felt in southern Connecticut. The $32 billion-asset company is planning an April launching of Summit Bank Connecticut. The management team will be headed by executives from banks Summit is acquiring in the state, the company said last week. Frederick R. Afragola is to be chairman and chief executive officer. Charles F. Howell is slated to be president and chief operating officer. Mr. Afragola is currently president and CEO of New Canaan Bank and Trust, which Summit agreed to buy in August. Mr. Howell is chief operating officer of NSS Bancorp in Norwalk, which Summit agreed to buy in June. Those two deals would give Summit its first toehold in the Nutmeg State, extending its reach from New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. The Connecticut bank is to have dual headquarters, in New Canaan and neighboring Norwalk, as well as 200 employees, 12 branches, and $825 million of assets. Robert G. Cox, president and chief operating officer of the parent, said he plans for the Connecticut operation to grow to more than $1 billion of assets in "a short time" through de novo expansion, branch purchases, or outright acquisitions. "We will continue to talk to individual banks that show an interest in joining Summit," he said in a telephone interview. Mr. Cox also said supermarket branches are being considered for Connecticut. "That's a relatively quick way to gain a market presence," he explained. Summit has 35 in-store branches in New Jersey. Analysts said Summit has a strong record of building market share, even in competition with much larger institutions. It leads in market share in New Jersey, with 14.7% of deposits, besting Boston-based Fleet Financial Group's 13.8% share, according to Sheshunoff Information Services. Summit's management philosophy has been to break territories into individual markets and to grant management autonomy at the local level. That approach, sometimes called super community banking, is to be exported to Connecticut, where, Mr. Cox said, "we need a good strong local identity." Analysts said this could work to Summit's advantage in Connecticut, where the competition includes Fleet, First Union Corp., and Chase Manhattan Corp., all of which are based out of state. "Their home court advantage is pretty significant," said Sean J. Ryan, an analyst at Bear, Stearns & Co. Mr. Afragola and Mr. Howell said in interviews that they will spend the next five months preparing to combine the operations of New Canaan Bank and NSS Bancorp. NSS shareholders approved their deal last week, and Summit said it expects to close the transaction this month. Shareholders of New Canaan Bank are to vote early next year, with a closing planned for the end of the first quarter.
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