A Conversation With David A. Lentini
David A. Lentini is a resident of West Hartford and is chairman, president and chief executive officer of CBT (Connecticut Bank & Trust Co.). He has 38 years of experience in retail and commercial banking and has previously started a de novo Connecticut commercial bank, namely the Bank of South Windsor in South Windsor. Most recently, Lentini was the senior vice president of operations of Webster Bank in Waterbury. From 1993 to 1999, he was chairman and chief executive officer of New England Community Bancorp, a commercial bank holding company with approximately $800 million in assets, which was acquired by Webster in 1999. Lentini is a director of St. Francis Hospital, former chairman of the board of trustees for Greater Hartford Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, director of the Connecticut Water Co. and a director of the Cooper-Atkins Corp.
Q: Tell us about your banking career.
A: I started my career at the former CBT (Connecticut Bank & Trust) in 1965. In the 21 years I was with them, I spent about half my time in operations, the other half in the securities side and finished up in corporate banking. Little did I know that my training there would set the stage for further advancement.
I left CBT in 1986 and joined Northeast Savings as head of operations. In 1989, I started the new Bank of South Windsor and became its first president. In later years, I would run the Amity Bank and then New England Community Bancorp.
Q: CBT opened in March 2004. What has been your biggest challenge?
A: Starting a new bank in the United States today is a huge challenge in itself. The processes involve achieving various regulatory approvals, raising large amounts of capital and then creating the actual infrastructure of the bank. In our case, the challenge was somewhat more difficult as we decided to open in three locations at once, which had not ever been attempted.
Q: The bank completed a second stock offering in September 2005. What are you going to do with the funds?
A: CBT competes against many large institutions in the Hartford community. Many of these institutions have over 50 locations and the directors of CBT feel that, in order to increase our effectiveness, we need to expand our branch network. Most of our new capital will be devoted in that regard.
Q: CBT hallmarks its customer service. Has it been difficult to find the right staff to accomplish this mission?
A: Thankfully, we have been very fortunate in acquiring some marvelous talent from around the area. Many people are attracted to working in a small, more personal environment and that has led to our success in recruiting.
Q: What role does technology play in a fast-growing community bank like CBT?
A: Small community banks, like ours, are quick to point out their personal service capabilities, but without great technology to help deliver that service, you really can’t be successful. CBT invested in state-of-the-art computer and software systems from its inception, and we feel we can compete with the best of them.
Q: With aggressive growth planned, what is the bank’s marketing strategy?
A: As I think everyone knows, Coach Geno Auriemma has joined the board of directors of CBT. He also has become the face and voice of the bank as it promotes itself in the Connecticut banking market. People see Geno as forthright, honest and personable, and it is those same quaalities that we are trying to embody here at CBT.
Q: What is the economic outlook for the Greater Hartford area in 2006?
A: We are very excited about being in Hartford and about the Greater Hartford area in general. We see new signs of life and vitality everywhere we look, starting with the new convention center and the planned science center, new restaurants and greater business activity. We are certainly not in a period of booming economic activity, but we see a lot more ups than downs in the next few years.
Q: Will increased competition be the most pressing challenge for CBT in the next several years or are there other issues that concern you?
A: It certainly isn’t easy being a fairly small and relatively new institution in what has become the land of banking giants. The competition is fierce and margins on the thin side. We do see the larger banks getting even bigger and consolidation in the industry continuing. Thus, the small community banks will play an important role in the years ahead and we see CBT as being the premier option to those customers who require more personal attention and care.
Questions posed by Lindsey R. Pinkham, senior vice president and secretary of the Connecticut Bankers Association.