A small Maine bank sitting on a pile of fresh capital continues to seek customers beyond its state's borders.
Over the last several quarters, Northeast Bancorp (NBN) in Lewiston has raised its profile by establishing an online bank that takes deposits from customers nationwide and by setting up a Boston-based loan acquisition division that buys commercial loans from other lenders.
In its latest move, announced Wednesday, the $663 million-asset company said that it has opened its first out-of-state mortgage lending office in the Boston suburb of Sharon.
The growth has been fueled by an influx of new capital. Earlier this year the company recently raised nearly $53 million in a stock sale and in 2010 it received a $16 million infusion from a Boston-based investment group that now makes up much of Northeast's management team.
The expansion into new markets and business lines has helped Northeast increase its assets by nearly 15% over the past year — no small feat for a bank based in slow-growing Maine.
The loan acquisition division is less than two years old and already has brought in more than $100 million of loans, according to Northeast's most recent quarterly report. (The unit also makes commercial loans and at Sept. 30 its originations totaled about $13 million.)
Meanwhile, the online banking platform launched in early summer, had brought in roughly $11 million by Sept. 30 and has continued to show strong growth this quarter, says Claire Bean, Northeast's chief financial officer.
Bean says that the company has the capacity to keep growing and is eyeing opportunities both inside and outside of its markets. Though she did not rule out acquisitions, Bean says the company is more interested in expanding organically.
"The plan is to deploy the new capital to allow us to further grow all of our divisions," says Bean, who joined the company in 2010 and has been one of the chief architects of the expansion plan.
Northeast is particularly bullish on mortgage lending and its plan is to hire seasoned lenders who have established relationships with real estate agents in key markets, says Marcel Blais, the bank's head of mortgage lending.
Like other small, out-of-town banks, Northeast was attracted to the Boston area because it is New England's most vibrant market. Other banks that have opened offices or acquired mortgaged lenders in the Boston in the past couple of years include Washington Trust (WASH) in Westerly, R.I., Northeast Community Bancorp (NECB) in White Plains, N.Y., and Berkshire Hills Bancorp (BHLB) of Pittsfield, Mass.
The new Massachusetts office is staffed by team of five local mortgage professionals who had most recently worked for the Mortgage Place, a small firm that has operated in Sharon for about two decades. Karen Glaser, the head of the new Massachusetts office, has more than 30 years of lending experience, according to a press release.
Of course, Northeast faces more competition Massachusetts than it does in its home state, but Blais says he is confident that it will win its share of deals because
"Yes it's competitive, but we can succeed by using the same strategy that has worked for us in Maine," he says. "It's all about the relationship."