Local community banks have been successful in cities and towns across Fairfield County, and now a group of bankers hopes to make one fly in Greenwich. The organizers of The Bank of Greenwich filed an application with the Connecticut Department of Banking for a state charter earlier this month.

The institution will be a full-service commercial bank with its headquarters in Greenwich. If approved, the bank will serve area residents and small to medium-sized businesses. Organizers hope the promise of individualized service and residents’ desire for a true hometown bank will help the institution succeed.

Greenwich was once home to several banks, but many were acquired or merged earlier this decade. The Greenwich Bank & Trust Co. opened there in 1998, but merged in 2003 with the Westport National Bank, forming Connecticut Community Bank. Another bank, Putnam Trust, now operates as a division of The Bank of New York.

“There is no hometown bank headquartered in Greenwich,” said organizer James Calkins.

And hometown banks in Fairfield County have always been popular, according to Todd Martin, an economic advisor for Bridgeport-based People’s Bank.

“The hometown banks have always had a very loyal following,” he said.

Many community banks in other parts of the county have been very successful.

“I’d imagine these folks could do the same,” Martin said.

Greenwich’s high per capita income makes it one of the more attractive markets in the country, he added.

“The Greenwich market is pretty desirable,” Martin noted.

Many organizers of the planned bank are from Greenwich.

“We need a commercial bank which is run by people who have strong ties to the community,” said Stephen Thurlow, chairman of the organizer group, in a prepared statement. “There is a compelling case that the banking industry is falling short of client needs. We can provide excellent service and help small businesses accomplish their goals by giving them the support and flexibility they need to be successful.”

A Rise in Demand

Some recent trends have led to a rise in demand for local community banks throughout the state. National banks, such as Bank of America, are getting bigger, which has led many customers to look for smaller banks with more personalized service.

“[Community banks] have continued to thrive,” Martin said.

The level of service provided by those small banks is part of the reason for their success, Calkins said. He said he hopes that level of service will help The Bank of Greenwich compete against the many large banks in the community.

“As large banks, they have to deliver service in a certain way that is not high-level service,” Calkins said.

Because big banks have to deliver service on a mass basis, they can’t provide the kind of attention to small and medium-sized businesses that smaller banks can. Larger banks, because of their scale, look for large loans and large account relationships, Calkins said.

As a result, the organizers of The Bank of Greenwich think there’s a place for a hometown bank in the community.

“The market certainly can support hometown banks,” Calkins said. “We believe there’s a need and we’re going to fill that need.”

The bank’s organizers have been looking for a location and have some possible sites, but haven’t decided yet, Calkins said. The bank will start with one location with an ATM and drive-through window and will branch out from there. They will be raising money locally and hope to have the application and review process done by the third quarter of this year and the bank open by the end of this year.

“Our goal is to make the financial lives of individuals and small to mid-sized businesses better,” said Robert Oca, who will be president and chief executive officer of the bank, in a prepared statement. “Banks should offer outstanding service and think creatively to help customers achieve financial success. Our customers will feel valued because we know they are valuable members of our community. We will be helping our community continue to grow and prosper.”

Oca has more than 30 years of commercial banking experience. He was president, chief executive officer and organizer of the Bank of Westport. A lifelong resident of Greenwich, he was also president, chief executive officer and director of Connecticut Community Bank.

Calkins also has been in the commercial banking industry for more than 30 years. He served as executive vice president, chief lending officer, director and organizer of the Bank of Westport, which opened in 1998 and merged last year. He was also senior vice president, chief lending officer and director of Greenwich-based Connecticut Community Bank.

Thurlow is a former NFL running back who spent 35 years on Wall Street and recently retired from his position as a director of the UBS Investment Bank in Stamford.

Other organizers are John Fareri, Anthony Melillo Jr., Thomas Steena and Richard Sontag.

Fareri is a Greenwich resident and president and chief executive officer of Fareri Assoc., a real estate development company that is building Chieftans, the largest residential project in Greenwich. Fareri’s community commitment earned him the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the New York Medical College award for community service.

Melillo is president of Melillo Maintenance, a Stamford-based company with more than 600 employees. He is also president of AJM Builders, a builder of residential luxury homes.

Steen is president of Toyota of Greenwich, which he has operated for 34 years, and is currently a member of the board of The Greenwich Old Timers Association, a charitable organization providing scholarships to the local area youth.

Sontag most recently was vice chairman of the Bank of Westport. He has many years of banking experience including service as a director of Cornerstone Bancorp in Stamford and as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Liberty National Bank in Stamford.