Bankwell CEO resolving finance woes

The Bankwell Financial Group leaders are standing behind their president and CEO this week after reports she had personal financial problems.

“Although there are legitimate explanations for each of these issues, I take full responsibility for resolving them, and recognize that as the CEO of a public company, I am held to a very high standard,” Peyton Patterson, the president and CEO of Bankwell, told The Bulletin’s sister paper, the New Canaan Advertiser this week.

Since taking over in 2012, Ms. Patterson has led the former Bank of New Canaan’s mergers, expansion in the region, new branding and recent $48.6-million initial public offering. Last year, Bankwell completed the acquisition of The Wilton Bank.

Bankwell Chairman Blake S. Drexler of New Canaan told the Hartford Business Journal earlier this month that Ms. Patterson has the board’s support. He said Ms. Patterson disclosed to the board the financial issues the week of May 26.

“I think we’re very comfortable with the circumstances and we’re confident she’s going to resolve them,” Mr. Drexler, a partner with Five Mile Ventures in Norwalk, told the HBJ. ”It’s a set of circumstances that could happen to any of us, to be quite candid. She’s an outstanding president and CEO, and she’s done great things for the bank and our customers.”

The HBJ reported last week that Ms. Patterson, who has been named one of the most powerful women in banking, is over $400,000 in debt thanks to unpaid credit card bills, back taxes and unpaid country club memberships.

The case of back taxes was withdrawn and most of that money was paid to the town of Madison, a town official told the HBJ.

In the other cases, a judge ordered Ms. Patterson to pay the nearly $393,000 in debts, according the HBJ. Court filings, obtained by the HBJ, show that she did not formally respond to summonses in the Amex and country club cases. As a result, the plaintiffs’ attorneys won default motions for failure to appear, which led to the quicker judgments.

The other overdue bill for Ms. Patterson is for a phone system installed in her New Canaan home, the HBJ reported. Gregg Haughton of Granite Communications in North Haven told the Hartford Business Journal Ms. Patterson didn’t pay him $1,008 for a phone system his company installed early last year.

That payment has been made, a Bankwell spokesman said this week. “The vendor was not contracted directly through Ms. Patterson, so she was unaware of the issue,” Diane Knetzger, a Bankwell senior vice president and marketing director, said. “Once the outstanding payment was brought to her attention, she made that payment to the vendor directly.”

Ms. Patterson said that the country club problems were from a corporate membership maintained by her previous employer. She said she was unaware of the outstanding charges as she had left that company in 2011 and has not visited either club in about three years.

“She was only recently informed that these outstanding charges were not resolved, and she is working to ensure the matters are addressed,” Ms. Knetzger said.

The outstanding American Express charges relate to a “private family matter,” Ms. Knetzger said. “Ms. Patterson has taken decisive steps to have this matter resolved in a timely manner.”

Ms. Patterson said this week she appreciates the “great support of this community and our board of directors as I continue to work hard every day to earn the trust, confidence and respect of our employees, friends and stakeholders.

“I am proud of the record results we achieved across virtually every aspect of our business in 2013, and look forward to continuing that progress in 2014,” Ms. Patterson said. “We remain focused on offering a broad array of products and services, which we customize to allow us to build long-term relationships with our customers through high-quality, responsive and personal customer service.”

Ms. Patterson took over what was then the BNC Financial Group in 2012. As CEO and president, she led the bank in its acquisition of The Wilton Bank and the company’s transformation into Bankwell Finance Group.

In 2008, American Banker named Patterson the Community Banker of the Year. U.S. Banker named her one of the top 10 CEOs in banking nationwide in 2006. And in 2004 and 2005, U.S. Banker ranked Ms. Patterson second on its list of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking.

“Under her leadership over the last year and a half, Bankwell has demonstrated strong and profitable growth, while staying true to its mission to provide value to the communities it serves,” Ms. Knetzger said. “In 2013, the bank expanded its footprint with the acquisition of The Wilton Bank and launched Wealth Management and Business Cash Management services to provide a broader product array to both consumers and businesses.  In May 2014, Bankwell announced the company’s $48-million IPO.”

Ms. Patterson also has a passion for improving education — particularly for the underprivileged in Connecticut. She is a former chairman of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, and she is preparing a strategic plan for a nonprofit in Stamford that helps underprivileged high school students reach their full academic and professional potential.

Bankwell has branches in New Canaan, Wilton, Stamford and Fairfield.