New Paths for Citizens Bank
Chief lays out some ideas
Bruce Van Saun is the new boss at Citizens Bank, the Rhode Island-based U.S. arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland. (His name is old-time Jersey Dutch, like Van Sciver or Frelinghuysen.)
Van Saun says the bank, which competes with Wells Fargo, PNC, TD Bank, Bank of America, and Santander (formerly Sovereign) in Philadelphia and other East Coast markets, needs to improve.
These are highlights from my conversation with him:
On Citizens and its competitors: "We are coming up a little short. Our financial performance, it's not back to where we'd like it to be. . . . The U.S. is a fragmented market. If you meld your team into a cohesive group with a good culture - we've been able to do that - if you know your customers well, their needs and aspirations, they will trust you. That's how you win in banking. . . . We're not all the way there."
On being the 25-year financial sponsor of Citizens Bank Park: "I'd certainly like to see the Phillies get back in the playoffs."
Should Citizens have made the Phils sign a performance agreement - no wins, no sponsor payments? "[Laughs] We get mileage from that relationship. We do get a lot of recognition."
On Citizens' planned 25 percent initial public stock offering and what the bank will do with the money: "We're shooting to do that in the fourth quarter of 2014. It will give us much more visibility and brand identity, and a stock we can use to retain our talent and attract new talent."
Whom is Citizens hiring? "We historically underinvested in mortgages; we were very strong in home equity and auto. [Wells Fargo] was surfing the home-loan refinancing wave and coined money off it. Now they're throttling back. In our footprint, we've punched under our weight. Now we are hiring loan originators. We want to grow. . . .
"Same with wealth advisory. We weren't in it till four, five years ago. Now have 360 wealth advisers in our branches. They have performed very well. Their productivity is above a wire service house like, say, Merrill Lynch. But we are not yet at capacity. We will add more."
How about local business loans? "As the economy solidifies, small business is the engine for economic growth. So we should see a lot of opportunities. We plan to hire up for that."
Businesses say banks won't lend to any but the best borrowers. "I think it's been more of a demand issue. The economy has seemed soft. Until confidence improves and the economy starts to show more life, they'd rather deleverage than build a factory or build a warehouse.
"We want to make loans. We have the capacity. Our loan-to-deposit ratio is 80 percent, we want to get to 100 percent. I think you'll see it. I think there's some green shoots. We've seen year-over-year growth in our business banking loans. You have a very diverse economy in Southeastern Pennsylvania. It's picking up a bit."