MV Co-op, Dukes County banks merge
New $460 million bank results
Citing a shared culture of personal service and community values and the evolving nature of the banking business, the presidents of the Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank and Dukes County Savings Bank on Tuesday announced plans to merge the financial institutions.
The merged banks will be named the Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank. The merger, which requires the approval of state and federal regulators, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The new bank will continue to be mutually owned and locally based, with nine branches, 12 ATMs and a trust and investment office serving Martha's Vineyard. No layoffs are expected, according to a joint press release.
Once the merger is complete, two of the three Island banks, the new Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank and the Edgartown National Bank, will be locally owned. The Bank of Martha's Vineyard is a division of the mainland Sovereign Bank, one of the largest banking institutions in the United States.
Richard Leonard (left), Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank president and Christopher A. Wells, Dukes County Savings Bank president, outside the Dukes County Bank in Edgartown Tuesday afternoon, after announcing the merger of the two banks. Photo by Jon Ollwerther
The merger is not necessarily one of equals. The MV Co-Operative Bank is the older of the two. Founded in 1909, it has assets of $160 million and employs 46 people in three Vineyard locations.
Dukes County Savings Bank, the newer of the two, was founded in 1955 and has assets exceeding $300 million, 61 employees and seven locations on the Island.
Tuesday afternoon, the press was invited to the office of Dukes County Savings Bank president Christopher A. Wells for an informal press conference. Joining Mr. Wells in his office at 1 pm in the bank's Edgartown headquarters was Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank president Richard Leonard.
Also present were representatives of The Times and radio station WMVY. The Vineyard Gazette did not attend.
"This is a big day for us," said Mr. Wells. "This announcement is huge."
Mr. Leonard agreed. "This is close to 50 years in the works," he said, describing informal conversations that had taken place over the years between leaders of the two banks.
At ease and appearing comfortable in both their personal and professional relationships, the men talked about the decision-making that led them and their respective boards to conclude that a merger was in the best interests of their banks, their employees and the community.
Mr. Wells, who arrived on the Vineyard in 2004 with a background in financial services and local banking on Cape Cod, said that Mr. Leonard came to visit him soon after he arrived to say hello. As the two men got to know each other, they realized that both banks had similar operations and goals, he said.
At the same time, both banks acknowledged that they were dealing with increasing regulatory requirements and the need to continue to invest in costly computer technology. The anticipation of efficiencies possible in a merger led to a meeting.
The discussion reached a conclusion, said Mr. Wells, after Mr. Leonard was assured that the two banks shared the same values.
The merger path was made easier because both bank boards include local people who in many cases know each other well and supported the agreement, said Mr. Leonard.
Competition from a variety of outside financial services has increased dramatically in recent years. The banking leaders said that the merger would complement existing services and allow the merged bank to offer more products and services and provide growth opportunities for their employees.
The pending change was also embraced by bank employees who were informed of the boards' votes to merge at a staff meeting Monday evening. "The staff reaction was wonderful," said Mr. Leonard. "The response was really heartwarming."
Both men cited the rewards of community banking. The interaction with customers and the opportunity to help people purchase a home or open a business is personally satisfying, they said.
Aside from the efficiencies and the added services, the banking leaders said the merger would help strengthen the bank for the future.
Highlighting the difference between a bank owned by stockholders who may not be local residents and a mutual bank that is owned by the depositors, Mr. Wells said the board members wanted to make sure that there would be a locally owned bank well into the future.
Although Vineyarders will have one less choice when seeking a mortgage, Mr. Leonard, a community leader in the effort to develop affordable housing, said that the merger would enhance lending opportunities and the number of products that are offered,
Mr. Leonard said, "We are just really excited that we were able to come together for all the right reasons."
"That really is very important to us," said Mr. Wells, underscoring Mr. Leonard's comment, "and that is a good way to put it."
Under the terms of the proposed merger agreement, the directors of The Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank will join with the members of the Dukes County Savings Bank's board of trustees and its board of corporators. The resulting bank will operate within the structure of a state chartered mutual savings bank. The combined Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank will remain FDIC and DIF insured for all deposits.
Mr. Wells will serve as president, while Mr. Leonard will take on the role of chief operating officer. Philip J. Norton, Jr., the current chairman of The Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank, will be chairman of the combined bank's expanded board of trustees. Frank M. Fenner Jr., current chairman of the Dukes County Savings Bank, will be vice chairman of the new board of trustees.
In addition to approval of federal and state regulators, the merger will need approval from the Dukes County Savings Bank's board of corporators and the Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank's depositors.