December 6, 2018

Thomaston Savings, too, covets Farmington

HBJ PHOTO | John Stearns
HBJ PHOTO | John Stearns
Stephen L. Lewis went from being a bank regulator to running a bank as CEO of Thomaston Savings Bank.

A second Connecticut lender has been drawn to the Farmington banking market by the recent headquarters loss of one of that town's leading community lenders.

Thomaston Savings Bank filed an application last Friday with the state Banking Department, asking permission to invest about $1 million to open its 14th branch on the grounds of a former industrial building at 155 Scott Swamp Road/Route 6, President and CEO Stephen L. Lewis said Wednesday.

The $1 billion-asset lender's branch filing comes days after $1.3 billion-asset Naugatuck community lender, Ion Bank, announced its filing with state bank regulators to establish a branch at The Corner House, at 4 Main St. in Farmington. As state-chartered banks, both await final approval from state Banking Commissioner Jorge L. Perez.

However, Ion, former Naugatuck Savings Bank, has gotten clearance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to open its 18th branch in Farmington. Thomaston Savings, too, will need FDIC clearance.

Leaders of both banks confirm the market void caused by the recent $544 million merger of former Farmington Bank and the parent of People's United Bank prompted their latest branch aspirations.

Lewis said that he, like Ion's CEO, received entreaties from former Farmington Bank loan officers, staff and customers, about establishing a beachhead in Farmington Bank's home turf. It merged Oct. 1 with Bridgeport super-regional lender People's United Financial, which now operates many of Farmington Bank's two dozen branches under the People's flag.

In the last five years, Lewis said, Thomaston Savings has opened three branches -- two in Bristol, and another debuted last year in nearby Wolcott. If the Farmington branch materializes, Plainville and Southington offer the bank future expansion opportunities, he said.

"We see it as an opportunity to bring a community bank back into that market...,'' Lewis said.

Lewis said the proposed Farmington branch will occupy an approximately 2,500-square-foot addition being grafted onto the front of the building. It will house eight to 10 staffers.

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