Magazine article American Banker

Connecticut County's Small Banks Hope to Ride Rising Economic Tide

Magazine article American Banker

Connecticut County's Small Banks Hope to Ride Rising Economic Tide

Article excerpt

Community bankers in Fairfield County, Conn., admit to guarded optimism about the future of their banks.

Given the state's recession and recent history of small bank failures, they have reason to be wary.

But the loss of 12 Fairfield County lending institutions since 1989 -- and the forays of several megabanks -- will provide important small-bank opportunities as the state's economy warms up, the bankers said.

There are signs of economic upticks throughout the county -- about 20 miles north of New York City. Moreover, there's a small rebound among small businesses -- and Dean P. Remoundos, who is trying to start Patriot National Bank, Stamford, with small-business investment, is a believer.

"We started raising capital in November, during all the holidays and all through the snow-bound months, and we've already raised $2.5 million, or 45% of our target," he said.

"If we pull this off, we'll still have to fight for business, and we'll have to be smart with regard to our overhead and premises to ensure we survive." Patriot National evidently is being smart asking small businesses to invest.

Stamford is home to a number of Fortune 500 subsidiaries, some 10,000 small businesses, and a diverse population of more than 100,000. So, rather than trying to persuade "high net worth individuals" that they should invest a bundle in Patriot, the bank has sought small investments among small businessmen in mixed, Greek, Italian, and Latin- and African-American neighborhoods.

"They're the borrowers being ignored or overlooked by money centers and superregionals," Mr. Remoundos added. "We have maybe five or six people with $50,000 in the bank, but the rest have put in the minimum $600, or a $1,000, so, in the end, we'll have as many as 1,000 investors -- and a thousand points of advertising for a business where word of mouth will make or break ann institution. …

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