By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

As the recipient of the American Catholic Historical Society’s John Barry Award at the Union League of Philadelphia Nov. 20, Gerard P. Cuddy joins a distinguished list of presidents of Beneficial Bank who have been similarly honored.

Former presidents George Knight, Joseph McLaughlin and John Gallagher also received the award.

Perhaps that should be no surprise. The Barry Award is one of Philadelphia’s most prestigious Catholic awards, and Beneficial Bank, the oldest and largest bank headquartered in the city, has historic ties to the Catholic Church.

Beneficial, which prominently displays a portrait of St. John Neumann at its headquarters, considers Philadelphia’s sainted fourth bishop as its founder. As Cuddy notes, when it was established in 1853, most of its board members were also board members of St. Joseph Hospital, Philadelphia’s first Catholic hospital.

Cuddy himself is native to the Archdiocese. Originally from St. Andrew Parish, Drexel Hill, he’s a graduate of Msgr. Bonner High School. His name, Gerard, follows an old Catholic tradition. In baptism he was named for St. Gerard Majella, the patron saint of expectant mothers.

“My mother had a difficult pregnancy; she’s been reminding me of it for 50 years,” he said.

After Bonner he continued under the tutelage of the Augustinians at Villanova University where he earned his undergraduate degree in economics. He then entered the banking field while continuing on for his master’s of business administration degree at St. Joseph’s University.

For the past 23 years he’s been married to his wife Patricia (Tricia), who was also raised in St. Andrew Parish. Currently living in Rosemont and members of Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Bryn Mawr, they are the parents of two sons: Payton, 15, and Graham, 13.

Approximately half of his banking career has been in private banking and half in commercial. Almost all of it has been in the Philadelphia area except for four years in Atlanta, Ga.

Both he and Tricia are former CCD teachers at Our Mother of Good Counsel, and he is a past board member of the education and finance committees of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and of BLOCS (Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools).

On the civic side, he is a board member of the Franklin Institute, the Police Athletic League and the Foreign Policy Research Institute, as well as a past board member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the World Affairs Council and Philadelphia Hospitality.

As president and CEO of Beneficial Bank for almost three years, he finds himself at a banking institution that fits his own personal philosophy and values. The bank has an informal motto, Vacere Comptus Veres (Doing what is right), and that has helped it weather the current storm that has placed so many financial institutions in difficulty.

“We are an anti-credit card, pro-savings bank,” Cuddy said. “We don’t like people to borrow more than they can ever possibly pay back.”

Speaking of the financial institutions that have suffered through the credit crisis, he said, “I think there was a loss of mission. They put their own interests ahead of that of their clients.”

As for Beneficial, “We are doing very fine. I’m excited every day I walk in here,” he said.

A major part of that is the Catholic values and principles passed down by the founders, something even customers who are not Catholic can agree with.

As for Cuddy, “Faith is the cornerstone of my life,” he said. “It’s the way I approach my relationships and my responsibilities. I rely on prayer for strength and guidance.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.