One outcome of these times is that de novo banks actually have an advantage as the new kids on the block. As troubled competitors try to unwind problem assets from distant headquarters, a startup's message can be simple and direct: "We don't have bad loans on our books and we're local."

Last November, NUVO Bank & Trust became the first de novo to open its doors in Western Massachusetts in more than two decades, dating back to the 1987 opening of Bank of Western Massachusetts, now a division of People's United Bank of Bridgeport, Conn.

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