Published March 17, 2009
A Massachusetts bank that has defied the odds and remained free of bad loans amid the economic crisis is now being criticized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for the cautious business practices that caused its rare success.
The secret behind East Bridgewater Savings Bank's accomplishments is the careful approach of 62-year-old chief executive Joseph Petrucelli.
"We’re paranoid about credit quality," he told the Boston Business Journal.
That paranoia has allowed East Bridgewater Savings Bank to stand out among a flurry a failing banks, with no delinquent loans or foreclosures on its books, the Journal reported. East Bridgewater Savings didn’t even need to set aside in money in 2008 for anticipated loan losses.
But rather than reward Petrucelli's tactics, the FDIC recently criticized his bank for not lending enough, slapping it with a "needs to improve" rating under the Community Reinvestment Act, the Journal reported.
The problem, according to FDIC data, was that from late 2003 through mid-2008, East Bridgewater Savings made an average of 28 cents in loans for every dollar in deposit — a sharp contrast to the 90 percent average loan-to-deposit ratio among similar banks, the paper reported.
"There are no apparent financial or legal impediments that would limit the bank’s ability to help meet the credit needs of its assessment area," the FDIC wrote in the CRA evaluation.
The agency also faulted the bank, which does not have a Web site, for not promoting its loan products enough, the Journal reported.
Considering his bank is doing well in tanking industry and even the FDIC’s deposit insurance fund is in trouble after paying for an upswing in bank failures, Petrucelli told the Boston Business Journal that the negative rating caught him by surprise.
East Bridgewater Savings ended 2008 with $135 million in assets, deposits of $84 million, $87,000 in profit, and a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 31.6 percent — more than three times higher than many community banks in Massachusetts, the Journal reported.
Its net loans and leases equaled 21 percent of assets, compared with 72 percent among 385 similar banks across the country.