Retiring Webster Chairman James Smith

After more than four decades at the institution founded by his father, former Webster Bank CEO and current Chairman James Smith will retire in April.

The bank announced on Thursday that Webster’s board had elected John Ciulla, the bank’s current president and CEO, to succeed Smith as chairman. Ciulla will become Webster’s third chairman in its 84-year history, following Smith and his father, bank founder Harold Webster Smith.

Smith, 71, joined Waterbury, Connecticut-based Webster in 1975, becoming president in 1982 and CEO in 1987, when his father retired. Smith was named chairman and CEO in 1995 and retired as CEO in January 2018, becoming the board’s non-executive chairman. Webster Bank has branches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York.

“On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Jim for his significant and noteworthy contributions to Webster and the banking industry for over four decades,” Bill Atwell, lead independent director of the Webster board of directors, said in a statement. “His impeccable career as chairman and CEO has led Webster to be recognized as a leading mid-size bank in the country.”

Smith, who will retire at Webster’s annual shareholder meeting in April, was appointed last year by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont as co-chair the Connecticut Economic Resource Center to help spur economic activity in Connecticut. Smith was also a founding member and vice-chairman of the Mid-Size Banks Coalition of America and was a past board member of several industry organizations, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, the American Bankers Association and the Connecticut Bankers Association.

“On behalf of the executive team and all our bankers, we want to thank Jim for his dedication and commitment which have shaped the great heritage and legacy of Webster, and led to our long-standing reputation as a strong, values-based company,” Ciulla said in a statement.

John Ciulla

Ciulla, 54, joined Webster in 2004 as senior vice president for middle market banking. He was later chief credit risk officer and head of commercial banking. He was named Webster’s president in 2015 and CEO in January 2018. He represents the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on the Federal Reserve System’s Federal Advisory Council.

“I am honored to have the board’s confidence, and I remain committed to achieving purposeful progress on clearly defined strategies,” Ciulla said in the statement. “Webster’s considerable progress over time is a reflection of the quality and dedication of our leadership team and the 3,400 values-guided Webster bankers who excel in service to our customers, our communities and one another.”

Smith said in the statement that Webster’s this move would complete Webster’s leadership succession plan, adding that it had been implemented seamlessly over several years.

“The board and I believe that Webster will thrive under a principled leader who serves as both chairman and CEO. John is that leader, having ably demonstrated his leadership skills, strategic acumen and responsible stewardship of the values that define Webster,” Smith said in the statement. “As I conclude my service to this great company, I celebrate its future knowing that Webster is in excellent hands. I am forever grateful to Webster’s bankers who are steadfastly committed to adding value for those who rely upon them.”

Smith to Retire as Webster Chairman, Succeded by Ciulla

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 2 min