Acquisition affords New Canaan Bank footprint in N.H. County


HAMDEN – Quinnipiac Bank & Trust Co. is being acquired by Bankwell Financial Group, Inc., a move that will expand the latter’s business operations into New Haven County and add $100 million in assets to Bankwell’s coffers.

The acquisition calls for Quinnipiac to merge into Bankwell Bank. Bankwell Financial Group is the holding company for the Bankwell Bank, which now has six branches and one loan office in Fairfield. Quinnipiac is headquartered in Hamden.

“We’ve been looking to get into New Haven County for actually several years,” says Peyton Patterson, president and CEO of Bankwell Financial Group. She adds that as Bankwell has grown as a commercial bank it has sought to extend its geographical reach. She declined to comment about whether other banks had also been under consideration.

“We’re just delighted to be partnering with Quinnipiac,” she says.

The agreement, announced April 1, was unanimously approved by the board of directors of both financial institutions. It is expected to close the third quarter of this year. Terms of the transaction include an exchange of 25 percent of Quinnipiac shares for $12 cash, or $3.6 million in aggregate; and exchange of 75 percent of Quinnipiac shares for 0.56 shares of Bankwell Financial Group stock. Quinnipiac shareholders have the choice of receiving stock, cash or a combination of both.

Quinnipiac President and CEO Mark Candido and Quinnipiac Executive Vice President Richard Barredo conceived Quinnipiac in 2005 as a community-oriented bank, as opposed to an impersonal financial institution. After an extended planning stage, Quinnipiac opened to the public in 2008. It emphasized local service and catering to clients that might have been underserved by larger banks.

Patterson says Quinnipiac’s emphasis on local, hometown banking will continue.

“Clearly, for this to be successful, we have to preserve that,” says Patterson, who previously was president of NewAlliance Bank before it was acquired by Firsts Niagara Bank in 2010. She notes as well that Bankwell’s greater legal lending capacity should help Quinnipiac further the goals on with it was founded.

“They really are a like-minded community bank,” says Candido of his new parent company. “They enjoy a terrific reputation in Fairfield County. They have excellent food drives, clothing drives, blood drives” as part of Bankwell’s community outreach, he adds.

While Quinnipiac’s healthy business operations make this “perfect timing” for the acquisition, the Hamden bank has never been in a position when it felt such a change was necessary to maintain that health, Candido says.

“We’ve been doing so well literally since we opened and, truth be told, we were sought after by a number of banks,” he notes.

Like Patterson, Candido emphasizes that among the advantages of becoming part of the Bankwell group is the ability it will give Quinnipiac to compete with larger banks, such as will lending.

“I truly am excited,” Candido says.

Both Candido and Barredo will remain in positions equivalent to those they currently hold. Candido will head the greater New Haven regional market, and Barredo will continue as chief credit officer.

Bankwell Bank was founded in 2002 as a Connecticut state commercial bank. It is the banking subsidiary of Connecticut bank holding company Bankwell Financial Group, headquartered in New Canaan. This most recent deal with Quinnipiac boosts the holding company’s total assets to $779.6 million. The company’s loans total $632 million, deposits $661.5 million, and shareholders’ equity $69.5 million.