3 min read July 2023 — In an interview with Invest:, Jeffrey Tengel, CEO of Rockland Trust Bank, spoke about his vision for the bank, its role in supporting small and medium-sized businesses in the Greater Boston area and its community outreach initiatives.
What is your vision for Rockland Trust Bank as the new CEO?
Prior to joining the bank, I had heard many positive things about the institution. It was voted one of the Top Places to Work by Boston Globe for the past 14 years. The employees truly care for one another and their customers. One of my top priorities is to maintain, nurture and foster that culture to ensure it endures. We can be very successful, whether that’s organic, through acquisitions or new product development. Part of my job is to enable us to think through some of the things we can do, now that we’ve almost doubled in size in the last three years. We’ll continue serving our communities and doing all the things that we’ve done before but also bring perspective on what it means to be a larger organization.
How did the bank’s landscape look when you became CEO?
I started my role here in February taking over from our previous CEO, Chris Oddleifson, who had been with Rockland Trust for 20 years. He witnessed the bank grow from $2 billion to $20 billion in assets. His advice to me was to spend time listening, learning and meeting all the employees. Right before I joined, our Investment Management Group hit a record milestone of over $6 billion in assets under administration which made coming in during that time even more exciting. The seizure of Silicon Valley Bank by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in March demanded significant customer outreach and diverted our focus from other matters. We’re still conscious of the potential for ongoing disruption in the banking industry, particularly in deposits.
What market fundamentals or strengths will enable Rockland Trust Bank to continue to grow?
The Greater Boston area is often described as a hub for eds, meds and tech. The legacy of Rockland Trust is deeply rooted in southeastern Massachusetts. We have a long history of serving small and medium-sized businesses there. It’s also where we have the greatest density of physical branch locations. In 2021, we acquired East Boston Savings, which brought us into some new markets as well as expanded our presence deeper into the greater Boston communities. One aspect that sets us apart is that there aren’t any silos within our company. We have figured out how to work seamlessly across all lines of business, whether it’s commercial, wealth management or retail. It sounds easy but requires a great deal of trust, care and handling those relationships internally and externally. We aim to bring this approach to our newer markets as well.
What contributions does the bank make to support the growth of small to medium-sized businesses?
In addition to providing capital, we have an emotional connection to our customers and the communities we serve. We live and work in them. Through our foundation, we actively give back whether it’s through financial contributions or volunteer work. This 360-view of what we’re doing in those communities is important to the small businesses as they’re very much part of the community ecosystem as well. In 2022, Rockland Trust and the Rockland Trust Charitable Foundation provided over $3.2 million in grants and donations to over 760 organizations. Additionally, our colleagues donated nearly 8,500 hours of their time by volunteering throughout our communities.
How is the bank shifting its focus on services, community and client outreach to address the changing priorities of its clients?
The bank’s primary focus is taking care of our customers and each other. Rates have been increasing, so we need to be mindful of that and respond accordingly. Maintaining and stabilizing our deposit levels and making sure that we’re protecting our margins is a big priority for us. Regarding the credit environment, there’s been extensive market discussion about commercial real estate becoming the next hotspot. We’ve been proactive in reaching out to commercial real estate projects to get out ahead of any upcoming maturities and lease rollovers. We’re having early conversations with them so we can collaborate to ensure that we’re doing the right things together. Normally, banks are talking about loan growth and they want to be able to show positive results. However, the current markets don’t place as much emphasis on loan growth.
How is Rockland Trust Bank leveraging the trend of consolidation in community banking and how do you plan to capitalize on any opportunities?
We stick to our knitting and have built a strong reputation as the bank that stands by its customers and is a reliable community partner. Many clients approach us after experiencing difficulties with their current banks as we represent stability. Once we navigate through this current environment, there will be opportunities for us to acquire other banks. We are fortunate to have significant capital, excellent credit quality and strong financial metrics around returns and margins. This positions us well to be an acquirer. Part of my role is to build relationships with my peers. The benefit in this is we can learn from each other and build a network. To the extent any of the smaller banks decide that the cost of complying with ongoing regulations or the competition is just too difficult, we want them to view Rockland Trust as an organization that will be there for them. If they feel the need to sell or find a partner or if there are unique issues they face, such as credit or liquidity concerns, they have somewhere to turn. Building connections with local bankers is a crucial aspect of my job, ensuring they understand the type of company Rockland Trust is. In the past, we were the preferred acquirer due to our robust and empathetic culture.
What community outreach initiatives or programs are you excited about for the remainder of this year and looking ahead to 2024?
We have a dedicated financial education strategist, Julie Beckham, who runs the bank’s financial literacy programs. Ms. Money’s Classroom is an interactive free online platform for parents and teachers to share the basics of money through songs and worksheets for children grades k-5, available in both English and Spanish. We have a learning center on our website that features articles and videos to help individuals and business owners navigate their finances. The learning center is also home to Julie’s two podcasts that help break down financial jargon and topics in a “shame-free” zone. Julie and her mission have given us a unique way to connect with different parts of the community. In addition, we host our annual Small Business, Big Dreams Contest, a competition that offers small business owners a chance to grow their enterprises. This contest has been running for the last six years and takes on a shark tank-like feel. The winner receives $20,000. We’re also pairing up with an organization called Tommy’s Place, a local nonprofit that provides vacation experiences for children battling cancer on Cape Cod. We have been handing out lemonade stand kits to families that visit our branch network. Through the kits, local children are learning about the importance of sharing money by donating the proceeds of their lemonade stands to Tommy’s Place.
What are your priorities for Rockland Trust Bank over the next two to three years?
We have to get through the messiness of the ongoing rising rates that have impacted deposits and commercial real estate. We’re a methodical organization. We put one foot in front of the other. We’re not a swing-for-the-fences, bet-the-bank kind of organization. Our tagline is Where Each Relationship Matters®Our internal relationships are equally as important as those with our customers. People always say you have to put the customer first but we believe employees come first. We’re the type of organization where people like to come to work and work with one another. It’s a collaborative and collegial organization. We invest in our employees to ensure that they have a career path and a sense of purpose.
We take it one day at a time, getting better each day. It’s about taking care of relationships. Due to our size, we’re at a place where we can invest differently in technology and some of the product sets that we have. We’ll invest more in business to be able to offer more and better services as we grow.
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