BNC Financial Group of New Canaan, Conn., has hired former NewAlliance Bancshares Chief Executive Peyton R. Patterson as its new CEO.

Patterson will join the boards and take over as CEO of the holding company and its banks in early September, the $477 million-asset company said Tuesday. BNC's current CEO, Merrill Jay Forgotson, will work with Patterson as she transitions into the role and then will stay on as president of one of the company's banks, the Bank of Fairfield. He will also remain on the board.

Patterson joined NewAlliance of New Haven, Conn., in early 2002 when it was called New Haven Savings Bank. She took the thrift public two years later and over the next seven years grew it into to one of the largest deposit institutions based in New England, with $9 billion of assets, through a series of acquisitions and organic growth.

NewAlliance's strong capital levels allowed it to weather the financial crisis without taking money from the Treasury Department under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. It was acquired last year by First Niagara Financial Group (FNFG) of Buffalo for $1.5 billion.

Patterson had signed a one-year noncompete clause that prevented her from working in the counties where First Niagara has a physical presence, but that agreement will end later this year. All of BNC's branches are in Fairfield County, where First Niagara now has nine branches.

Patterson previously told American Banker Magazine that she hired a life coach to help her decide on her next steps. She established a bank consulting company and taught business school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She had also been considering a return to an operating role within the industry.

Patterson has been routinely listed as one of American Banker's Most Powerful Women in Banking and was named as a Community Banker of the Year in 2008.

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