A Conversation With Richard Barry
Richard Barry is president and CEO of Citizens Bank of Connecticut. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Connecticut’s retail and commercial business for Citizens. Previously he was executive vice president in charge of special assets. He joined the company in 1995 as a senior vice president and was promoted in November 2004 to executive vice president.
As president and CEO of Citizens Bank of Connecticut, Barry is responsible for a $4 billion banking enterprise including 48 branches, 56 ATMs, a $925 million commercial loan portfolio and a staff of more than 400.
Citizens Bank of Connecticut is a subsidiary of Citizens Financial Group Inc., a $131 billion commercial bank holding company headquartered in Providence, R.I. Citizens has more than 1,550 offices, approximately 2,700 ATMs and approximately 24,000 employees in 13 states. Citizens is owned by RBS (The Royal Bank of Scotland Group).
Barry is a graduate of Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., and received his MBA from Babson College in Wellesley, Mass.
Q: You are one of the younger CEOs leading a Connecticut bank. Care to comment?
A: I’m not sure age is a major factor for a bank CEO, whether one is on the younger end of the spectrum or the older end. I am on clearly the younger end of the spectrum. I bring a lot of energy to the position and I believe I bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to the role. The more experience one has, all other things equal, the better. I have almost 20 years of commercial banking experience. During that time, I developed strong technical skills and was responsible for managing a corporate-wide function that supported all of our state banks and subsidiary companies. I also have great advisors in our board of directors, senior management at Citizens Financial Group and my colleagues at Citizens Bank of Connecticut.
Q: You came into the CEO position with a unique background of having spent the past 10 years leading Citizens’ special asset group. How has that prepared you for this new role?
A: First and foremost, I was responsible for a significant business that supported all of our banks. I had P&L responsibility, credit responsibility and people-management responsibility for a major division. In many respects, I have similar responsibilities in my current role. The special assets responsibility, in particular, has given me a good perspective on managing risk, one of the most important challenges bank CEOs deal with day to day.
Q: Will Citizens Bank of Connecticut keep its state charter or convert it to a national bank charter?
A: Citizens Bank of Connecticut will keep its state charter. This follows our “local” strategy. We have local management, a local board of directors, and make decisions locally.
Q: Citizens Bank of Connecticut is a super-regional bank. How does it differentiate itself from the other large and community bank competitors?
A: Although Citizens Bank of Connecticut is a super-regional bank, we are wholly owned by Citizens Financial Group. Citizens Financial Group is one of the 10 largest banks in the United States, both in deposits and assets. Citizens Financial Group is wholly owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is the fifth largest bank in the world from a market capitalization perspective. Citizens Bank of Connecticut, with its local management, local decision-making and local delivery, coupled with the support and sophisticated product set provided by Citizens Financial Group and the Royal Bank of Scotland, provides our customers with the best of what both small banks and big banks offer: local relationships, local delivery and local decisions, which you get from smaller banks, and sophisticated products, which you get from larger banks. We think this provides the best of both worlds for our customers.
Q: I am aware that Citizens Bank of Connecticut has a credo that is a commitment to customer, colleague and community. Please explain.
A: We refer to our credo as the three Cs: customers, colleagues and community. We treat customers the way we would want to be treated all of the time. We strive to provide world-class service. We want Citizens to be the best place to work. Between the working environment and the unique benefits we provide our employees, we think Citizens is a great place to work. We are deeply committed to the communities where we work and live. Our commitment to our communities goes beyond the generous financial giving of our company, our foundation and our employees. Our employees are very involved in our communities, donating significant personal time to help others. Although we put our credo on paper a few years ago, the credo has been part of our culture at Citizens since I joined the company 10 years ago. We simply live the credo every day.
Q: Rising interest rates, fears of a housing bubble, possible base closings – What’s in store for Connecticut’s economy during the second half of 2005 and beyond?
A: This is never an easy question to answer. In my opinion, in the second half of 2005, we should continue to see moderate improvement in the Connecticut economy. Jobs should continue to grow, although modestly; unemployment should remain in the 5 percent range; inflation should remain in check; and mortgage rates will likely climb modestly, but should remain relatively low. During the latest recovery, job growth has been somewhat slow as employers benefited from improved productivity. Beyond 2005 becomes even more difficult to predict. Clearly, the potential closing of the Groton sub base is of immediate concern and impacts the state’s economy from a near- to mid-term perspective. However, I remain optimistic that the BRAC will remove Groton from its list.
Q: What will be the most pressing challenges for Citizens Bank of Connecticut in the next several years?
A: I think one of the big challenges for Citizens Bank of Connecticut in the next several years will be to continue to deliver great local personalized service as we grow. I am confident, however, that we will be successful in this regard with our continued focus on our credo. Our other state banks have successfully experienced significant growth and continued to deliver great local service, so I know we will do the same.
Questions posed by Lindsey R. Pinkham, senior vice president and secretary of the Connecticut Bankers Association.