Bill White has served as the president and CEO of Coastway Community Bank since 2000, when the bank merged with the Ocean State Community Credit Union.
In spite of the Great Recession, Coastway has shown significant ambition and growth. In 2009 its membership voted overwhelmingly to change from a credit-union management structure to a community bank. This month, Coastway submitted a notice of intent to regulators, seeking approval to form a depositor-governed, mutual holding company. The company would be a separate legal entity that would own Coastway Community Bank as a subsidiary.
PBN: Coastway has undergone significant changes over the last three or four years. As recently as mid-2009 you were a credit union. Why the change?
WHITE: We were expanding activities, such as business lending and residential lending. We considered our options and thought we needed to make that charter change at that time, in order to do more of that lending.
PBN: What was considered in taking that next, elevated step?
WHITE: We had pretty much capped out, according to regulations, as being a credit union, and were unable to grow in an area that has really been robust and highly desirable, business and mortgage lending. We sat down and decided that if we couldn’t continue to grow we would have to consider other options, none of which were very attractive. We made the decision to grow and were very committed to being independent. Becoming a bank was the right option.
PBN: Was the timing a challenge, in the middle of an economic recession?
WHITE: If I had my druthers it certainly was not the timing I would have preferred. That being said, it’s almost three years later – in July it will be exactly three years – and we’ve prospered. We got it done.
PBN: The decision must have been difficult based on its timing. To what do you attribute your success?
WHITE: We have continued to be responsive and fulfilled the needs of our customers. All you’ve heard over the last four years is that banks are not lending money. We must be doing something different because we’re lending it as fast as we can, and we did so continually throughout that entire time. Other institutions weren’t able to provide for their businesses and consumers by offering loans, but we did.
Our business loans have increased over that time, from $71 million to about $112 million. We have also excelled in providing commercial loans for our customers in the community, 270 loans that totaled $91 million.
In our residential market we issued more than 1,800 mortgages for homes totaling $357 million; the bank’s assets, capital and savings have increased by 11 percent.
PBN: How important is it for you to remain independent?
WHITE: It’s vital. We do not want to be a small piece of a big picture. We want to be able to make our own decisions; we are very close to our membership, being a community bank. It’s important for us to continue to provide money to the members that matter to us, and to remain independent and dedicated to them when doing so.
PBN: Two years ago your bank began the Coastway Insurance Connection to give advice for your customers. Has it been successful?
WHITE: It’s an ancillary piece of our services. We are not turning into an insurance agency, but it is a good and solid service, another piece of the pie we can offer our customers. It’s worked out well.
PBN: What is the advantage of creating a holding company for the current mutual bank?
WHITE: It will allow us to further expand. The mutual holding company will own the bank but it can also own other acquisitions should we decide to go in that direction. That could include other banks. Should we decide to own other businesses, such as insurance or wealth-management agencies, or any of those types of services, right now we can’t do that. The bank isn’t allowed to own those things right now, but as a separate holding company we could.
That being said, those are not our plans right now. We do not have any acquisition targets and we certainly have not spoken to anybody with regards to those types of things. The change in corporate structure will give us the flexibility that we need in order to grow and will certainly provide us with some options down the road.
PBN: Are there any plans to expand your geographic footprint?
WHITE: We are Rhode Island born and bred so we plan to stay right around this local area. We have been very successful in the communities we are located in and we are very happy to remain a community bank in Rhode Island.
PBN: Will you expand your services?
WHITE: We already have. One of the reasons we need to continue this growth is that these changes we are trying to make and the additional products and services we are trying to add cost money. Unless we can grow and provide more funding those things become unattainable for us.
In order to remain relevant today for your members, you have to provide things like mobile banking and business online banking. We put a mobile app in place about one month ago. This free app allows iPhone and Android users to view accounts, make transfers and pay bills. We also have mobile banking for other smartphones, as well as text-banking. We are happy to provide these services, but these types of things are expensive propositions.
We have a bulk of the types of products and services the bigger banks have. We don’t do things like trust services, but with basic core services, we match up with the best of them. •
William A. White
POSITION: President and CEO of Coastway Community Bank
BACKGROUND: White started his banking career immediately out of college, in 1978. He began at Old Stone Bank, where he eventually became a branch manager. He then served as a commercial lender and branch manager at Rhode Island Hospital Trust National Bank. He later served as the vice president of corporate lending for Fleet Bank. White then became the president of Warwick Credit Union/ Ocean State Community Credit Union, which later became Coastway.
EDUCATION: B.A., music; B.S., management economics, Rhode Island College, 1978; master’s, organizational management, University of Phoenix, 2000