BNC Financial (BNFI) in New Canaan, Conn., is getting a makeover.
The company will rebrand itself as Bankwell Financial in September as part of a larger expansion plan that will likely involve new markets and services, says Peyton Patterson, who became BNC's president and chief executive last fall.
BNC is also planning to raise up to $50 million later this year to add to the $7.4 million it brought in from a January private placement.
"There's no shortage of things to do," says Patterson, who is aiming to double the $631 million-asset company's size over the next four years. Growing without acquisitions is her priority, though Patterson says she has a short list of banks BNC would like to buy.
Earlier this month, the company agreed to buy Wilton Bank (WIBW) for $5 million.
"We have laid out a five-year de novo strategy that ranks the markets we want to be in," Patterson says. "We have a clear organic growth map that also layers in acquisitions that are in the right markets and the right price."
BNC has been evaluating products and services that will help it become more profitable and bring in more fee income. Last month, the company added cash management services for commercial clients, and plans are in place to hire a broker-dealer and expand into wealth management later this year.
Enhancement, including a new database for targeting marketing prospects, should help the company compete against the biggest banks that operate in Connecticut. "If we are going to take market share from Chase, Citi and Bank of America, we have to add capabilities," Patterson says.
"We're not naïve," Patterson says. "We know that our clients do business with some of the biggest banks out there. We believe there is an opportunity to deepen the relationships that we have with those clients and keep them in the house."
BNC's plan of targeting bigger banks makes sense in the company's Connecticut markets, where there are a fair number of affluent customers who tend to prefer high-touch service. The area's community banks, including Webster Financial (WBS) and People's United Financial (PBCT), have been aggressively adding capacity, while hiring and training lenders, says David Darst, an analyst at Guggenheim Partners.
"There have been some disruptions among the big banks," Darst says. "That's where the opportunity exists to take business."
Patterson's long-term goal is for the company to derive 15% of its revenue from fees; noninterest income currently contributes roughly 5%. BNC recently introduced a program to originate and sell mortgages, and Patterson says she is open to hiring people to start up an asset-based lending operation.
BNC also has its sights set on several Connecticut markets. It recently opened a loan production office in Bridgeport and Patterson is considering branches in Westchester County and New Haven County. New Haven served as the headquarters of NewAlliance Bancshares, a former thrift that Patterson built into an $8 billion-asset bank before its 2011 sale to First Niagara Financial (FNFG).
"The geography we choose to enter is very important, so we have established criteria for the markets we want to enter," Patterson says. A key checklist item is the potential to book commercial-and-industrial loans.
Acquisitions are always a possibility for Patterson, who made several purchases while leading NewAlliance. Patterson recently hired Gail Brathwaite, who helped integrate NewAlliance's acquisitions, to become BNC's chief operating officer.
Smaller acquisitions could be the best near-term option for BNC because few of its primary competitors seem interested in those. "Webster is primarily focused on organic growth," Darst says.
"People's is still concentrating on integrating a number of past acquisitions and building out its organic platform," Darst adds. "Both of those banks are focused on returning capital [to shareholders] and small deals don't really do that."
As part of this fall's rebranding, BNC will merge its banks — Bank of New Canaan and Bank of Fairfield — and look to bring in $30 million to $50 million in offensive capital.
"You have to have dry powder if you have a business model that incorporates organic growth and acquisitions," Patterson says. "It will also help to introduce more liquidity to our stock."