Five Questions With Mark J. Meiklejohn

Mark J. Meiklejohn | President and CEO, Bank Rhode Island

1. What drove Bank Rhode Island’s increased profit this year? Bank Rhode Island is part of a multibank holding company, Brookline Bancorp Inc., which also includes Brookline Bank and First Ipswich Bank. For 2017, the holding company reported record earnings, excluding the impact of … tax reform … which has continued through the second quarter of 2018. Generally speaking, banks have benefited not only from the recent tax changes but also from the rising rate environment and good credit quality – driven largely by the stable economy.

2. Does Bank Rhode Island have any benchmark goals for growing deposits and how does the bank plan to reach them? In today’s environment, banks face a number of competitive challenges. Maybe the greatest is growing core deposits. Core deposits are generally defined as checking, savings and money market funds, both personal and business. Although it is tempting to simply bump up [interest] rates to steal market share, those deposits are not only expensive but also tend to be transitory, and therefore do not provide a foundation for stable growth.

3. Why did Bank Rhode Island close the Centerville Road branch in Warwick, only to open a new branch nearby on Jefferson Boulevard? Our analysis showed Jefferson Boulevard to be an underserved area of the city. Simply put, there is a dense concentration of businesses on Jefferson Boulevard without a bank nearby to serve their needs.

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4. What have been some of the most significant commercial construction projects that Bank Rhode Island has financed in recent years? BankRI provides … commercial real estate financing for all property types, from owner-occupied buildings to multifamily investment, office and retail. Notable projects in recent years include the redevelopment of the historic Arcade in Providence, the Daniele Inc. manufacturing facility in [Burrillville], Scott’s Wharf on the Newport waterfront, and major retail developments such as the Johnston Town Center and Dowling Village in North Smithfield, amongst many, many others.

5. From a banking perspective, what do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of Rhode Island’s economy? Rhode Island is a small state and a small economy. …We rely on our customers to tell us how they are doing; and for the most part, businesses seem to be in a good place. Unemployment is low, interest rates remain favorable and the real estate market is strong.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@PBN.com.