Castle Bank and Trust Company - A Unique Community Bank - Celebrates It's 5th Anniversary
- by Barbara Sherburne, The People's Press

   Larry McGoldrick, founder, president, and CEO of Castle Bank, is a lifelong resident of Meriden. When he was growing up, there were nine community banks with headquarters in Meriden, but one by one they merged with other banks or went of out business until there were none. Such is progress, or is it?
   I spent two enlightening hours chatting with Mr. McGoldrick about banking and was also given an extensive tour of Castle Bank�s headquarters at 100 Hanover Street, which is an architectural marvel. What a gorgeous building it is! It was once a factory which was part of a group of factories that formed a large triangle, and it is the only one left of the original buildings. Many of the walls consist of the original bricks, and the old wood beams are still high overhead. I cannot do the architecture justice, and it is something I would recommend you go and look at for yourself. Many walls of the Bank are decorated with old photographs of Meriden, many of which were colorized, hand painted, by local historian Dan DeLuca. Others are either on loan or copies of originals from the Meriden Historical Society and Dr. Sherwin and Ruth Borsuk.  Larry had an interesting story to tell me about one of the pictures in the lobby. He said that he had gotten a number of photos from the Historical Society blown up in size and had taken them to John Butler, then owner of Butler Paint & Decorating, to have them framed. Much to John�s surprise, in a photo of the lobby of Home Bank from the 1920s was his mother in the foreground. There are many photos of former Meriden community banks from that era as well as one of an earlier Home Bank office from 1863.
   You may be wondering where the Castle Bank got its name. From Castle Craig, of course. There is one stunning photograph of Castle Craig and the American flag taken by Ray Gawlak in 1991 from a hot air balloon, which depicts the Castle overlooking the community. In a similar sense, Larry feels that Castle Bank watches over the community and its people.
   So why did Larry decide to start a community bank? The root: A need. Having a community bank that focuses its resources on this community makes a huge difference in the economic development of the community. Larry had previously been employed by a major bank when he was offered a new position which would mean relocating to Boston. He did some serious soul-searching about this. He happened to read an article in The Wall Street Journal about a group of bankers who left their bank and started their own bank in their hometown in North Carolina. The town had the same needs as Meriden, and had the same potential for success. So Larry began talking to key movers and shakers in town, and the more he asked if it was something that would be supported by the community, the more positive comments he received. So he gathered that group of 16 people, and in August of 1996 they had their first meeting as the Organizers of Castle Bank and Trust Company. All of them committed money to organize the bank and purchase stock. Larry did a lot of research, talked to the Department of Banking, and learned the process required to start a bank. He picked the brains of several bankers who had started community banks in Connecticut, and all were very helpful.
   It was not an easy task to get the bank started, however. The first step was to develop a business plan and present it to the Department of Banking. Part of the approval process is to have a public hearing and review the business plan. It took about a year, but Castle Bank was approved by the Department of Banking and the FDIC, and was given a temporary certificate of authority. They next had to raise capital, have a board of directors approved by the FDIC, and have an approved site location. Larry told me that in the case of one new bank startup, one individual gave $6 million of the $10 million capital needed to start the bank. This was not to be the case with Castle Bank. It took another year-and-a-half to raise the $6,150,000 capital purchased by 475 shareholders, who are predominately local people from Meriden, Wallingford, and Cheshire. Because it is important for the community to take part in a bank, Castle Bank�s Organizers decided on a minimum amount of 50 shares for $500, an amount that is affordable to many more potential shareholders instead of higher minimum purchase amounts set by most other new banks.
   The capital was raised by March of 1999, they got the final approval from the FDIC, and Castle Bank and Trust opened its doors in April 1999, five years ago!  In an effort to serve more of the community, a second branch office was opened at 852 East Main Street in 2001.
   Now that I have given you some of the history of Castle Bank, let me share with you some of Mr. McGoldrick�s personal thoughts. �Our goal is to stay a community bank for the long term, and that will be a  unique accomplishment as a stock owned bank. We want to keep good things like local knowledge and personal service from our community banking heritage and build on them for the future. I hope that 100 years from now someone says, �The people who started Castle Bank had a real vision and created an institution that had a tremendous positive impact on our community.�� Larry stressed several times that what makes a �community� bank different is that it forms a special partnership with its community. �The community supports us, and we support the community. Our success depends on the community.�
   The board of directors of Castle Bank is made up of 15 members.  According to Larry, �the common thread among them is they all love this community. It consists of business people who either live here or have businesses here � Meriden or central Connecticut. All of us feel it is important to contribute something to improve the community. One way to do this was to build Castle Bank.�
   I was given a tour of the first boardroom, which was quite small, but at least it was at the Bank itself and not at the YMCA, where the Organizers of Castle Bank met prior to the Bank�s opening. However, they needed a larger space, and they built a much larger boardroom, which has a beautiful cherry table that originally was Napier�s boardroom table. The Bank �rescued� the historic piece of Meriden�s past from being sold by the new owners of Napier.  The new boardroom has a staircase that leads to a loft area with big overstuffed chairs and a couple of tables, a perfect place to take a break and read a book. I just loved the building.
   I was struck by several photos in Larry�s office, and some plaques of past US presidents, but the one that stood out was a picture of Theodore Roosevelt alongside a quote of his:
   �It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
   �The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.�
   I believe that Mr. McGoldrick and his board of directors has met with success in a time in our history when it is difficult to compete against the major corporations, whether it is a Mom and Pop store or a community bank. Larry said twice to me, �It isn�t just the brick and mortar � it�s the people who are important.� As I got ready to leave (and imagine talking to the president of Wachovia, Fleet, Webster or any other bank for two hours � little ol� me), Larry said, �We are very proud of what we�ve built, but we�re very excited about the future � that we�ve only just started!�
   Congratulations, Castle Bank, on your fifth anniversary! You are a unique group �devoted to reinventing the notion of the local banker and bringing banking back where it belongs�in the Meriden community.� (

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

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