(From Mainebiz) – From processing emergency loans and loan deferrals to ramping up electronic services and drive-thru operations to keep employees and customers safe, Maine banks and credit unions were tested in 2020 — and passed with flying colors.
“Fortunately, Maine’s banks entered the pandemic — and a year of economic turmoil — from a position of strength,” says Gregory Dufour, President and CEO of Camden National Bank. “With prudent capital management strategies and favorable asset quality, we were able to flex quickly and support Maine’s businesses, families and communities in 2020, delivering on efforts such as PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) lending and loan payment relief.”
Curtis Simard, President and CEO of Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, was equally upbeat after his bank added more than 15,000 new accounts in 2020 and opened new branches in Brunswick and Bedford, N.H.
“The industry is in pretty good shape,” Simard says. “We raised a fair amount of capital coming out of the last recession, and we’ve all had a pretty sustained period of reasonable health. That’s proven that the banks have been very strong.”
In 2021, Dufour predicts that commercial and residential real estate sales will keep banks busy, and that Maine-based community banks will fare well amid competition from larger rivals from out of state, including internet-based firms.
His observations come as JPMorgan Chase prepares to enter Maine’s retail banking market with five locations by the end of 2022, and Skowhegan Savings Bank puts the finishing touches on a business center in Portland by April.
Why so much activity now? “Every bank is seeking opportunities to expand their customer base,” says Chris Pinkham, President and CEO of the Maine Bankers Association. He says that while growth this year directly depends on the success of COVID-19 vaccines, he’s confident Maine banks will thrive adding, “Banks continue to be the economic backbone of our communities, helping everyone endure this pandemic storm.”
Among credit unions, Scarborough-based Town & Country Federal Credit Union saw the number of loans on its books needing deferrals drop from 2,000 during the pandemic to less than 100 in December.
“We expect that to rise through the winter months,” predicts President and CEO David Libby. He also expects the mortgage refinancing market to remain strong as borrowers take advantage of low interest rates, along with demand for loans to buy land on which to build, saying, “That’s a bright spot.”
Reflecting on the bigger industry picture, Todd Mason, President and CEO of the Maine Credit Union League, says, “Credit unions will focus on helping Maine recover from the pandemic through safe, affordable financial services, our philanthropic efforts, and by providing small businesses with the resources they need to pursue emerging opportunities and grow.”