Harriet Munrett Wolfe

She may have fallen into banking, but Munrett Wolfe always knew she wanted to be a lawyer

Webster Bank | Executive VP, General Counsel & Secretary
Webster Bank | Executive VP, General Counsel & Secretary

September 11, 2001, was easily my most memorable day of work. I had friends and colleagues in the World Trade Center, but I was part of the emergency team here, so I had to put the personal aside and look at my role at the company and what we needed to do to operate. I went into this mode. It was the toughest day of my life and my career, but I just focused on our plan for keeping our employees safe and doing business amid that chaos.

Because I’ve grown up in banking, I have a certain history of banking itself within Connecticut and the Northeast—what banks have merged, what others have tried, what’s been successful for others. Banking in this region is a small world. There’s an institutional knowledge that you gain once you’ve been at company for some time.

Just as Webster has experienced its growth, I have grown professionally at Webster. When I started, we were a federal savings bank. Over the years, we determined we wanted to be a commercial bank, and so we changed our charter. Now we are a national bank. Those changes occurred as the company grew in assets, the types of business it’s in, and geography. I’m an executive officer, so as the legal department expanded to accommodate that growth, I have had to do less of the minutiae and instead look at things more from a 30,000-foot level.

Conduct your life so that if it makes front-page news, you won’t be embarrassed. That’s a saying we have in my family.

People tell me, if they play Trivial Pursuit, they want me on their team.

The property I grew up on had peach orchards. My friend and I—we were 9 or 10—would pick peaches and set up a roadside stand. I’ve always had a business mind-set. I knew pretty early on, even in college and law school, that I wanted to go into corporate law for the business aspect.

Do your homework and then move on. Not every decision or piece of advice I give will be the absolute best. Sometimes I’ll look back and wish I’d done something different, but I don’t want to be paralyzed by that reality. I have seen companies and other banks that were afraid to make a decision, and some of them are no longer here.

When I mentor law school students, I always require one thing: give back to the profession by mentoring someone else. It just has something to do with my upbringing. My mother did a lot of volunteer work, and if you grow up with it, you don’t really think about it. It’s just very natural.

A really good day is when I come up with a creative solution to a problem. With respect to converting our bank charter from a federal savings to a national bank, I had to deal with the challenge of our multistate footprint. The solution I crafted enabled us to convert in a time frame that we desired and allowed us to grow while sticking to our core values.