Edgartown National, Rockland Trust merger will bring changes

Rockland Trust Bank, with $7.5 billion in assets, will acquire the Island banking institution. A complete transition is expected by May.

Rockland Trust will acquire Edgartown National Bank. —Stacey Rupolo

Rockland Trust Bank, a dominant financial institution in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, founded in 1907, will acquire Edgartown National Bank, headquartered in Edgartown, and founded in 1905.

The announcement was made late Thursday after the close of stock market trading, in a press release.

On an unseasonably balmy Friday,morning, officials from Rockland Trust and Edgartown National Bank gathered at the main branch of Edgartown National Bank on Water Street, to discuss the merger; and for Rockland Trust officers to present a $25,000 donation to the Island Housing Trust (IHT).

“Our bank has done well, despite the need to be twice our size,” Edgartown National Bank president and CEO Fielding Moore told The Times. Mr. Moore, a well known figure in the community, said this was the fifth merger in his 47 years in the banking business. He said the deal was negotiated after an “intensive” selection process that began over a year ago. “We felt this was the best solution for shareholders and for our employees,” he said. “Rockland Trust was superior in all the important categories, they’re a community bank and they treat their employees very well. That was very important to us.”

Rockland Trust was ranked number 1 on the Boston Globe’s annual “Top Places to Work” list from 2009 to 2015. Employees are given two paid days off a year to work on non-profit projects.

Rockland Trust currently has approximately $7.5 billion in assets. Edgartown National currently has $194 million in assets, according to a press release.

Mr. Moore said all Island branches of Edgartown National Bank will remain open after the merger. The name and signage will change in May 2017.

Some of the 40 Edgartown Savings Bank employees will be laid off in the wake of the merger. “Inevitably in a merger, some positions can’t be duplicated,” Mr. Moore said. “Rockland Trust has a very good track record in job placement assistance for employees.”

Mr. Moore will step down in nine months and Edgartown National Bank senior vice president Delos “Dee” Lander will be in charge of the Rockland Trust branches on Martha’s Vineyard. Mr. Lander has been a full time Island resident since 2006.  He is also on the board of directors of the Island Housing Trust.

“I think this is a win-win-win for our customers, our community, and for most of our employees,” Mr. Lander said. He estimated “less than half” of the 40 Edgartown National Bank employees on Island will be made redundant in the merger.

“Rockland has a very experienced human resources department and displaced employees will get top priority in any Rockland job openings,” Mr. Lander said. There are positions currently available at Rockland Trust  which would necessitate a move off-Island. He added that all employees from the Bank of Cape Cod, which was acquired by Rockland Trust in March, had found jobs or retired.

Between now and the official conversion in May, Mr. Lander said it will be business as usual at Edgartown National Bank. “All of the people will be the same, all the products will be the same, we have plenty of money to lend. We have a record number of loans in our pipeline.”

Local focus

Rockland Trust CEO Christopher Oddleifson said that post-merger, Rockland Trust branch offices on the Island will in many ways continue to act as a local bank.

“We’re local. We’re not even statewide, we’re more like Boston and south,” he said. “We get to know our customers better, and when they go through hard times, we actually spend time with them to see what’s going on. Some banks would point people to the foreclosures department, but we’ll have a conversation and try to work things out.”

As an example, Mr. Oddleifson said Rockland Trust has worked with cranberry farmers as they struggle with this year’s drought. “No one benefits when a business collapses,” he said. “Not the community, not the bank, not the owner of the business. This doesn’t mean we’re a pushover. We have tough conversations.”

Mr. Oddleifson said customers will see technology upgrades, such as an upgraded website and a mobile phone app that allows for remote check deposits. Business owners can be notified via text if the amount of a check that is cashed doesn’t match an amount of a check they’ve issued. “We have also invested a great deal into cybersecurity, and Edgartown National customers will certainly benefit from that,” he said. “We’re constantly adding firewalls and updating our systems.”

Mr. Oddleifson said he’s cognizant of the housing crisis that exists on the Island, and elsewhere in the state. “I’m chairman of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership,” he said. “We’re funded by a slice of every bank transaction, which we, in turn, loan out to help subsidize affordable housing. I’m acutely aware of the need for housing, not only for folks who need subsidy, but for workforce housing. We know this problem is 10 times worse on the Vineyard. We can’t subsidize our way out of the problem. We need to address zoning and density policy in the Commonwealth that allows us to build housing at a price point people can afford. Of the 372 towns in Massachusetts, way more than half have not issued a multi-family permit in 10 years.”