Photo: Alexander Soule / Hearst Connecticut Media
More than a decade after its launch, Darien Rowayton Bank is dropping its name in favor of Laurel Road Bank, the moniker of its student loan division that lends nationally.
The change requires the approval of the Connecticut Department of Banking, which is accepting comments from the public through late November for those who feel the new name could confuse customers or others.
The Connecticut Department of Banking has not interceded in the past with respect to bank names, most recently in the case of Bankwell which in 2013 established a new, unifying identity for community banks it had created or acquired in New Canaan, Fairfield and Wilton. Bankwell has thrived under its new logo, increasing local deposits 20 percent in the past year.
Darien Rowayton Bank was created in 2006 by local residents wanting to establish a community bank focused on their needs, establishing its flagship branch in downtown Darien and a second branch in Norwalk’s Rowayton neighborhood, and later another in Fairfield’s Southport section.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial panic, control of Darien Rowayton Bank shifted to a financier named Gary Lieberman, with early investors protesting in 2015 a reverse stock split that devalued their shares. Lieberman chairs the bank’s board and oversees day-to-day operations run by Bob Kettenmann, bank president.
This past September, a Philadelphia-based private equity firm called Patriot Financial invested $20 million in Darien Rowayton Bank. Patriot Financial is an experienced investor in banks nationally and its founding team including Ira Lubert, whose Lubert-Adler funds were a major backer of the Harbor Point development in Stamford led by Building and Land Technology.
Since 2013 under Lieberman and Kettenmann, Darien Rowayton Bank has built up a large student-lending arm called Laurel Road, which also offers personal loans and mortgages using an online banking model. Over 12 months through this past June, Darien Rowayton Bank roughly doubled its job count to about 170 full-time-equivalent positions, as reported to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
As of June on its Darien home turf, Darien Rowayton Bank had $309 million in deposits or 15 cents on every dollar in the town, a slight edge over Bridgeport-based People’s United Financial according to FDIC data. And in Rowayton, the bank trails the local deposits of Ridgefield-based Fairfield County Bank, its lone rival to have a branch on Rowayton Avenue.
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