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DAN'S PAPERS, May 1, 2009 Page 31 www.danshamptons.com

BUSINESS Givin’ You the

Bridgehampton Nt’l Bank Glowing

By T.J. Clemente Bridgehampton National Bank (Bridge Bancorp, Inc) released its 2008 annual report last Friday at its shareholders meeting, announcing a 12% earnings growth. The bank with the mantra of being “Safe, Solid and Secure” actually is — when most banks aren’t. We asked BNB CEO Kevin O’Connor, why? In just his second year at the helm, O’Connor smiled and said, “We are a relationship bank. We grow through creating new relationships and growing existing ones.” So how did the bank weather a storm that has so many other banks on the brink? First of all, Bridgehampton never swayed from its business model focused on commercial loans rather than home mortgages. In fact O’Connor said Bridgehampton’s loan portfolio is just 15% home mortgages, which were granted only to bank customers. None are in foreclosure. BNB resisted the temptation to throw common sense out the window and pursue the crazy home mortgage frenzy. Secondly BNB does not sell off its mortgages or commercial loans to other institutions — all loans stay in house. That process was partly responsible for the instability of other banks and insurance institutions that gave unverifiable loans. “BNB holds on to all of our loans. We are a portfolio lender,” is how O’Connor phrased it. BNB always practices due diligence and proper underwriting when making any loan, the sound banking way. However when the banking troubles surfaced in the nation last fall, BNB in a cautionary move froze salaries above the V.P. level, but did not cut employee benefits. In fact the bank is opening up branches in two new locations, Deer Park and Shirley as well as building a new branch in East Hampton. O’Connor noted that, in his two years, BNB has experienced less turnover for employees which saved money in training, and made the bank’s internal workings more efficient. So how does the bank make money? “We are a commercial bank, we center on commercial lending and commercial real estate,” said O’Connor, adding that BNB has a relationship with many of the largest, oldest companies on the East End that have long, successful histories of making sound business decisions. But O’Connor stressed the bank always does due diligence on every loan to protect the shareholders. “We do banking the way it’s suppose to be done. We always have.” O’Connor admitted that he believes retail business in the Hamptons is quietly up 1-2% over last year. He understands some small retail stores are not doing as well and that car sales are not stellar. But he and the bank have faith in the resiliency of the East End. “We have that ocean,” he said, meaning people will always flock to the shore in the summer. O’Connor believes that many banks are “gun shy on taking on big development projects.” He notes that doing this put some big banks in big trouble. He personally hopes that commercial rents will be adjusted to help keep tenants in place, believing that perhaps in some special cases commercial rents will actually go down. As for seasonal home rentals, while professing not to be an expert on this subject, he believes that the next three weeks will be very important not

only for home rentals in the Hamptons but in forecasting how the summer will go and determining if the local real estate market has bottomed out. He “hopes” we are near the bottom, and believes it’s unlikely that the market will fall and create new low levels, barring unforeseen conditions. “A lot depends on tourists coming out here,” he said. “With the less expensive gas, the tourist will have more discretionary income.” As for home sales O’Connor predicts the market will start seeing more “transactions.” In the longterm view, he is an optimist. He knows the weather plays a huge role in everything too, but he noted the Hamptons, like BNB, has weathered many storms. O’Connor is excited about the plans BNB is

making for next year to celebrate 100 years of existence. Many events are being planned to thank the community for holding up its end of the relationship with the bank. O’Connor understands relationships and traditions, noting that Timothy Maran, Albert E. McCoy and Dennis Suskind were re-elected to the Board of Directors. The released 2008 Bridge Bancorp (BNB) annual report (for the period Jan. 1December 31, 2008) showed total assets at $839.1 million, total deposits at $659.1 net income expenses at $8.8 million up from $8.3 million in 2007. Lastly BNB is a nationally chartered commercial bank with assets over $800 million dollars. It is one of the top 20 best performing banks in the United States.

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Dan's Papers May 1, 2009  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

Dan's Papers May 1, 2009  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

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