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Maine bank latest to cross border to set up NH shop, in Manchester

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 19. 2014 6:06PM

Stephen Lawrence 

MANCHESTER — A Maine bank with 44 branches in the Pine Tree State is about to make its first inroads into New Hampshire.

Camden National Bank has hired a well-known local commercial lending executive and plans to open a commercial lending office in the near future somewhere in Manchester.

The bank has no plans to open a retail branch in New Hampshire at this time, said President Greg Dufour.

“Right now we are looking for the proper space for a loan production office,” he said. “We do look at it as a platform to grow from.”

The bank has hired Stephen S. Lawrence of Bedford, who was a TD Bank senior vice president for Maine and New Hampshire in the Commercial Real Estate Department, working out of Manchester.

While he was with TD Bank, Lawrence was responsible for loan production, underwriting and portfolio management with lending teams in Braintree, Mass., Portland, Maine, and Manchester.

He joined TD Bank in 1997 and has 30 years of experience in banking, commercial lending and real estate .

Dufour said the opportunity to hire Lawrence was key to the bank’s decision to begin commercial lending in New Hampshire.

“We have been doing some business in New Hampshire for the past several years, primarily from our Portland office, financing a few projects mainly in the Portsmouth area,” he said. “The decision to take it to the next level really stems from having the right person in Steve.”

He described Lawrence as sharing the company’s philosophy of community banking.

“He has a good combination of large company experience, with roots in community banking because he’s been in the New Hampshire market for so many years,” Dufour said.

The Maine bank was also attracted by what Dufour described as a robust economy in New Hampshire.

“From a growth perspective, we like the economic activity as well as the overall sense of momentum that we see over there,” he said.

Lawrence will operate out of an office, not at street level, but most likely on an upper floor of a business center, Dufour said. The space is being researched with expansion opportunities in mind.

“We are trying to determine how much space we want,” he said, “because we feel we can make a presence there over time in Manchester. If we find there is customer demand, and we find the right people, we may look more on the retail side, but we want to get the market feedback before we just come in and plop down a branch.”

With $2.6 billion in assets and 135 years of operating history, Camden could become a significant player as more banks from Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont enter the New Hampshire market.

“We have seen an increase in the number of banks in border states that have an interest in opening branches in New Hampshire,” said Christiana Thornton, president of the New Hampshire Bankers Association.

“It only makes sense that they would look over the border to some of the communities that are thriving in New Hampshire. They may have exhausted all their opportunities in their geographic area,” she said.

Sanford Institution for Savings and Kennebunk Savings Bank are two Maine banks that recently opened New Hampshire branches, while Newburyport Five Cent Savings Bank from Massachusetts did so as well.

“It’s a great opportunity for consumers,” said Thornton, “because there are more banks and certainly a lot of competition among those various institutions. That ends up being good for consumers who have more choices.”

Dufour couldn’t agree more. “It is a compliment to the state that these banks are coming in because we want to put capital to work in New Hampshire,” he said. “We feel there is a strong economy and good people to put that capital to work.”

Business Manchester

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