Five Questions With: Kathleen Sanderson-Upham

Kathleen Sanderson-Upham was recently promoted to vice president and East Greenwich branch sales manager for BankNewport. She has worked at BankNewport since 2011, working her way up from bank teller to her most recent role as assistant vice president and branch sales manager.

PBN: What does your new role with BankNewport entail?

SANDERSON-UPHAM: My primary responsibilities include business development, community outreach and staff development. I am responsible for ensuring that we are delivering the highest level of customer service standards in the industry and those that our loyal customers in East Greenwich have come to expect.


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PBN: What has BankNewport done to ensure safety for its branch employees?

SANDERSON-UPHAM: The safety of our staff and customers has been our top priority since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every decision has been made through the lens of health safety while providing our customers ongoing access to their banking. Initially, to limit person-to-person interaction, we shifted branch operations to appointment banking only, complemented by drive-up banking, while also promoting the availability of personal teller machines, which offer the personal touch of a real-life banker combined with the convenience of an ATM.

As of June, we have reopened our lobbies to customers while strictly following the state’s reopening guidelines. We have limited capacity to ensure proper social distancing, require face coverings to be worn by both employees and customers, installed Plexiglas at our teller lines and desks, execute branch cleaning procedures multiple times a day, and require our employees to complete a wellness checklist every morning to ensure they are not experiencing symptoms.

While these are new challenges, we take this very seriously and want to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect our branch employees and customers.

PBN: How have branch operations generally and at BankNewport changed due to COVID-19?

SANDERSON-UPHAM: Overall, our day-to-day operations haven’t changed much, and our focus on our customers has never wavered; frankly, it has never been stronger. The pandemic has impacted everyone; our main priority each day is to help our customers navigate their banking needs and financial concerns through these especially trying and unprecedented times.

When the pandemic hit and our lobbies were closed, we were still available for our customers to meet in person by appointment, and our drive-ups were still open to support necessary financial transactions. However, the use of digital banking naturally increased since the onset of the pandemic, and that has proven to be a great, convenient alternative for our customers.

We are always here to help our customers in person if they would like to visit our branch, however we are also available to talk over the phone and continue to offer online banking, mobile banking, and ATMs and PTMs for convenient banking options.

PBN: National data suggests customers are relying less on in-person banking services and more on online and mobile options since the pandemic started. Have you seen that at BankNewport? What does that mean for existing branch operations?

SANDERSON-UPHAM: One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic is that it allowed many traditional branch customers to test our amazing digital banking options, which we are very proud of.

Customers have a variety of tools available to them via online and mobile banking, including the ability to view transaction history, make payments, pay bills, make Bank2Bank transfers, set up account alerts and access digital documents. With our mobile app, customers can also check account balances, manage budgets, view recent activity, deposit checks, send money via Zelle, schedule an appointment with a banker, apply for a mortgage, and more.

In addition to ATMs, in select locations our PTMs allow customers to conduct most everyday transactions, including deposits, withdrawals, transfers, payments, cashing of checks and the ability to receive coins.

Branches will always remain important – our customers want to see us, and vice versa, and we will be there for them to do so. But the increase of digital usage provides our customers with more choices in how they want to do their banking. It is important that we are meeting our customers’ needs for convenient banking options, no matter the circumstances.

PBN: What long-term effects do you think the pandemic will have on how the bank runs its branches and potential expansion of staff or additional branch locations?

SANDERSON-UPHAM: We believe in the personal banking experience, and this has not changed. Our well-versed and highly trained team of universal bankers, business bankers and commercial lending officers are committed and empowered to provide support and guidance to help customers and prospective customers achieve their financial goals.

All of our funding decisions are made right here in Rhode Island, so customers will experience expedient borrowing opportunities and personalized service that directly reflects our mission and role as a true community bank.

The pandemic has challenged us to continuously look for improvements in making banking more convenient, and to provide even more options to our customers. However, our branches are extremely important to us and the in-person banking experience will always remain a fundamental part of our overall strategy.

Nancy Lavin is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at

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