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June 08. 2014 11:26PM

Eastern, Centrix CEOs discuss bank merger


Joseph Reilly, left, president and CEO of Centrix Bank and Rich Holbrook, chairman and CEO of Eastern Bank, during a meeting regarding the merger between Centrix Bank and Eastern Bank, at the New Hampshire Union Leader in Manchester on Friday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — Eastern Bank expects to take over Centrix Bank & Trust’s locations in October with plans to expand further into New Hampshire “over time,” Eastern’s top official said Friday.

“We don’t go into these transactions with the expectation that we’re going to make money by cutting costs and raising the efficiency of the organization and that’s where our return is. That’s not our style,” said Richard Holbrook, Eastern’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Our style is where can we build, where can we grow?”

In March, the banks announced that Boston-based Eastern would acquire Bedford-based Centrix in a $134 million, all-cash deal. Holbrook expects to get the last of the needed bank and regulatory approvals in October. Centrix operates seven locations around New Hampshire, stretching from Milford to Portsmouth.

Centrix President and CEO Joe Reilly said the bank had about 135 employees in March. About 20 already retired or found other jobs while another 80-plus will be retained by Eastern.

Eastern officials said they expect their New Hampshire operations will offer products Centrix didn’t, including wealth management and insurance, at existing Centrix branches as well as add new branches.

“We do have plans to add to our position up here, with both people and locations as time goes on,” Holbrook said during an interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Reilly said Eastern Bank, with its greater financial resources, will be able to expand quicker in New Hampshire than had Centrix remained independent.

As of Dec. 31, 2013, Eastern Bank’s consolidated assets totaled about $8.7 billion while Centrix had assets of $909 million.Last year, Eastern Bank recorded its highest lending total, originating more than $2.2 billion in borrowing.

Robert Rivers, president and chief operating officer at Eastern, said the regional economy is showing some signs of improvement, but the bulk of its loan growth came from getting people to switch banks.“Most of it has really been taking it from other places,” Rivers said.

Reilly said he thinks the operating culture of the two banks are similar.

Holbrook pointed out that Eastern has many customers who live in New Hampshire but bank in Massachusetts. Eastern already makes auto loans through New Hampshire auto dealers and employs many workers who live in the Granite State.

“We’ve had our eye on New Hampshire for quite some time, but as with anything else, you have to wait for the right opportunity to present itself,” Holbrook said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com



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