TRUST IN IT: Washington Trust Chairman, President and CEO Joseph J. MarcAurele says the bank saw 11 percent growth in commercial lending in 2012.
PBN FILE PHOTO/HILARY ROSENTHAL
GROWING PORTFOLIO: Bank Rhode Island had 14 percent growth in commercial lending in 2012. Pictured above are, from left, Bank Rhode Island Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking Manny Barrows, President and CEO Mark Meiklejohn and Senior Vice President and Director of Retail Banking Steven Parente.
Local banks of all sizes are edging up on the optimism scale, buoyed at least in part by profits tied to substantial increases in commercial lending in 2012.
Bank of America Corp. initiated $65.5 million in total new-loan production for small business in the Ocean State last year, a 78 percent increase from about $37 million in total loan production initiated during 2011, according to bank spokesman Donald Vecchiarello.
“It certainly is a very large increase in Rhode Island and stands out, even amid our very positive 28 percent growth in new loans we had for small business throughout the country,” said Vecchiarello, based in the bank’s Charlotte, N.C., headquarters.
Bank Rhode Island, The Rockland Trust Co. and The Washington Trust Co. were among the other banks to report strong growth in commercial lending locally due to pent-up demand and a reviving economy.
The reasons Rhode Island rose so far above the national growth rate in Bank of America’s small-business loans aren’t immediately apparent, Vecchiarello said. The bank added 1,000 bankers across the United States who have expertise in working with small business, with four of those in Rhode Island.
“I think the reasons we saw significant growth in Rhode Island are that we’ve hired more small-business bankers and the economy is starting to turn,” he said.
The loans were typically for businesses with $20 million or less in annual revenue, he said.
Bank of America understands the value of having local bankers active in the community and serving Rhode Island businesses, he said.
“They’re not sitting in banking centers. They’re out and about meeting with people at their places of business,” Vecchiarello said. “They’re not waiting for people to come to see them.”
Bank of America is not alone in its position of being a big bank increasing small-business lending.
In January, small-business loan-approval rates at banks with at least $10 billion in assets increased to 15.3 percent, up from the 14.9 percent rate in December 2012, based on the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index, a monthly analysis of 1,000 loan applications, according to Biz2Credit.com