By Steve Bigham, Republican-American
NAUGATUCK — Ion Bank is Connecticut’s “best small bank,” according to Newsweek magazine, which recently published the results of its nationwide search to find America’s top financial institutions.
The weekly magazine looked at each of the country’s 2,625 FDIC-insured banks and rated them based on financial health, customer service, account and loan options, interest rates and fees.
Naugatuck-based Ion Bank, Newsweek said, checked all the boxes in the small-bank category, which included banks with less than $10 billion in assets. Ion’s total assets sit at $1.8 billion.
For David Rotatori, Ion’s president and CEO, the honor is a testament to the bank’s 150-year-old tradition of community-mindedness and friendly service, qualities that continued to hold true through the darkest days of COVID-19.
“The pandemic has been so challenging for so many people, who in many cases, were not even able to leave their houses to do what they normally do. We had the ability and the opportunity to help them out and that’s exactly what we did,” said Rotatori, a Naugatuck native.
Specifically, the bank provided $275 million in SBA PPP forgivable loans to local small businesses, many of them new customers from larger banks. Rotatori said the bank went the extra mile, working after hours and on weekends to assist as many customers as possible.
As a mutual bank, Rotatori said Ion does not have Wall Street shareholders to answer to or to distribute profits to.
Instead, the bank uses its earnings to support local, nonprofit organizations, many of which struggled to stay afloat the past 18 months as donations were down. In response, Ion Bank doubled its support in 2020, increasing its annual nonprofit support from $500,000 to $1 million. And it is doing the same this year, according to Rotatori, who said the bank’s commitment to reinvesting in its communities is among its most important duties.
“As a mutual bank, our first obligation is to our customers and the community,” he said.
Rotatori said Ion Bank employees donated 5,867 hours of community service in 2020 and since Ion Bank Foundation’s inception, it has provided to the community more than $9 million in foundation grants.
It is that kind of culture that has allowed Ion Bank, with its more than 300 employees, to expand its reach throughout Greater Waterbury and beyond, where it now has 20 branches in more than a dozen towns. The bank opened its newest branch in September in South Windsor
For much of its existence, the company was known as Naugatuck Savings Bank, but it changed its name to Ion Bank in 2013 to reflect a more regional feel.