HAMDEN — Seventeen boxes of non-perishable food, collected by the staff of Bankwell (formerly Quinnipiac Bank & Trust Co.), were donated to St. Anne’s Soup Kitchen in Hamden.

“St. Anne’s has been a pillar in Hamden for its gracious contributions to people in need,” said Bankwell Regional President Mark Candido. “Not only do they serve hot prepared meals, they send people home with food and clothing when often they have nowhere to turn for aid.”

A pickup truck loaded with boxes of food, collected during an October 25 shredding event in Bankwell’s parking area in Hamden, was earmarked for St. Anne’s. “We also collect clothing and shoes that go to St. Anne’s along with other local charities and social services,” Candido explained. “Shortly we’ll begin our Winter Coat Drive with the same goal of maintaining Bankwell as a cornerstone in helpful community service.”

Luke Abous-Salam, St. Anne’s manager, was on hand personally to pick up the food donations. Bankwell staff members, Mark Candido, Leila Votto and Ken Innocenzi joined in to present the donations.

Bankwell has offices in Hamden and North Haven.




 Still a mutual, Liberty Bank has moved aggressively into the New Haven market aided in part by its purchase of the Bank of Southern Connecticut in June 2013. Originally a Middlesex County bank, it now has 49 branches in Connecticut, reaching into Hartford County. Its local footprint ranges from Cheshire and Meriden to New Haven and along the Connecticut shoreline. The bank is well capitalized, as the largest mutual in the state with $3.5 billion in assets, and total risk-based capital of more than 19 percent, as much as double some of its larger competitors.

The mutual history and strong capital base has driven much of Liberty’s sales effort in the residential and commercial real estate markets. In a BNH interview last year, CEO Chandler Howard said real estate lending would remain one of Liberty’s cornerstone sources of income.

Recently Liberty’s marketing has spotlighted large real estate loans both in and outside of Connecticut, but the bank has begun to focus on broadening its portfolio with more small-business marketing as well.

 Still feeling the after-effects of the meltdown, area financial institutions seek to navigate a new economic landscape


The economy may seem as though it’s still stuck in neutral, but the leading economic indicators of employment, prices, etc. have been slowly improving. New Haven streets are abuzz. The improving Elm City economy leads Connecticut — but for many on the streets, that success hasn’t trickled down yet. As a business the success of any bank or other financial institution is linked first and foremost to the economy. That means that times remain tough for Connecticut’s banks, navigating the slow-growing state and region-wide economies.

But perhaps the most intriguing financial indicator is how, six years after the onset of the big bank-led economic collapse, New Haven’s banking market is more competitive than at any time in recent memory.

New to greater New Haven bank entrants with combined assets of nearly $10 billion includes Bankwell (which recently purchased Hamden-based Quinnipiac Bank), United Bank (newly merged with Rockville Bank), Farmington Savings Bank and Liberty Bank, which purchased the Bank of Southern Connecticut in June 2013.

We even find Capital One with one New Haven County branch showing up at trade shows (not just in our wallets).

Even one of Connecticut’s smallest banks (by assets), New Haven’s Start Bank, has shown it can grow and is working to carve out a niche as a small-business bank as well.

For many New England communities, those banks alone would make for a competitive landscape, but added to the New Haven County mix are powerful national banks like Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and TD Bank. And then there are the regionals: Webster, People’s United, First Niagara, and a host of community banks like Guilford Savings Bank, Ion Bank, Milford Bank and Essex Savings Bank.

Bank of America remains Connecticut’s largest bank by deposits, accounting for approximately 25 percent of all deposits statewide. Connecticut’s two homegrown regional banks, Waterbury’s Webster Bank and Bridgeport-based People’s United, are no slouches however, with nearly 12 percent of all statewide deposits each. People’s United, which was an early innovator in placing branches in supermarkets, still has the most branches in the state, with some 165.

Let’s take a look at some of the more overt changes in the region’s banking industry in the last 18 months or so.

The nation’s third largest bank, Citibank proved it wasn’t too big to fail — in New Haven, at least — when it abandoned its branch at Church and Chapel streets, leaving only a bunch of ATMs in the state (and two years left on its lease).

On the other end of the scale, Start Bank proved it could start to punch above its weight, hiring former mayor John DeStefano as its executive vice president and community-banking veteran Maureen Frank its new CEO, replacing William Placke. Former Centerbank CEO Placke came out of retirement to guide the bank through what would be a drawn-out licensing process.

Start Bank was created as a result of funding set aside for a community bank in the wake of the conversion of the mutual New Haven Savings Bank to the publicly traded New Alliance in 2004.

Then-Mayor DeStefano was the leading proponent for the creation and funding of a new New Haven community bank, and few were surprised that the longtime chief executive landed there after his 20-year stint at City Hall ended a year ago.

Start has seen its assets grow more than 20 percent from $58 million to $73 million in the first nine months of 2014. Over the same period it also closed its original Fair Haven branch.

DeStefano says he advocated for the Grand Avenue branch from his position as a founding board member, but it proved to be an unprofitable drain for the bank.

Start has begun an aggressive effort to market itself as a small-business bank. An advertising campaign created by New Haven advertising agency Mascola Group based on the theme “Stop Dreaming, Start Doing” has generated significant buzz.

In line with that entrepreneurial spirit, Start Bank has elected one of New Haven County’s most successful young entrepreneurs to its board: Kam Lasater, co-founder and COO of New Haven-based social media community incident report site SeeClickFix.

 With $100 billion in assets and branches in 16 states along the East Coast, the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Citizens Bank is today the eighth-largest bank in the U.S.

However, the 2008 financial collapse placed a significant strain on RBS, and many banking industry insiders believe this has left Citizens in limbo.

The Royal Bank of Scotland was bailed out by the UK government, which still owns 80 percent of RBS. Citizens, however, has begun to shed its chains and recently became an independent publicly traded bank on the NYSE (ticker symbol CFG), raising $3 billion in assets and an IPO at $21.50 per share in late September.

The $3 billon windfall, however, is not for use by the bank but to help pay back the UK government.

RBS still owns more than 70 percent of the stock of Citizens.

The Street.com called the IPO “tepid” and suggested that banks generally wouldn’t see much if they chose to sell stock as well. Wall Street views the new banking regulations, continued weak economy, competition and the Federal Reserve-induced low-rate environment as a drag on bank profits.

Citizens now has 16 branches in greater New Haven, several others along the shoreline north to Providence, R.I., where its U.S. headquarters are based. Whether this newfound semi-independence will bring Citizens back to its once very aggressive marketing and acquisition posture remains to be seen.

 The major money-center banks may be making national headlines, but here in Connecticut they appear to be going quietly about their business.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo, with assets of approximately $1.4 trillion each, tower over even a major player like TD Bank, which boasts more than 1,000 branches, including 76 in Connecticut, and $225 billion in assets.

Unlike it big-bank brethren, TD has proven to be the only one very active in the small-business SBA market.

In 2013 it placed $24 million with 138 loans. That was second only to the sleeper Eastern Bank, based in Norwich, which placed 439 SBA loans for $23 million.

Wells Fargo reportedly entered the Northeast reluctantly when it took over then-troubled Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia Bank in 2009. Wells Fargo did up the local game in Connecticut and New Haven and in 2014 was named Business New Haven’s Corporate Citizen of the Year, for a host of financial and personal staff commitments throughout the greater New Haven community. With 75 branches and only 7.5 percent of deposits the banking giant is still well behind local favorites People’s United and Webster as well as Bank of America.