Updated July 2 at 5:02pm

Loan growth drives profit at banks

'Mid-tier banks have been very strong and active.'

For some banks, there’s no time like the present.

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FINANCIAL SERVICES

Loan growth drives profit at banks

'Mid-tier banks have been very strong and active.'

Posted:

For some banks, there’s no time like the present.

Less than fours years removed from the beginning of the Great Recession, financial institutions – especially those of modest size in comparison to the “too big to fail” institutions that precipitated the financial bashing of the world economy – are now investing in commercial ventures and in doing so are making a nifty profit.

“We’re seeing additional demand,” said James T. Rizzo, senior vice president at Rockland Trust Co., part of a continuing trend he sees in which smaller, regional banks are taking clients from larger, national banks as they fail to show the ability to service prospects.

“A good percentage of Rockland’s growth is from clients refinancing away from the larger banks,” Rizzo said. Based on current events he expects the trend to continue.

The numbers back him up. Independent Bank Corp., the parent of Rockland Trust, posted net income of $12.2 million for the first quarter of 2012, an increase of 8.9 percent from the 2011 first quarter. Total loans rose to $3.9 billion as of March 31, an increase of 8 percent over a year earlier, thanks to a 12-month increase of 8 percent in commercial loans.

Washington Trust Bancorp Inc. has posted record net income for three consecutive quarters, thanks in large part to its growth in commercial loans. The parent company of The Washington Trust Co. saw its total loans increase $8.2 million to $2.2 billion over the 12 months ended March 31, led by a $17.2 million increase in commercial mortgages.

Despite the expanding geography of its portfolio, however, with commercial loans going to Long Island and western Connecticut as well as closer to home, Joseph J. Marc-Aurele, Washington Trust chairman, president and CEO, expected a larger commercially based profit. “We saw moderate increases in our commercial loan portfolio in the first quarter, however demand has not been robust,” he said.

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