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Sunday, July 13, 2014, 3:00am

In Person

Charting A New Course

Ralph LetnerRalph Letner

Title: Chief Lending Officer, Wellesley Bank   

Age: 55

Experience: 28 years

Ralph Letner sailed an interesting course into banking. The Natick native attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and sailed on merchant ships for four years after graduation. Letner says he always wanted to be a banker, but didn’t know exactly how to go about that, so after he came ashore, he took a job financing yachts. From there, he earned an MBA and enrolled in a credit training program at Fleet Bank. In the intervening years, he’s also worked for a subsidiary of the Bank of Tokyo and Citizens Bank. This spring, he stepped into the role of chief lending officer at Wellesley Bank.

 

Q: Since commercial and industrial (C&I) lending is in your background, do you think that will be a key focus of Wellesley Bank going forward?

A: The bank would like to do more C&I lending, and that means owner-occupied real estate and businesses of all shapes and sizes. I tend to use the term small middle-market: typically businesses that are doing more than a million dollars in revenue up to whatever the top end is that we could service. We have to be realistic about the size of the business that we could work with, but that small middle-market is a great place for us. The privately held, family-owned business is a great place for us. The products that we provide are exactly what those folks need, and then the service level and market understanding is exactly what the market needs and wants and what those people need and want, so the short answer is: Yes, we’d like to do more C&I lending.

 

Q: Where else do you see opportunities for growth?

A: The first hire that I was able to make since I joined the bank was a gentleman by the name of Andrew Maloney. Andrew is a friend and former colleague at Citizens Bank. Prior to that, he was at State Street bank, and he has a specialty working with and banking professional services firms: law firms, accounting firms, private equity, venture, CPA firms and professional services firms. So Andrew is now sitting in Boston for us, and in addition to general C&I lending, he’s going to focus on those types of entities, and we think some of the characteristics of Wellesley Bank would fit nicely with those types of businesses.

 

Q: You work with the Natick elderly and disabled taxation fund – can you tell me what that’s about?

A: I didn’t start it, but I was a charter member of the committee, and I’m still there. There’s a law in the commonwealth which allows towns to set up these committees that can solicit funds and then distribute them to low-income elderly and or disabled taxpayers. It’s a very nice thing, so we solicit the funds through various means, and then every year, residents who are in need fill out an application and apply to us for help. We go through a qualification process and are typically able to pay upwards of 25 percent of an applicant’s annual real estate tax bill. When you see some of the applications, you really see the need that people have.

We’ve been doing this for 13 years, and we’ve been giving out probably an average of $10,000 a year. When my kids were still younger, you see all the money that’s being spent on new schools and recreational facilities, and it’s all very important for the town, but you also see the tax burden on these other folks, the elderly and disabled low-income folks, so this is a nice way to balance things out, to allow the people in town who have to give to the people who don’t.

 

Ralph Letner’s Top Five Local Running Routes:

  1. Charles River in Boston around the Longfellow and Mass. Ave. bridges
  2. Pond Road in Wellesley
  3. South Street in Natick through the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary
  4. The Wellesley College water tower hill
  5. Any route with one of my daughters

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