CEO, Rockland Trust
Industry experience: 37 years
Rockland Trust went outside the bank for its new CEO, but Jeffrey Tengel wants to make sure that operations inside the bank look no different today than they did under longtime leader Christopher Oddleifson. Following advice he received from his predecessor, Tengel spent the first weeks of his tenure meeting with employees, ensuring them that the bank’s business model and how they go about their jobs would not change. Tengel took over as CEO of Rockland Trust and its parent company Independent Bank Corp. in early February following Oddleifson’s 20-year tenure.
Tengel began his career as an accountant before turning to banking. After joining Bridgeport, Connecticut-based People’s United Bank in 2010, he became the bank’s president in 2018 and held that role until People’s United was acquired by M&T Bank a year ago. Tengel was M&T Bank’s senior executive vice president and head of commercial specialty banking before joining Rockland Trust.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue the CEO role at Rockland Trust?
A: I really didn’t know a lot about Rockland prior to exploring this position. When I did some research, what I found was that Rockland was very similar and reminded me a lot of People’s United when I had started back in 2010. Rockland is about the same size as People’s United was when I had joined – right around $20 billion in assets. It appeared to have a very similar, conservative credit culture and was very well capitalized, very focused on the communities that they serve and very relationship-oriented, which I think is important. And it has a desire to continue to grow both organically and through acquisitions.
The big unknown was the culture. But what I had heard about Rockland was that they had a very similar culture as People’s United. I really enjoyed my tenure at People’s United prior to us being acquired by M&T, and I thought it was an opportunity to engage in another opportunity that was similar to what I had done previously.
Q: Rockland Trust has a more concentrated market compared to People’s United. What are your goals for expanding Rockland Trust’s market?
A: I think Rockland Trust’s acquisition history and their growth has been actually pretty similar to People’s United. I think we would like to continue on the same path that Rockland has always been on, which would grow both organically and through acquisitions in a thoughtful, disciplined way, with acquisitions in-market or adjacent to our existing franchise. I don’t think you’ll see us pursuing an acquisition in Florida or Texas, to pick an extreme example. But as long as we feel like we can manage it from Rockland, then I think we would consider it.
Q: What has your first month been like at Rockland Trust?
A: I might have answered this question a little bit differently [on March 9] than I would today. If I could take you back, I would tell you that it’s been wonderful. It has been everything as advertised and more. When I first arrived, I heard a lot of the folks here talking about how wonderful the company was and the legacy that Chris had built and this very warm, caring undercurrent. And it couldn’t be more true. We had an all employee gathering a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been hearing about the culture – the secret sauce of Rockland – and that really brought it to life for me in a big way.
Q: What has your experience been like since Silicon Valley Bank failed on March 10?
A: There’s been a little bit of anxiety to be sure, and empathy for some of the customers and employees of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Also, in some respects, it has been kind of gratifying. We’ve heard from a number of our constituents that one of the things that differentiates Rockland Trust is not only our commitment to our employees and the communities we serve, but just the nature of our business. We have a diverse business model, which I think is – in times like this – very advantageous. As a result of that, I think we’ve seen less impact from some of the disruption in the banking industry than others have seen, which I think is a testament to the conservative nature of our company and the very thoughtful way that that we’ve gone about building the business, which is a big part of Chris’ legacy.
Q: Is it new for you to handle investors directly and what has that experience been like?
A: I had dealt with some of our investors when I was at People’s United, so I’m not unfamiliar with that conversation. Ironically [on March 10], we had a day scheduled of Zoom calls in 45-minute increments with our investors. It was initially put together for a lot of our investors to meet me, because a lot of them don’t know me. When the news came out Friday morning that the FDIC was seizing Silicon Valley Bank, there was the potential to really change the nature of the conversations over the course of the day. While of course we touched on the Silicon Valley Bank challenges, most of our investor base was very, very comfortable with our company and our business model and the nature of our deposit base. We were able to spend as much time allowing them to get to know me a bit better and have a conversation that we thought we were going to have. After you get the news in the morning, you’re not sure if you’re going to have that.
Q: Do you have any concerns about potential outflows or instability with depositors?
A: We really don’t. Because we have a very granular deposit base – a good portion of the base is less than $250,000 to begin with, the FDIC insurance maximum – we’re starting from a position of strength. Then layered on top of that has just been the conservative way our company has been managed. Over the course of the first few days, we really have not seen any significant and unusual deposit outflows. I wouldn’t say it’s business as usual, because we have gotten a lot of questions from our customers. But we’ve not seen any significant deposit outflows, which we feel pretty good about.
Tengel’s Five Favorite Musicians
- Bruce Springsteen
- Bob Dylan
- Counting Crows
- Death Cab for Cutie