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Centrix Bank, with locations in Nashua and Milford, acquired by Massachusetts company

NASHUA – Customers of Centrix Bank & Trust can expect to see a new name on the door and an expanded set of financial products this fall as the company merges with Eastern Bank Corp.

Centrix, a commercial bank headquartered in Bedford with seven branches around the state, is being acquired in a cash transaction valued at approximately $134 million. ...

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NASHUA – Customers of Centrix Bank & Trust can expect to see a new name on the door and an expanded set of financial products this fall as the company merges with Eastern Bank Corp.

Centrix, a commercial bank headquartered in Bedford with seven branches around the state, is being acquired in a cash transaction valued at approximately $134 million.

Executives from the two companies say the deal will bring few changes to the existing services Centrix customers receive, while also introducing a new set of insurance and wealth management products with the backing of one of the country’s oldest mutual banks.

“We firmly believe this is going to be a very positive thing not only for Centrix as an organization and their employees who are joining us, but we think it’s going to be very positive for the central New Hampshire communities and the coastal communities that we’ll be operating in,” said Robert F. Rivers, president and chief operating officer of Eastern Bank.

Launched in 1998, Centrix grew over the last 15 years with a singular focus on becoming a high-performing commercial bank. It’s currently valued at about $1 billion. The company’s corporate overseers began looking for a partner in the past year as they assessed the company’s short-term outlook and contemplated the regulatory and technological burdens facing the banking industry, CEO and co-founder Joseph Reilly said.

“The more infrastructure and scale you have, the more adept you are at being able to deal with those sorts of challenges,” he said.

Headquartered in Massachusetts, Eastern Bank has assets of about $8.8 billion and is one of the largest mutual banks in the country. The company has more than 90 branches in the Bay State, stretching from the Merrimack Valley to Cape Cod.

While the company’s operational structure resembles other financial institutions, it functions under three governing bodies – a board of directors, board of trustees and roughly 90-member Board of Corporators, comprised of customers and
non-customers.
Since the company doesn’t answer to shareholders, Rivers said Eastern Bank’s mission isn’t tied solely to its profits.

The bank strives to help “underserved” customers, and is currently the leading provider of U.S. Small Business Administration loans in New England, he said.

Eastern Bank also has given an average of 10 percent of its net income to charity since 1999, Rivers said.

The bank currently supports more than 1,800 nonprofits through donations and community service and volunteering by employees.

“We don’t have to string every last dollar out of something if it’s not in the best interests of our clients and our colleagues at the institution, and our communities,” he said.

Originally founded in Salem in 1818, Eastern Bank has quadrupled in size in the last two decades. Most recently, it acquired Wainwright Bank and Trust, followed by The Community Bank of Brockton, Massachusetts.

Eastern Bank set its sights on Centrix in part because of the company’s proximity to existing markets served by Eastern Bank in the Bay State. Eastern Bank is located almost exclusively within the Interstate 495 belt, and has a significant presence in the Merrimack Valley.

With nearly 10 times the assets of Centrix Bank & Trust, Eastern boasts a significantly larger capital base, allowing it to extend larger loans.

While Centrix caps its loan programs at $15 million, that number is expected to increase to $35 million after the merger with Eastern Bank – a potential lure for large retailers.

Eastern, which has roughly 1,700 employees, will introduce more sophisticated cash management options for business customers, including new online and mobile platforms in development.

Centrix currently employs 135 people and operates in Bedford, Concord, Dover, Manchester, Portsmouth, Milford and Nashua, where its office is located at 11 Trafalgar Square.

Although Centrix has operated in Milford for about 10 years, Reilly said the company recently made the decision to close the office and attempt to migrate customers to Nashua. The branch is expected to close in mid-October.

“The metrics of the marketplace just didn’t support its ongoing profitability,” Reilly said.

Centrix is expected to reduce its workforce to about 85 employees as the company merges with Eastern Bank this fall. Rivers said most of those who are departing were employed in administrative functions, and many were offered the option of continuing to work for Eastern Bank at its operations center outside of Boston.

He said Eastern Bank is confident that over time, and with additional resources, net employment in New Hampshire will even out.

After acquiring The Community Bank in Brockton, Rivers said, the company installed new employees and revitalized the bank’s office building in the city.

“As we started to expand more in that marketplace, we hired more people,” he said.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_
JimH).