Magazine article American Banker

Name Isn't All That's Changing at Mass. Thrift

Magazine article American Banker

Name Isn't All That's Changing at Mass. Thrift

Article excerpt

Lawrence Savings Bank in North Andover, Mass., is starting a makeover by changing the name it has had for nearly 140 years.

Only one of its six branches is in Lawrence, so the $546 million-asset thrift is renaming itself RiverBank to better reflect its market area -- the Merrimack River Valley north of Boston. Another goal is to change residents' and business owners' attitudes toward the thrift.

The new president and chief executive, Gerald T. Mulligan, admits the thrift had a reputation of being too conservative.

"We wanted to shed the old image of being a stodgy bank, and show that we're now a little bit more competitive, and more vibrant," said Mr. Mulligan, a former Massachusetts banking commissioner and part of a new management team hired in January.

Along with the name change, the thrift has a plan to boost profits by pumping up loan volume, attracting deposits with new checking products along with higher rates on certificates of deposits, and installing drive-up automated teller machines at most of its branches. It has already lengthened branch hours, introduced a free checking account, and eliminated some deposit fees.

"We want everyone to know that we're changing, and becoming much more customer-focused," Mr. Mulligan said.

The company's key initiatives include making more loans and increasing its net interest margins, which according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data have been below average for thrifts in its asset class for the past five years.

Its margins have been low because the thrift has tended to hold on to much of its capital. Its loan-to-asset ratio was about 50% when Mr. Mulligan and his team joined, and he said that it would aim to bump the ratio to 75% by investing more of its capital into loans, particularly commercial loans and home equity lines of credit.

Lawrence Savings is also repositioning its balance sheet. …

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