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October 19, 2019Cart

Business

by Fairfield County Business Journal
by FCBJ

United Bank expanding into Fairfield County

The Connecticut Department of Banking has approved United Bank’s application to open a branch office at 415-417 Greenwich Ave. in Greenwich.

United’s first entry into the county took place in 2015, when it opened a commercial loan production office at 55 Green Farms Road in Westport. But the Greenwich location will be its first full-service branch here.

“Fairfield County has incredible demographics,” explained CEO William H.W. Crawford IV. “Although there are obviously a lot of banks there, we feel there’s plenty of room for us as well. That it’s situated so close to New York and Manhattan — yet offers a little more opportunity than New York — made it a natural extension for us.”

The Greenwich site, expected to open in the fourth quarter, will be United’s 54th branch location within its Connecticut and Massachusetts footprint. United said the number of employees at the new branch had yet to be determined.

The branch will include multiple teller stations, ATM access, a conference room and private office space for branch managers and other bankers to consult with customers. In addition to retail banking activity, the branch will provide a conduit to commercial and mortgage banking as well as financial advisory services.

“Our customers had been telling us for some time that they wanted us to be in Fairfield County,” Crawford said. “And when it comes to the commercial banking business, even though they can do everything electronically, commercial customers still want that physical presence.”

That Westport has performed so well helped pave the way to Greenwich, he added.

“We attract very experienced bankers who deliver professional, personal service, which is what our customers (in Westport) found,” Crawford said. “That relationship-driven approach has been one of our foundations, and we’re extending that into Fairfield County.”

Crawford added that other county branches could eventually be added as well.

United and its holding company United Financial Bancorp Inc. have done well under Crawford’s guidance. Joining what was then Rockville Financial Inc. in January 2011 as senior executive vice president, Crawford helped take the company public via a second-step equity conversion offering that raised an additional $171 million in capital in March of that year. He became Rockville’s president and CEO a month later and was named United Bank’s CEO upon its merger with Rockville in 2014.

From 2011 through the fourth quarter of 2017, the bank expanded from $1.7 billion to $7.1 billion in assets. About $2.9 billion was organic growth and $2.4 billion was M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions), which contributed to the company’s 31 percent annualized compound growth rate in earnings per share since 2011. Total revenue increased from $72.9 million in 2011 to $215.6 million for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2017.

Such performance helped United’s being named 39th on Fortune magazine’s “100 Fastest Growing Companies” last year — the only Connecticut-based, publicly traded company to do so.

On April 17, the bank reported net income for the quarter ended March 31 of $15.8 million, compared with net income of $13.7 million for the first quarter of 2017. United also reported 10 percent growth in total deposits and a 9 percent increase in noninterest-bearing deposits, total tangible book value plus dividend returns, and loans year-over-year.

Geographically, Crawford said United would be looking to the south and west of Connecticut. Although adding branches in Massachusetts is not on the front burner, he said, “We will continue to look for opportunities to enhance our footprint there.”

He called M&A “a good way to grow your business” as well, but said that no such deals were imminent.

Underpinning the growth strategy moving forward, Crawford said, is continuing to focus “on doing a great job for our customers. Attracting good bankers is really how we grow.”