WATERBURY, Conn. - Webster Financial Corp. said Thursday that it would add at least 20 branches in the next three years in Connecticut and nearby states.

The $11.8 billion-asset holding company for Webster Bank, which has more than 100 branches in Connecticut, said its goal is to extend its reach and generate $1 billion of core deposits by 2004. A larger branch network would also support its business banking, mortgage banking, and financial services divisions, it said.

James Smith, the chairman and chief executive of Webster Bank, said in a press release that the branch building, scheduled to begin next year in Fairfield County, "is designed to leverage our strong, concentrated Connecticut base by expanding aggressively into attractive contiguous markets."

Webster would continue to consider bank acquisitions in coming years, he said.

The company said it would also look to open branches in New London and the Hartford/Springfield corridor.

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