Steven M. Parente is senior vice president and director of retail banking for Bank Rhode Island. He is responsible for BankRI’s retail branch locations, BARI Investment Services and the customer service support center, as well as and marketing and mortgage sales.
Prior to joining BankRI in 2009, Parente was a senior vice president of retail banking with Citizens Bank for seven years. He has worked in the financial services industry for 19 years.
He currently serves on the board of directors for Adoption Rhode Island and as chairman of the Chariho Regional School District Audit Sub-Committee.
Parente has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rhode Island College.
PBN: With Rhode Island still struggling to boost its economy out of the recession, what financial factors motivated BankRI to relocate a branch to a new facility in Johnston and open up a new site in Wakefield?
PARENTE: Johnston is a strong market for BankRI and with the growth we have experienced there since our bank’s inception, we’ve outgrown our current location. We had a great opportunity to be part of a new development in Johnston, as well as give our customers and employees a new, updated facility. South County has been a community we have been doing business in for a while, so we are very comfortable and excited about the opportunity to have a physical location there. Wakefield has done some fantastic things to revitalize the downtown area and we saw this location as a great way to be part of the Main Street community.
PBN: Are there any specific architectural elements that are new to those two new planned facilities? Are those elements influenced by customer preferences or technology or cost of construction?
PARENTE: Designing a new branch is always about customer and employee functionality, convenience, technology and cost. As far as architectural elements, we try to incorporate exterior designs that align with the communities we will be located in, as well as some elements that are specific to our brand. For instance, Johnston will have a stone canopy entrance and Wakefield is a new design based on the community’s Main Street look and feel. The Wakefield branch is designed as an old customhouse using Georgian era architecture. The interior for Wakefield is also slightly different with the use of a second floor, where we will house a team of commercial lenders, mortgage officers and financial consultants.
PBN: There is so much competition for banking customers in Rhode Island, a small state where residents are often bound to tradition, even in their commercial relationships. What market segments is BankRI targeting? Has the bank’s strategy changed in the last year or two?
PARENTE: Our strategy hasn’t changed at all through this economic downturn. We are and will continue to be focused on relationship banking whether it is a consumer or commercial customer. We saw very strong growth in 2012 for both segments and we believe a large part of it was the fact we stayed true to our strategy and process. I would say that we are open to all market segments - we are a commercial bank and continue to be focused on supporting Rhode Island businesses of all sizes. This year we launched www.bankribizhub.com, which is a one-stop website for businesses owners to learn more about BankRI’s capabilities and who to contact if they are looking for additional commercial banking support.
PBN: The banking industry seems to be in a constant state of mergers and acquisitions. How do you find consumer and commercial customers are responding to this? Are they more or less willing to change banking relationships?
PARENTE: In New England, we have not experienced the same level of consolidation that other regions have experienced. Most consumers or commercial customers may evaluate their relationship if their bank merges with another bank, or is acquired. However, they typically do not consider changing banks unless they have been impacted by higher fees, less convenience or poor service.
PBN: From your perspective, what’s the future of banking in Rhode Island in the next year? Five years?
PARENTE: I think in the next year, the future is as it is today. Consumers continue to evaluate their needs, whether it’s to save more money, finance education, take advantage of low interest rates or to buy or refinance their home. Commercial customers are focused on opportunities to grow their businesses and succeed in a continued difficult economy. Our focus is how BankRI will continue to support and partner with the Rhode Island business community to help achieve their goals. Longer term, we consistently evaluate what banking and financial services we can offer Rhode Islanders to ensure we meet their needs with the highest level of service, integrity and professionalism. This process has proven to be a successful one and I don’t see a shift away from it now or in the future.