The Connecticut Bank & Trust Co., which currently operates this main office in Hartford as well as two branches, has plans to expand by the end of the year.

The lobbies are new, and the people behind the teller desks and in the back offices are different, but Hartford-based The Connecticut Bank & Trust Co.’s moniker seems to bring waves of nostalgia and confidence to the bank’s ever-growing customer base.

The CBT, which opened its doors as a de novo bank more than a year ago, took its name from the original Connecticut Bank & Trust, a popular Hartford-based institution that closed in the 1990s. Organizers of the new CBT hoped the association with the name, and the association with other symbols it adopted, would translate into a good customer base when the bank opened in March 2004.

And with deposits of just over $73 million in its three branches and plans to open two new locations in the near future, it seems the adoption of the name is working.

“The CBT [name] clearly helped us get customers,” said Anson Hall, The CBT’s treasurer and chief financial officer.

Even though the new CBT has no connection – other than the name – to the old one, the sense of familiarity makes people feel comfortable, Hall said. The bank’s employees hear stories about how the old CBT sponsored customers’ Little League teams years ago, or how it was where someone had their first bank account, he noted.

Although employees of the bank are sure to tell any new customer that today’s CBT is different from the old one, the new institution appreciates and tries to incorporate the good qualities of the now-defunct institution.

In using the name, the organizers of the new CBT sought to inherit the goodwill of the old bank, and were successful, according to John Carusone, president of the Hartford-based Bank Analysis Center.

“It’s a strong form of branding,” he said.

The success is manifesting itself in the bank’s quick expansion.

“Generally it’s been quite good,” Hall said.

The bank now has three locations. Its main office is located at 58 State House Square in Hartford, and it has two branches in West Hartford and Glastonbury. Executives are now waiting for final approvals to open two more, one in Vernon and one in Windsor. The locations are set, and Hall said he hopes the Vernon branch will open in October and that the Windsor branch will open by the end of the year. The bank has not set dates for the opening because it is still searching for staff of the caliber that works in the existing offices, he added.

“We’re pleased with the staff we’ve been able to assemble,” he said. “The idea is to [open the new branches] right with the right people.”

According to Carusone, that will not mark the end of the bank’s planned expansion. At the moment, its goal is to have a total of nine branches across Hartford County, he said.

‘Lackluster’ Rates

Although there have been challenges during the opening and expansion of the bank, there have not been any surprises, Hall noted.

“The biggest challenge is that it is a very competitive market,” he said.

Since Bank of America acquired FleetBoston Financial Corp. last year, most banks in the market have been paying attention to BofA’s much-lauded style of customer service. And although The CBT is not intimidated by the huge institution, it would be foolish not to pay attention to its practices, Hall said.

Another challenge has been interest rates, which are increasing, but slowly.

“I think the lackluster interest rates [despite the government trying to raise them] have put some pressure on all banks,” Hall said.

But in its niche, The CBT has been doing very well, according to Hall. It concentrates on commercial banking for small to medium-sized businesses, and that area has been successful for the bank. That has been its strategy from the start.

When the bank started last year, it made its strategy well known, and succeeded in raising $18.5 million in capital in only three months – an unprecedented amount of time for raising so much money, according to Carusone.

Now, because of the quick expansion, the bank has another offering in progress, he said.

“They have sought to go back to the capital markets and refuel themselves,” Carusone said.

The CBT’s reputation as a hometown bank also likely has helped it gain customers. It is the only commercial bank based in Hartford, a far cry from the mix of institutions that populated the city years ago. Connecticut once had 160-plus banks, but now that number is down to around 50. Hartford itself hasn’t had a hometown bank in several years.

In addition to the adoption of the old CBT’s name, the new bank adopted one of its best-loved symbols. The bank is using the old CBT’s “Barney” symbol, which was well known and, when it opened, helped the new institution get a lot of press. Barney was the old CBT’s name for its ATMs. The new CBT has resurrected the mascot and the character appears at public events and parades, although the separate marketing using UConn’s women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is what has garnered both attention and advertising awards.

In its second-quarter results, The CBT reported that its total deposits increased $9.6 million to $73.1 million. It also reported a net loss from operations of about $1.1 million. For the first six months of the year, the net loss from operations amounted to $2.1 million. As of June 30, total assets were $86.1 million.