Five questions to: Leland Merrill

Leland Merrill recently joined Centerville Bank as senior vice president and chief loan officer. Merrill has over 25 years of experience in the banking industry, including several senior roles, most recently with BankNewport. He holds an MBA specializing in finance from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont.

PBN: What prompted you to move to Centerville Bank? Tell us about your new role as director of loans at the bank.

MERILL: The move to Centerville Bank was an opportunity for me to return to my roots as a commercial loan manager and further my career with a great team of commercial and business lenders.

Centerville Bank, under the leadership of CEO Hal Horvat, has transformed into a major commercial lender in the Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut markets over the past five years. Additionally, the bank is one of the best capitalized banks in the region, which means we have the ability to grow the bank and its commercial lending business at a pace that will have a real impact on the communities we serve. .

In my new role as Director of Lending, I oversee both the Rhode Island and Connecticut lending teams and help develop strategies to grow and diversify our business lines of business throughout the region.

PBN: Where do you expect to see the biggest areas of lending growth this year? Which areas will be more difficult to develop?

MERILL: Commercial real estate will continue to be a growth area for the bank, however, a key focus will be to expand the bank’s small business lending, commercial and industrial lending, as well as some new business areas. niche business, such as the Dunkin franchise. ready.

We have added top talent to the team over the past three months, doubling the size of the commercial lending team to 13 highly experienced and professional business and commercial lenders.

When it comes to growth strategies over the next few years, the biggest challenges most banks will face are likely to include inflation, supply shortages, a possible recession, and the ramifications all of these issues will have on potential and existing customers.

PBN: How will inflation and rising interest rates impact Centerville (and the industry in general) in terms of commercial and consumer lending?

MERILL: Rising inflation and interest rates have always had a dampening effect on the economy and businesses in general. Centerville Bank has been in this market and has seen many economic cycles for nearly 200 years and knows how to meet these challenges while continuing to support its communities.

Financially, the bank is very strong and this allows us to continue to lend to businesses and consumers in good and bad times. In fact, many small community banks do quite well during tough economic times. While some of the larger banks typically pull back from lending in down cycles, a strong community bank like Centerville has a unique opportunity to gain market share and new business from the big banks.

PBN: Besides inflation, what do you see as the biggest challenges for bank lending? Are these challenges different in community banks than in fintech companies or large corporations?

MERILL: With record high unemployment across the country and region, labor continues to be a challenge. Few companies are not feeling the effects of the post-pandemic labor shortage.

In the financial sector, and especially when it comes to corporate lending, the labor shortage is all the more acute as the training programs of the big banks of the past have long since disappeared. There is a distinct lack of new credit analysts, lenders and professionally trained business specialists in the banking world. As a result, most banks had to start training these professionals in-house, which cost the organization a lot of time and money.

PBN: How has the increasing use of technology and mobile/digital banking affected how businesses seek or want service on their loans?

MERILL: Like almost all customers of all types of businesses today, the desire is to find quick and easy digital solutions to satisfy customer needs. In the area of ​​small business lending, Centerville Bank is moving towards a fully digital lending solution, comparable to what you might see at a much larger institution.

For larger loans, such as commercial real estate loans, speeding up the loan process is also a priority, but to some degree we will still want to work face-to-face in these situations, just like our clients. We believe the consultative approach we take to this type of business loan adds value to the relationship and the process. It’s about delivering the ideal combination of personalized service and convenient digital capabilities that ease the lending process and truly align with our mantra of “Banking Your Way”.

Nancy Lavin is a staff writer for PBN. You can reach her at [email protected].

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