"We actually saw an uptick in construction lending in 2012, primarily commercial construction, including apartments, retail and some office."
COURTESY BANK RHODE ISLAND
By Rhonda Miller PBN Staff Writer
Mark Meiklejohn is president and CEO of Bank Rhode Island. Prior to joining BankRI in 2006, he held positions with Citizens Bank and Fleet Bank. Meiklejohn is immediate past president of the Rhode Island Bankers Association.
A lifelong Rhode Island resident, Meiklejohn serves on the boards of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Rhode Island. He is a trustee for the Providence Foundation and the YMCA of Greater Providence.
Meiklejohn has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Connecticut.
PBN: The construction and real estate sectors have been hit especially hard in Rhode Island, and that means the demand for loans in these areas remains low. What strategies does BankRI have for expanding its commercial business in 2013?
MEIKLEJOHN: We actually saw an uptick in construction lending in 2012, primarily commercial construction, including apartments, retail and some office. More recently, as new housing stock has started to be absorbed, there has been increased demand for financing to support new home construction. BankRI had a strong year in 2012 in all of our commercial lending groups – C & I, commercial real estate and small business. In terms of strategy, I think the most important thing a bank can do is be focused and consistent in its approach to credit, how we view specific industries, evaluate new credit requests or deal with our existing clients.
PBN: As a local bank, what are the challenges you face in competing with larger national banks that may be able to offer a wider range of services? What are your advantages as a local bank in this highly competitive market?
MEIKLEJOHN: BankRI has a seasoned team, great credit capacity and offers our clients access to decision makers. I believe that these attributes, when combined with high-touch retail and service delivery, is what the market is looking for in a commercial bank. There may be some products and services we do not provide, but based on feedback from our customers we believe that we offer everything the majority of the marketplace requires.
PBN: What is your current presence in Rhode Island as far as number of locations and proportion of commercial to consumer business? Do you see expansion of branches or services during 2013?
MEIKLEJOHN: With the opening of our new Coventry location in late 2012, we currently have 18 full-service branches. Coventry is an excellent market and we are very pleased to have a presence in that community. In 2013, we will be relocating our Johnston branch to a new site and plan to open a branch in at least one new market.
PBN: What is your perspective on the role of locally-established banks in Rhode Island and on the strength and future of the state’s ability to be a growing financial center?
MEIKLEJOHN: I believe that the local banks are very important to the overall health of the RI economy. Collectively, we are a significant employer and play a major role in supporting the non-profit community, both in terms of lending talented employees and through charitable giving. Maybe even more importantly, the deposits that the local banks take in are not shipped elsewhere, but rather are returned into Rhode Island economy in the form of loans to support Rhode Island families and small businesses.
PBN: Rhode Island has many long-established banks and BankRI was founded in 1996. How does that impact your ability to attract business, especially commercial business? Is it a disadvantage, or does it have advantages?
MEIKLEJOHN: BankRI was built to meet the needs of our customers - a young institution can do that. And while we may be a relative newcomer in terms of the longevity of our company, BankRI has a highly-capable and experienced team, most who have worked elsewhere, but have chosen to be here for a reason. This combination allows us to react quickly to the needs of the marketplace.