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May 1, 2024

Berkshire Bank shrinking CT presence with pending branch closures

PHOTO | Michelle Tuccitto Sullo A Berkshire Bank branch in Farmington.

Boston-based Berkshire Bank, which first entered the Connecticut market following its 2012 acquisition of the Connecticut Bank and Trust Co. in Hartford, has notified the state Department of Banking that it plans to close three branches in the Nutmeg State. 

Berkshire Bank, a subsidiary of the publicly traded Berkshire Hills Bancorp, is asking the banking department permission to close the branches, with a combined $113.6 million in deposits, by June 28. 

The branches slated for closure are located at:

  • 596 Hartford Pike, in Dayville (it had $62 million in deposits as of June 30, 2023, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data)
  • 114 Woodland St., in Hartford, at St. Francis Hospital ($3.2 million in deposits)
  • 159 Merrow Road, in Tolland ($48.4 million in deposits) 

The pending closures come following the departure earlier this year of one of Berkshire’s top bankers in Connecticut, Jeffrey Klaus, who was hired by the bank in 2021 to serve as senior vice president and regional president and middle market team leader in southern Connecticut, based in New Haven. 

Klaus was recruited to lead the bank’s expansion in New Haven and the rest of southern Connecticut. He left the bank in January, according to his LinkedIn page. 

Meantime, in 2022, Berkshire Bank sold its 20,000-square-foot operations center in Windham for $1 million as part of a broader effort to rethink its post-pandemic office space needs, the bank said at the time.

In a statement about the pending branch closures, a Berkshire Bank spokesperson said the bank “is committed to delivering an exceptional customer experience. We regularly evaluate our network of financial centers to ensure we are delivering our services based on customer preferences. Berkshire Bank remains committed to serving our clients and communities in Connecticut through our network of nearly 20 financial center locations in the state.” 

National trend

Berkshire Bank established its brick-and-mortar presence in the state following its 2012 purchase of the tiny Hartford-based Connecticut Bank and Trust Co., which at the time of the deal had $280 million in assets and eight branches serving the Greater Hartford area.

Berkshire followed up that deal with its 2019 acquisition of Willimantic-based SI Financial Group, parent of the Savings Institute and Trust Co. That $180 million purchase grew Berkshire’s Connecticut presence from nine to 27 branches and an additional $1.7 billion in assets. 

As of June 30, 2023, Berkshire reported 21 branches in Connecticut with $1.5 billion in assets. 

The bank announced in December 2020 a plan to trim its brick-and-mortar branch network by about 18% in the first half of 2021.

Besides Connecticut and Massachusetts, Berkshire Bank, with $12.1 billion in overall assets, has a presence in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. 

The bank’s parent company reported a $20.2 million loss during the first quarter of 2024, down from a $27.6 million profit in the year-ago period. 

In March, the bank announced plans to sell 10 of its branches in upstate and eastern New York.

The bank attributed its first quarter loss, in part, to the sale of $362 million in securities, which resulted in a $49.9 million non-operating charge.  

Banks across Connecticut and the country have been trimming their branch footprints in recent years as more consumers use online banking services and as a way to cut costs. 

Banks operating in Connecticut had 973 branches in the state as of June 30, 2023, down 16% from the 1,159 branches they had as of June 30, 2018, FDIC data shows.

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