FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – During the month of April, Darien Rowayton Bank will celebrate its 10-year anniversary. After a bumpy start, the bank has become one of the top community banks in Fairfield County.
“With the benefit of hindsight, it may have been the worst year ever to start a bank,’’ said Robert Kettenmann, DRB’s President and Chief Operating Officer, who joined the Bank in 2008. “We consider ourselves to be quite fortunate to make it through one of the most difficult times in United States financial history.”
Soon after the Bank was founded, the nation’s economy started to struggle. The result was a lingering recession that impacted every segment of business, especially banking. Darien Rowayton Bank’s turnaround started in 2010, when Alcar LLC became the bank’s holding company. The Bank now has just under $700 million in total assets, which totaled just $85 million in 2010.
From the outset, Darien Rowayton Bank’s hallmark has been its superior customer service. With branches in Darien, Rowayton and Southport, the Bank offers service for residential and business clients.
In the past few years, DRB has added a niche national business in refinancing and consolidating of student loans. The bank is now ranked among the top six in the nation for refinancing student debt for private and federal loans, according to StudentLoanHero.com.
DRB is the fastest marketplace lender to reach $1 billion in student loan refinancing originations. It is the official bank of the American Dental Association.
“Student loan refinancing presented a significant strategic opportunity for DRB,’’ Kettenmann said. “We’ve already created 35 or 40 new jobs in Connecticut, which is no small feat in a state where job creation is a challenge.” Earlier this month, DRB opened a new operations center in Bridgeport for its consumer finance activities.
Kettenmann said DRB’s lending practices have helped drive its growth. “We focus on credit quality,’’ he said. “Most small banks get into trouble because they make bad credit decisions. We’ve never had an owner occupied first mortgage in delinquency.”
Kettenmann believes the bank will continue to thrive in the next decade. “We might extend our physical footprint to one or two more communities,’’ he said. “We have to do that very judiciously. We’ll continue to be a three-pronged institution. The support we’ve gotten from the community has been outstanding. It’s been wonderful to see it all transpire.”