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June 29. 2013 11:52PM

Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Creating relationships sparked TD Bank's regional president's rise


 

Do you remember the "Seinfeld" episode when the ruse had Kramer considering suicide because he never realized his dream about becoming a banker?

The joke, of course, is the idea that anyone, let alone a guy who couldn't stand still long enough to count change, would wake up one morning and decide he wanted to devote his life to working for a financial institution.

It didn't happen to David Glidden that way either. The TD Bank regional president had to be coaxed. Glidden, who began overseeing the bank's Northern New England and upstate New York regions in January, started his post-college career as a correctional officer for the state of Massachusetts. A few years later he left for a sales job.

"I never thought about being a banker, trust me," Glidden said during a recent interview in his downtown Manchester office, after alluding to the iconic sitcom.

Then Glidden got to know a banker who convinced him to give it a shot. Brian Thompson, currently president and CEO of Commerce Bank in Worcester, Mass., was looking for recruits for Boston-based Shawmut Bank.

"He said he was having a difficult time turning bankers into relationship people but thought he could turn a relationship person like myself into a banker and then give me the technical background," Glidden said.

He did, and it stuck. Glidden went through Shawmut's management training program and worked for the company from 1986 into the '90s, leaving to become a commercial lender for Springfield Institution for Savings. And that's where he stayed. But Springfield was later acquired by Banknorth, which was subsequently acquired by TD Bank.

"I haven't gone anywhere, but the sign has changed over my head and on the business card a couple of times," said Glidden, 51. "Certainly, the best thing that happened was when we were acquired by TD Bank."

That's TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank, a brand Glidden is not shy about sprinkling into conversation, ever the salesman banker.

TD Bank is the No. 2 retail bank in New Hampshire, with $5.3 billion in deposits. It has 65 stores in the Granite State, where it employs more than 900 people. ?Nationwide, it has more than $233 billion in total assets and is one of the top 10 largest banks in the country. It's a subsidiary of the Toronto-Dominion Bank of Toronto, Canada.

Glidden replaced Scott Bacon, who retired from TD Bank at the end of last year. He has spent most of the last six months out in the field, working with his managers and tries to limit being desk-bound to no more than two days a week.

"If you look at New Hampshire, Maine or Vermont, or upstate New York, those are all very separate markets, but there are separate unique characteristics to the markets within those states," the Massachusetts native said. "The best thing you can do is get out there and get to know the people who are working for the bank out in the field and get to know the customers and the market characteristics."

While banking has become increasingly regulated, especially since the 2008 financial meltdown, the basic tenets of the industry remain the same, Glidden said.

"It really is about relationships and servicing a customer whether they be a retail consumer, a small-business owner, a commercial client or a corporate banking client," he said.

In an era with sluggish growth, banks have had to become more aggressive to win customers. Increasing market share generally means taking it from someone else.

"An expression that is apt up here in New Hampshire and Northern New England is that a lot of the business owners are not getting over the tops of their skis," Glidden said. "As much as we'd like to see them expand a little more and borrow a little more, it's a very competitive market, and loan demand is pretty tepid right now. But probably from a commercial business owner's standpoint, (it's all) for all the right reasons. They're being very cautious about taking on new debt."

TD Bank was the No. 1 Small Business Administration lender in New Hampshire last year and is on track to retain that title this year, Glidden said. "We have a large focus on companies that have under $1 million in revenue and have small borrowings under our small business area," he said.

Glidden says he encourages small businesses, even startups, to consider talking to his bank.

"Most times you can figure out a way to put a deal together. It might not be all bank money, but you can leverage the SBA. There are microlenders out there," he said. "If you're a bank that is really committed to small business like we are, there are ways you can put those things together."

Glidden and his wife, Michelle, a former private banker for Bank of America, are looking for a home in the Seacoast or the greater Portland area, where TD Bank also has a corporate office. In the meantime, Michelle and the couple's daughters, Rosemarie, 15, and Elizabeth, 13, remain in their Massachusetts home, while Glidden spends some of his days living in downtown Portsmouth.

"There is always a night or two a week that I wish I was home. But knowing my wife is there, I know my kids are getting the best of everything," Glidden said. "I have a wife who understands what the demands of the job are. She's 100 percent supportive. I'm not so sure I could do this job without that."




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Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or mcote@unionleader.com.



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