John Klein, the chief executive of the newly renamed People's United Financial Inc. of Bridgeport, Conn., has heard all the rumors.
Flush with $3 billion-plus of capital, the company is said to be on the verge of buying in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, or maybe Vermont.
In an interview last week, however, Mr. Klein said the $11 billion-asset thrift is pursuing organic growth and will not make a costly acquisition.
"We are not going to do a deal simply because we feel pressure," he said. "We have tried in every way we can to reassure investors that that is not going to happen.
"They seem to say, 'We hear what you say, but we see what others have done and that makes us nervous.' We are very resolute on this point - to remain disciplined in our approach and to not overpay."
In case that wasn't clear enough, Mr. Klein added, "We're not really interested in simply coloring space on a map."
And he backed up what he said about organic growth by noting that People's will open its first branch in affluent Westchester County, N.Y., on June 18, the first of up to seven branches planned for that market this year. It will be in Scarsdale on a busy street between a CVS and a Starbucks.
"Having a federal charter with the ability to branch in an unfettered manner into Westchester is something that has been very attractive to us," Mr. Klein said. The area is a "mirror image" of Fairfield County, the company's home county, he said.
People's completed its second-step conversion from mutual ownership to a public company on April 16. The stock sale raised $3.3 billion.
Last Thursday, People's announced it had renamed its banking arm People's United Bank, a move Mr. Klein said is tied to the acquisition plan.
People's United Bank "provides us with a unique platform in terms of any combinations with other banks in new markets, to say that we are very much united with the predecessor bank, and to the customers in the communities that we serve," he said.
"It's also important to us in terms of making a clear and unambiguous statement of what we stand for as a bank, that we are united as one team in driving superior customer experience."
It was widely assumed that Thursday's release would be the announcement of an acquisition deal. Shares in People's fell all week and are down about 6% since the company went fully public.
"The market is pricing in a bad deal," said Jared Shaw, an analyst at KBW Inc.'s Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "It doesn't seem like people are giving them the benefit of the doubt."
Mr. Klein chuckled at the array of names that are mentioned in connection with People's. "We have quite a laundry list that we can look through."
Analysts said companies that would be a good fit with People's include the $12 billion-asset Valley National Bancorp in Wayne, N.J., the $6.6 billion-asset Chittenden Corp. in Burlington, Vt., and the $15 billion-asset Fulton Financial Corp. in Lancaster, Pa.
Mr. Klein said any deal would have to be accretive to earnings in the first year and have an internal rate of return exceeding the cost of capital, which in People's case is about 11%, according to analysts.
Those were the same criteria the CEO gave investors during road shows for the 172 million shares that sold at $20 each. It was the third-largest financial offering ever, according to Collyn Gilbert, an analyst at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. Inc.
As for his branch plans, Mr. Klein said: "It's the same thing as with the acquisitions. We're not just simply rushing pell-mell into finding a location and sticking a branch wherever we can find some space like some of our competitors have done."
People's has 159 branches in Connecticut, including 75 in Super Stop & Shop stores.