NAUGATUCK — Though he just took over the top job at Naugatuck Savings Bank on Jan. 1, there is one thing about Charles Boulier III that’s already apparent: He’s not afraid to accept a challenge.
Boulier, 57, accepted the position as the bank’s president and chief executive officer knowing full well he has a pretty tough act to follow.
His predecessor, Mark Yanarella, was the bank’s CEO for 16 years, during which the state-chartered bank virtually tripled its size and scope.
In 1997, when Yanarella became the bank’s CEO, Naugatuck Savings Bank had six banking offices, about 100 full- and part-time employees, and $360 million in assets. On Jan. 1, when he stepped down, it had 19 banking offices, more than 260 employees and assets approaching $1 billion.
Yanarella also spearheaded the bank’s 2004 conversion from a mutual savings bank to a stock bank owned by a mutual holding company, Nutmeg Financial MHC; its 2005 acquisition of the John M. Sutherland insurance agency; and its 2006 acquisition of and eventual merger with Castle Bank & Trust Co. of Meriden.
In all, Yanarella, who is now the chairman of the bank’s board of directors, was a Naugatuck Savings Bank employee for 42 years, having been hired as a management trainee in 1970.
Boulier, a Waterbury native and Wolcott resident, joined the bank in 2004 as its executive vice president and chief financial officer. He was promoted to president and CFO last June, and became its president and CEO on Jan. 1.
Before coming to Naugatuck, Boulier was a senior executive vice president, treasurer and CFO of New Britain-based American Financial Holdings, parent of American Savings Bank, where he worked from 1993 to 2004. He was a senior vice president of finance and investments at Waterbury-based Centerbank from 1981 to 1993.
Boulier agreed to answer some questions about his recent promotion and the bank’s future, responding via email:
Q: What has been the most difficult aspect of your transition from second-in-command under Mark Yanarella to chief executive officer of the company? What has been the most surprising aspect of that transition?
A: The transition was carefully planned and implemented over the last 18 months, and it was well communicated to our employees, customers and the communities we serve. Due to Mark’s leadership, the bank was and is in a very solid position, making for a seamless transition.
Day one of being CEO seemed just like another work day … no one seemed to notice anything was different.
Q: How will your retail branch footprint expand in the future? Will you continue to push into new communities or will you attempt to grow and expand your presence within the footprint you’ve already established?
A: We’ve had a pretty brisk pace of opening five locations over the last 18 months throughout central Connecticut. As you know, in December we had our grand opening of our Wallingford office, introducing a new open-branch-design concept featuring Personal Teller technology, allowing for expanded hours on Saturday, along with before-and-after typical bank hours on weekdays.
We’ll look to grow in the new markets where we’ve entered and continue to look for opportunities to better serve our customers in the communities where they live and work. In addition, our online and mobile banking services will continually evolve with how our customers want to bank, and as technology advances.
Q: In general, what do you see as the most significant hurdles or issues facing smaller, community banks in the future?
A: I see three issues that will impact banks and customers. First, low-interest rates are great for our borrowers, but they are hurting customers who rely on the interest earned on their savings accounts. With this interest rate environment, banks are seeing margins shrink, and if sustained over the long run it will make it more difficult for banks to grow.
Secondly, many of the new regulations which were triggered by problems at big banks have little benefit and, in some cases, negatively impact customers.
Lastly, while technology presents convenient banking services for customers, all banks are faced with keeping up with its fast pace and preventing the risks for fraud that accompany it.
Q: Has Naugatuck Savings Bank changed or modified its basic underwriting philosophy to reflect today’s more challenging credit/lending environment? Is it more difficult for customers to get approved for a mortgage or for small businesses to get commercial loans today than it was five or six years ago?
A: Our primary mission is to help small businesses and consumers reach their financial goals. We have money to lend, and last year we had a very strong year for residential and small business lending. We closed over $140 million in residential loans; and in small business lending, closed over $5.5 million in small business loans, helping 46 local small business customers grow or expand. Six of those loans were (Small Business Administration) loans totaling close to $1 million.
That said, the drop in home values due to the economic downturn still presents challenges for refinancing, and the new Qualified Mortgage regulations promulgated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unfortunately are also putting some constraints on home lending. While the new regulations have required us to change our underwriting for residential mortgages, we’ll continue to partner with customers to try to overcome obstacles and close their loans.
Q: It’s been said that the more strict regulations put in place for the nation’s largest banks after the financial meltdown in 2008 have had the unintended consequence of making things much more difficult for smaller, community banks. Is that the case, and if so, how have things become more difficult?
A: Banking analysts are forecasting that many smaller community banks will not be able to bear the additional regulatory costs, shrinking margins, and potentially higher capital level requirements. I am convinced Naugatuck Savings Bank will be a survivor, as we’re fortunate to have built a solid infrastructure to help us through challenging times. Additionally, the bank is held by a mutual company, which does not have shareholders, so we can make decisions based on long-term objectives, rather than quarterly returns.
Q: Look into your crystal ball and tell us what you see in the future, both short- and long-term, for Naugatuck Savings Bank?
A: Well, short-term you can see our commitment to our local communities, as we are the title sponsor for the upcoming Naugatuck Savings Bank Cheshire Half Marathon & 5K in April. We’re not only a sponsor, but look for us running or as volunteers also.
On a more serious note, near- and long-term, we’ll look for and deploy convenient solutions, like our Personal Tellers, that help expand our services to local families and businesses, to help them with their everyday banking needs. And we’ll continue to live up to our commitment to provide friendly and personalized service to every customer, every day, while helping all of our customers reach their financial goals, whatever they may be.