business, or nonprofit that does not go the extra mile to attract, engage, and retain a diverse voter base, customer or donor base will find themselves leaving votes, money, and donations on the table. The Census Bureau predicts that by the year 2040 people of color will account for almost half of the nation’s population. The lesson should be this: Ignore racial and ethnic minorities now, and lose the majority later.

Obama’s strategy for a second term ushered in a new era of diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism in the United States. If he and Congress are able to work collaboratively to move our country forward and out of this economic basement, recognizing our diversity as our strength as a people, America will forge a new normal. It will signal a socially and economically inclusive society, but more importantly, a sound reinvestment in our own future, global competitiveness and economic survival.

Mentorship And The 7 Steps To Building A Successful Career!


Mentoring will always be an important avenue to the executive suite.  It’s a sad but real fact that hard work, education and talent are not enough to take a person to the top.  That is why it is so critical to forge connections and contacts in and out of the corporate corridors. I believe that organized corporate mentoring programs can be one of the most successful ways to not just shatter but eliminate the glass ceiling in corporate America. This mentoring takes the form of guidance, counsel and, in many cases, access and exposure to the kinds of positions and assignments that will help women and people of color develop the desired management skills required to succeed in business.  Women and people of color in particular must be willing to reach out across cultural and gender lines to cultivate mentors.

Ask any successful person about their career and most will tell you that while they certainly worked hard to get to where they are, a few people have been instrumental in helping them achieve success.  I am a big proponent of mentoring.  I have been blessed in my life to have a group of loving, supportive, and encouraging people whom I affectionately call “my council of wise people.”  Both as an employee for various companies and now as an entrepreneur/business owner, there are 7 basic principles by which I have conducted my personal and professional life.

These principles have been invaluable to my career and business growth. 

1.      THINK POSITIVE – Positive people have a way of attracting positive outcomes. Smile and the world smiles with you – frown and the world avoids you.  Ever notice how people avoid those whose attitude and demeanor are depressing and negative? Everyone likes being in the company of someone who sees the upside of a situation.Confidence is possible only if you believe in your ability to succeed. Negativity and negative attitudes will undermine your chances of moving up the corporate ladder and succeeding. These two credos have been my mantra:  “A positive attitude creates positive results and if it is to be it is up to me.”

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Protocol And Etiquette For Cross Cultural Business Networking

An Insider’s advice to making the most of your networking experiences

Against the backdrop of today competitive global marketplace, etiquette, manners, cross cultural, or intercultural communication have become critical elements required for all business executives, managers, and employees.  Going global is not a simple task.  With India and China emerging as world economies, cross -cultural protocol is no longer relegated to diplomats but must now be considered a business imperative.

Communicating across cultures can often be confusing and uncertain

As the founder of Kaleidoscope/Get Konnected a cross–cultural business networking event for urban and international business executives and professionals of all cultures,  I would like offer the following do’s and don’t’s  that can help you avoid embarrassing gaffes, faux pas and misunderstandings and communicate effectively across cultures.

1. Do your homework:

Research ahead of time what is an appropriate greeting among business men and women in particular culture. For example is it a nod, a handshake, a bow, names etc.) In the Asian culture particularly Japanese and Chinese a nod or bow is an appropriate and acceptable form of greeting. For women while I do not advocate subservience to blend with a particular culture, I do recommend that you be a reserved version of yourself.

2. Do pay attention and be observant:

If you are in doubt about what to do observe what others are doing, discern what seems to be the “norm” and then follow suit. For example Wait to be seated if you are sitting down.  You don’t want to sit in the most important seat if you are not the most important person at the table.

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