Bangor Savings sees eleventh year of growth in tepid economy

By Matt Wickenheiser, BDN Staff
Posted June 25, 2012, at 4:17 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor Savings Bank saw earnings grow for the eleventh straight year and lent more than $700 million in loans, despite the “ lackluster Maine economy,” bank President and CEO Jim Conlon said Monday.

The 160-year-old bank held its annual meeting Monday in Orono, detailing its latest fiscal year for corporators, trustees, business leaders and employees. The bank’s fiscal year ended March 31.

“The bank is alive and well,” Conlon said. “We’re doing better than just holding our own.”

Conlon told the Bangor Daily News that of the $700 million in new loans, about $300 million was in home mortgages, $300 million in business loans and $100 million in consumer loans, such as home equity agreements.

The bank earned profits of $18.5 million, a 4.4 percent increase over the previous year, Conlon said. Its overall assets are approaching $2.6 billion, and customers opened more than 25,000 new deposit accounts in the year, including 2,500 small business accounts.

James Goff, chairman of the board of directors, noted that there wasn’t a big growth of new business in Maine over the last year, so many of those new accounts were customers migrating from other banks.

On the overall economy, Conlon said business confidence is still not where it needs to be for real growth.

“The businesses we talk to are feeling better than last year,” he said.

Their outlooks are improving, he added, as is their backlog of orders. Still, he said, many business owners are hesitant to make acquisitions, or hire new employees.

“We need more vibrancy in the Maine economy,” he said.

He noted one positive sign will be when Maine businesses begin to more fully use their commercial lines of credit with banks. Such utilization dropped by almost half over the last 24 to 36 months, he added.

On the foreclosure front, the bank has 21 loans in foreclosure, and owns 12 pieces of property it acquired through failed loans, worth a total of $775,000, Conlon said.

In most cases, Conlon said, the foreclosures the bank is seeing involve situations where both wage earners have lost their jobs, have borrowed from family members, have exhausted credit card resources and have no other resources.

“What they really need is jobs,” he said.

That differs from other foreclosures from larger, out-of-state institutions that were predicated by problem loans, he said.

Conlon said although he believes the housing market has stabilized in Maine, it is more common for delays in the appraisals necessary to complete loans. And those appraisals often are coming in below the sales prices of homes or properties, he said, a stark difference from half a decade ago.

Asked about Moody’s lowering the ratings of some of the world’s largest banks recently, Conlon said it was “terrible for the industry.” And because of past problems with larger institutions, community banks such as Bangor Savings have to deal with higher FDIC premiums and more regulation, in general. However, he added, it also gives community banks a stark point of differentiation from other, larger institutions.

New clients who bank with Bangor Savings say they like the fact that the bank is local, they can deal with people they know and they have access to modern products and banking technology, Conlon said.

Bangor Savings has made a push into other markets in recent years, including Cumberland County, with a focus on Portland. It’s opening its 57th branch in February in Augusta, as well, and has more than 700 employees. Over the next year, Conlon said, he expects the bank to continue to build and grow those newer operations.

He said while he preferred Camden National wasn’t making a push into his backyard with the acquisition of 15 Bank of America branches, he added that he welcomed the competition. Due to federal regulations, Bangor Savings wouldn’t have been allowed to bid on the banks in Bangor, he noted. Bank of America was unwilling to split up the branches — they wanted to deal with one buyer, he said — so Bangor Savings was precluded from making an offer on the branches.

Conlon also mentioned the $1.4 million the bank and its foundation gave to nonprofits in scholarships and grants in the last year.

“If you do the right things, [and are] doing them for the right reasons, it comes back to you,” he said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/06/25/business/bangor-savings-sees-eleventh-year-of-growth-in-tepid-economy/ printed on September 19, 2014