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Golf is sometimes not so jokingly referred to as a game that can drive relationships apart.
But on the occasion of his retirement as president and chief executive officer of Newtown Savings Bank, John Trentacosta attributes a serendipitous pairing on the links as the reason he came to work and live in the community.
“I was introduced to [then NSB CEO] John Martocci through a mutual friend when my former employer, the Bank of New Haven, was about to be sold,” Mr Trentacosta told The Newtown Bee. “So we played a round of golf together and five hours later we found that we really hit it off — there was an instant liking for one another.”
At the time, there was no work in Newtown for the soon to be unemployed bank executive, so he took an interim position at another institution.
“Then I found out that bank was going to be sold,” he said. “Every bank I ever worked with has been sold, up until I got here.”
So he put in a call to Mr Martocci, “and he says ‘great timing.’ And he worked me into a position to get me into the organization. A couple of weeks later I was here as controller. Then before you know it I was CFO, and John just kept giving me more responsibility. I joined the company in 1998, and a few years later I was president.
“Had he or I not shown up for that game of golf, we wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Somebody up there was looking out for me — it was kind of a fairy tale ending, actually.”
Maybe it was the bank that was the ultimate beneficiary. Under Mr Trentacosta’s guidance (he became president and CEO upon Mr Martocci’s retirement in 2008) the bank underwent major upgrades and improvement first to its online banking program and soon after, to a popular, user-friendly mobile banking platform.
“We made a lot of progress in helping advance the organization into the modern era of electronic and mobile banking, and I’m pretty proud of the technological services we offer to customers,” he said.
Riding Out Recessions
With experience during a regional recession more than a decade earlier, and while thousands of banks failed or became severely compromised in the great recession of 2008 and 2009, Mr Trentacosta saw NSB through the challenges.
“I had to take steps in 2009 to ensure the bank’s survival, but as banks were failing across the country, we still showed a profit,” Mr Trentacosta said. “There were very close to break-even years, but we never lost money.”
Under Mr Trentacosta’s leadership the Newtown Savings Bank maintains a position as one of the top 20 resellers of mortgages in the state, originating between $250 million and $300 million in mortgage business annually.
“It’s exciting to be such a major player in Connecticut, holding our own next to global brands like Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, and Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage programs,” he said. “We beat most of the local state banks and we still service most of those loans.”
Since coming to NSB, he has seen its holdings grow from $300 million to close to $2 billion including portfolio assets; the bank’s branches double from seven to 14; the opening of a commercial lending and mortgage office in Hamden; saw its number of employees swell from 80 when he arrived, to more than 245 today; and hired or developed all but one of the bank’s current executive team.
While the bumps in his career at NSB have been few, Mr Trentacosta said one of the biggest was an attempt to establish a subsidiary that would handle commercial leasing.
“Let’s just say that didn’t develop as well as I had hoped,” he said with a rueful grin.
While NSB is still classified as a local/regional bank, Mr Trentacosta has always supported maintaining competitiveness.
“If a small bank is going to give the best service to consumers, and to hold onto and grow its customer base, it has to have every service that a national or global institution has,” he said. At the same time, he is not afraid to keep a few things “old school.”
“I’m so proud that we still offer passbook savings,” he said. “So many banks have thrown that out in favor of electronic service, but it’s part of our history and I’m glad we are still doing it. The customers who use the passbooks really love it.”
Mr Trentacosta said despite his position, he never had an inclination to close himself off from his colleagues or the community.
“It’s the responsibility of most community bank CEOs to be active in their community,” Mr Trentacosta said. “John Martocci provided the greatest influence to me in that respect. He tried to be sure every member of the team had some type of involvement in community activities.
“What I love about community banking is the chance to help so many people in the community,” he added.
He plans to remain active in the community, and was asked by Mr Martocci to assume the role of chairman of the bank’s board.
“I though it was very magnanimous of John, and we agreed having me assume his role as chairman would be the best move from a succession standpoint,” Mr Trentacosta said.
Following his sit-down with The Newtown Bee, Mr Trentacosta headed to Edmond Town Hall’s Alexandria Room where more than 100 staffers and business associates, trustees and board members gathered to wish him well.
He was treated to a skit that mocked up a pretend radio station — WNSB — and tapped bank executives to play made-up characters from his younger days. He received a number of gifts, including a framed photo of his first granddaughter, and heard a reading of the Congressional recognition that was conferred by US Representative Elizabeth Esty.
The culmination of the tribute was a presentation of the James Osborne Leadership Award, an honor Mr Trentacosta was often nominated for but refused on the basis of his executive position.
The bank’s new President and CEO Kenneth L. Weinstein recognized Mr Trentacosta for his “tremendous work ethic” and his willingness to roll up his sleeves to get the job done.
“John always put all of himself into leading the best bank it could be for the community,” Mr Weinstein said. “He is a leader with unshakable honesty and ethics, and he works harder than he asks anyone else to work.”
Bringing that part of his retirement reception to a close, Mr Trentacosta thanked everyone in the room echoing remarks he made to the newspaper an hour or so earlier.
“It’s humbling to be here in this role,” Mr Trentacosta said. “I never thought I’d be a guy who runs a bank, but I can’t think of having a better job in the town where I live. This has been about the most rewarding professional experience of my life.”