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Lake Sunapee Bank Changing Name to Reflect New Ownership



Valley News Business Writer
Sunday, April 08, 2018

Newport— Lake Sunapee Bank, whose roots go back 150 years, will officially disappear over the coming months as its name changes to Bar Harbor Bank & Trust.

Bar Harbor acquired the Newport-based bank last year in a merger deal valued at $182.2 million. The acquisition greatly expanded the Maine-based bank’s size and footprint across New Hampshire and Vermont, but also led to significant layoffs at Lake Sunapee’s former headquarters, which adversely affected downtown Newport businesses.

In recent weeks Bar Harbor Bank has been filing building permit applications at towns in the Upper Valley seeking approval to put up new signs at Lake Sunapee Bank branches. They will replace the signs that the Maine bank erected shortly after the merger that identified Lake Sunapee Bank as a “division of” of Bar Harbor Bank.

Lake Sunapee Bank currently has 31 full-service branch locations in New Hampshire and Vermont, 20 in the Upper Valley. Originally known as Newport Savings Bank, it later evolved into New Hampshire Thrift Bancshares and expanded into Vermont in 2013 when it purchased the Randolph National Bank. In 2015 NHTB renamed itself Lake Sunapee Bank Group.

When Bar Harbor Bank announced the acquisition nearly two years ago, its chief executive Curtis Simard called Lake Sunapee Bank “a community bank. They will keep their brand.”

But a spokesman for Bar Harbor Bank said that subsequent customer surveys revealed the public is confused by two names simultaneously appearing on the bank’s signs and communications materials and therefore decided to “consolidate the brand.”

“We were getting feedback, especially in New Hampshire, from customers and the general sentiment was that the ‘division of’ was confusing,” said Joseph Schmitt, chief marketing officer for Bar Harbor Bank.

Schmitt said that depositors will be notified this week about the name change and that it will appear beginning with the May statements in the mail. People accessing the Lake Sunapee Bank website will be automatically redirected to the Bar Harbor Bank website as of April 30.

Schmitt said that the bank’s IT and computer systems were already combined more than a year ago and Lake Sunapee Bank customers will not see any disruption in service and electronic banking as a result of the name change.

“Staff and locations will not be impacted by this change,” he wrote in an email.

Bar Harbor is also taking advantage of the name change to undertake “maintenance and improvements” at many of the Lake Sunapee Bank branches, including a “significant” upgrade of the Newport location, Schmitt noted.

Schmitt also said Bar Harbor Bank has relocated its call center operations from Maine to New London and Newport, which has led to additional hiring at the Newport offices.

The name change is occurring after the unexpected retirement in February of veteran Lake Sunapee Bank executive William McIver. McIver, who had been chief operating officer of Lake Sunapee Bank, after the merger was named Bar Harbor Bank’s regional vice president of New Hampshire and Vermont markets, overseeing the bank’s branches in the Twin States.

McIver’s exit came halfway through a three-year contract with Bar Harbor that was to expire in May 2019, according to his employment agreement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

McIver, a former varsity basketball coach at Stevens High School in Claremont, said his sooner-than-planned retirement was an amicable decision with the bank.

“It’s just something we worked out a little sooner than we thought,” he said when reached at his home in Ware, N.H. “It was mutually agreed upon. It made sense for me personally.”

Schmitt, the chief marketing officer, said McIver’s former responsibilities have been divided between Marion Columbo, who joined Bar Harbor Bank as executive vice president of retail delivery in February and who is managing the branch locations; and John Mercier, executive vice president of commercial banking who now oversees all lending activity generated in the Twin States.

Lake Sunapee Bank also recently lost several home mortgage loan officers to Mascoma Bank in addition to a commercial loan officer based in Lake Sunapee Bank’s Hanover office, who has joined Mascoma as well.

Schmitt said the bank was not aware of concern that the loss of the local name in favor of an out-of-state name would alienate depositors in branch communities.

“We’re worried more that we provide great service,” he said. “Over the past year we’ve made it known we are committed to the local community.” He said that the bank has increased lending, provided philanthropic support and introduced such programs as giving bank employees three paid days off annually to volunteer for community service of their choice.

“We have a history of over 130 years of really being committed to the community,” Schmitt said. “We’re committed to the community.”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.