INDEPENDENT'S DAY? Joseph J. MarcAurele says that it is very difficult for a smaller bank to remain independent.
PBN PHOTO/HILARY ROSENTHAL
By Kelly L. Anderson PBN Staff Writer
With a $2.9 billion asset level, Washington Trust Bancorp Inc. is not your usual community bank.
The bank goes into the new year looking to maintain it’s calculated and conservative reactions to the markets, the global economy, customer needs and positioning itself to continue competing with big banks, said Joseph J. MarcAurele, chairman, president and CEO of Washington Trust.
MarcAurele has kept his finger on the pulse of the global economy over the last year, making sure Washington Trust was in line with reality.
He sees continued slow growth in the economy but thinks his bank in 2012 will improve on this year’s strong performance.
PBN: It seems like big banks took a very public pounding in 2011, more so than previous years. Is that your perception?
MARCAURELE: It’s really taken the better part of three years for particularly the larger banks to kind of right themselves. I think what you see now is really a consumer backlash to some extent that has to do with activities that took place at banks that led to the financial crisis in 2008. What I think you will see going forward is the banks will straighten out, they will rectify a lot of the problems that existed pre-2008. And to some extent they will be more cautious and more straightforward in the way they deal particularly with consumers. … All that being said, there is going to remain a strain on the system that has lot to do with the ongoing slowness of the economy, which in my opinion will take at least another couple of years to gather real momentum.
PBN: Do you think businesses have more of a comfort level with a community bank than a mega-bank?
MARCAURELE: I think clearly, particularly for small and mid-size businesses, there has been a flight to community banks where people sense they have a better chance to have a personal relationship with their banker and where they know the senior management of the bank. Over time the larger banks will more than likely get better at that but I think right now we have an opportunity as a community bank to grow our business.
PBN: How do you think the $234 million purchase of Bancorp Rhode Island Inc. will play out in the state over the coming year?