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Pittsfield Historical Society's
History of Pittsfield

People's Heritage Bank / TD Banknorth

Some history of the acquisitions that resulted in the name change.

Effective January 1, 2002, People's Heritage Bank, NA changed its name to Banknorth, NA

Effective January 1, 2002. First Massachusetts Bank, N.A. (d/b/a "GBT"), Bank of New Hampshire, N.A., The Howard Bank, N.A., First Vermont Bank, N.A., Franklin Lamoille Bank, N.A., and Evergreen Bank, N.A. merged with and into People's Heritage Bank, N.A. under the latter's charter number. The resulting bank title is Banknorth, National Association.

Effective August 31, 2002. Banking Commissioner approved the application of Banknorth Group, Inc. to acquire and retain the ownership and control of 100 percent of the issued and outstanding voting stock of Bancorp Connecticut, Inc., and indirectly, Southington Savings Bank, and issued a notice of intent not to disapprove such acquisitions. The Commissioner also approved the merger of Southington Savings Bank, with and into Banknorth, National Association.

Effective February 14, 2003. Banking Commissioner approved the application of Banknorth Group, Inc., a holding company with its principal place of business in Portland, ME, and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Banknorth, National Association, to acquire American Financial Holdings, Inc., New Britain, and its wholly-owned subsidiary, American Savings Bank, a state-chartered savings bank headquartered in New Britain, and the subsequent merger of American Savings Bank with and into Banknorth, National Association.

June 21, 2004. Banknorth Group recently finalized its acquisitions of CCBT Financial Companies, Inc., the parent company of Cape Cod Bank and Trust Company, and Foxborough Savings Bank.

"Portland, Me.-based Banknorth Group has signed a letter of intent to acquire Drake, Swan & Crocker Insurance Agency, Inc. of Orleans, Mass.

Banknorth Insurance Group, a subsidiary of Banknorth Group (NYSE: BNK) in Portland, Maine, is the largest insurance group in New England and the 44th largest in the country..."

March 1, 2005. TD Bank Financial Group and Banknorth Group, Inc. announced a definitive agreement for TD Bank Financial Group to acquire 51% of the outstanding shares of Banknorth. The Toronto-Dominion Bank and its subsidiaries are collectively known as TD Bank Financial Group. Banknorth Group, Inc., headquartered in Portland, Maine, operates a division of Banknorth, N.A. in Connecticut.

July 12, 2005. TD Banknorth Inc. and Hudson United Bancorp announced that they have signed a definitive agreement for TD Banknorth to acquire Hudson United for approximately US$1.9 billion in cash and TD Banknorth stock. On a pro forma basis, the transaction will create a regional financial services company with 590 branches, 751 ATMs and over US$26 billion in deposits across 8 northeastern states.

William J. Ryan, president and chief executive officer of Banknorth Group, the Portland, Maine-based banking and insurance company, thinks big about small-town banking.

The nation's 37th largest bank, the fourth largest in New England behind FleetBoston Financial, Sovereign and Citizens, Banknorth Group strives to be a big bank that provides the same level of customer service as small banks.

Customer service is "a religion with us," says Ryan, 58, Banknorth Group's president and chief executive officer.

That might comfort longtime customers at Andover Bank, who learned in June it would join the other community banks in Banknorth Group's stable.

Banknorth Group's purchase of Andover Bancorp for $333 million in stock and Framingham-based Metrowest Bank for $133 million in cash, received regulatory approval last week and became final yesterday.

"I like to tell our people, we don't have to be the best looking or the brightest, but we do have to work a lot harder than most to keep this company where it is," Ryan says.

Such Frank Capra-like banking wisdom would seem a little far-fetched for a bank with 400 branches in six states, and whose assets will surpass $20 billion with yesterday's two acquisitions. But Ryan has already impressed others with his sincerity and his ability to build a banking conglomerate that still functions like a community bank.

"I think of all the CEOs I've gotten to know over the years, Bill is probably the most accessible, most no-nonsense CEO I've met. He doesn't really have a lot of ego," said James Ackor, banking analyst for brokerage firm Tucker Anthony in Portland, Maine.

Ackor who has covered Banknorth for seven years, says the company's modus operandi has been to look for like-minded banks with sound management and strong positions at the edge of Banknorth's reach, then acquire them. When Banknorth acquired Family Bank of Haverhill in 1996, it seemed only natural it would try to build a "critical mass" of Massachusetts bank branches by extending into the "very attractive" Andover market, Ackor said.

"(Ryan) has really delivered on all of the promises he has made to his shareholders and he has done it without exposing them to a lot of risk," he said.

In fact, Ryan got his start as a bank president down the street from Andover, on Lawrence's Essex Street. Ryan, a Cumberland Center, Maine, native, holds degrees from St. Francis College in New York and Rutgers University in New Jersey. In 1987, Ryan went to work for Bay State National Bank, then a property of New England Merchants Bank of Boston. His role expanded when Bank of New England bought Merchants Bank, giving him responsibility for the entire Boston North region.

"I really have special ties to the Merrimack Valley because it was my first opportunity to act as bank president," Ryan said.

In 1990, when Bank of New England failed and was purchased by Fleet, Ryan accepted a position from People's Heritage Bank of Maine.

He took over a bank that was dangerously overextended and lost $90 million from 1990 to 1992 from unrecoverable loans, most of them in real estate.

"We weren't worried about joining banking's elite back then. We were the 135th-largest bank in New England, two months away from failing," Ryan told American Banker in 1999.

Ryan replaced 25 of the company's top 35 managers and worked to diversify the bank's holdings. He tightened the bank's loan approval process and tried to make it more conservative.

"If it comes to you easy, you better rethink what you are doing," said Ryan, explaining what he learned from that period.

Although many of its Maine rivals failed, Heritage did not. It acquired Portland-based Banknorth in 1999 for $781 million, changing its name to Banknorth Group. The bank's total assets pushed past $5 billion, then $10 billion, then $15 billion.

"The turnaround in banking, with all those mergers, he was a real leader in that," said John Fitzpatrick, president and chief executive officer of Lawrence's First Essex Bank from 1974 to 1989.

Now that Ryan and Banknorth are once again taking up posts in the Merrimack Valley, Ryan says he wants Banknorth to feel just like a local bank, except in the number of services it can offer.

"There are some advantages of being big as long as you understand that the services still have to be given in a very local way," Ryan said.

Some of those advantages will likely be larger lending capacity, investment counseling for municipalities as well as individuals and Sunday banking hours at some of its branches.

"We were the first bank in Maine to be open on Sundays, we were the first in Massachusetts to be open on Sundays, and we were the first in New England to have supermarket branches, so we have a long history of taking aggressive positions in customer service," said Ryan,.

Heads of competing local banks already say they question whether a Maine-based conglomerate can compete with their knowledge of local communities -- although they say they welcome Banknorth and Ryan to the field.

"We can out-local them -- we understand our marketplace very well," said Leonard Wilson, president and chief executive officer of First Essex Bank in Andover.

Banknorth's size does pose a problem, financial analyst Ackor admits.

"You reach a point where it becomes increasingly difficult to present yourself as a community bank," he said. That point would have been accumulating $20 billion in assets until Banknorth pushed past that point today. Now Ackor said he thinks if anyone can manage it, Ryan and Banknorth may be the ones.

"(Ryan) has done a very good job in delegating and distributing authority, and that is one of the big secrets to his success. I think he has raised the bar," Ackor said.

Original Version: 19-Feb-2006.

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