By Ed Avis
Last year the five regional business development teams at Lake Sunapee Bank, headquartered in Newport, N.H., set a goal of visiting 100 centers of influence, attorneys and CPAs in 100 days. The teams—made up of commercial lenders, residential lenders, branch managers and people from the bank’s trust department—smashed that goal and met with 220 businesses.
“These meetings weren’t just stopping by to say ‘Hi,’” explains Bill McIver, the $1.6 billion-asset community bank’s senior executive vice president and chief operating officer. “They were formal sit-downs with the businesses’ staffs, where we brought coffee and doughnuts and talked about what they do, and what we do, and what we could do to help each other.”
Those meetings were illustrative of the no-silos approach at Lake Sunapee Bank, which maintains a loan portfolio that is approximately 60 percent residential mortgages and 40 percent commercial lending that involves mostly commercial real estate. The lending departments feed off each other. Last year the bank earned an overall loans-to-assets ratio of 80.4 percent, placing it 22nd among the top-producing ICBA member banks with $1 billion or more in assets.
“The regional teams break down the barriers,” McIver says. “We want to make sure we’re holistically selling the basket of services. There are a lot of referrals going back and forth.”
Lake Sunapee Bank is located in a rich residential market. The bank’s namesake lake is a vacation area, so the bank finances many second homes around that body of water. The communities around Newport also have strong educational institutions, such as Dartmouth College and Colby-Sawyer College, and leading medical facilities, such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
“A lot of new residents have been coming in for the hospital,” McIver says. “Our mortgage pipeline is strong. It’s not as strong as it was in some of the really boom years, but we’re experiencing gradual growth.”
In addition to the referrals generated by the regional business development teams, the bank’s residential lending has been helped by strong relationships the bank has developed with local real estate professionals, McIver says. For example, the bank recently held a dozen seminars for real estate professionals around New Hampshire to explain new disclosure requirements.
“Well over 150 Realtors attended the seminars,” McIver says. “A lot of Realtors learned about us, and it gave us a chance to touch them in a different way.”
The real estate professionals also like the fact that Lake Sunapee Bank services its own loans and does its part to ensure smooth closings, McIver says.
Also helping the bank’s lending was the 2012 acquisition of Nashua Bank, which is located near the northern border of Massachusetts. That move has helped the bank tap the vibrant real estate market north of Boston.
For the bank’s strong loan production, however, McIver ultimately applauds the bank’s 11 loan originators, spread across 35 branch offices in New Hampshire and Vermont, for harvesting the fertile lending market the bank has developed.
“We have a highly motivated group of originators who are very competitive and looking to bring in that next deal,” he says. “And they do a great job of it.”
Ed Avis is a writer in Illinois.