Bankwell leader swamped in debt

The Bankwell Financial Group president and CEO, who led the former Bank of New Canaan’s mergers — including acquisition of the Bank of Wilton — and recent $48.6 million initial public offering, has been struggling with her personal finances, according to the Hartford Business Journal.

Peyton Patterson, who took over what was then the BNC Financial Group in 2012, is over $400,000 in debt thanks to unpaid credit card bills, back taxes and unpaid country club memberships, according to reporting by the HBJ, which covers Connecticut business news. Ms. Patterson has been named one of the most powerful women in banking.

Since June 2013, according to the HBJ article, Ms. Patterson has been sued by American Express for $353,509 in credit card debt; the Race Brook Country Club in Orange for $28,176 in unpaid membership dues; the Pine Orchard Yacht and Country Club in Branford for $10,658 in unpaid membership dues; and the town of Madison for more than $20,000 in back taxes.

The case of back taxes was withdrawn and most of that money was paid to the town of Madison, a town official told the HBJ. The town tax collector told the Business Journal that Ms. Patterson reached a repayment agreement with the town on May 29; the current property tax balance was $382 this week.

In the other three cases, a judge ordered Ms. Patterson to pay the nearly $393,000 in debts, according the Business Journal. Court filings, obtained by the HBJ, show that Ms. Patterson did not formally respond to summons 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 that Ms. Patterson didn’t pay him $1,008 for a phone system his company installed early last year.

“This is a personal matter which I take very seriously and am  actively addressing,” Ms. Patterson said in a statement after being contacted by The Bulletin’s sister paper, The New Canaan Advertiser. “The items are being resolved or are the result of legitimate disputes.”

Ms. Patterson earned nearly $1.1 million at Bankwell in 2013, including nearly $732,000 in salary and cash incentives, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the HBJ reported.

Bankwell Chairman Blake S. Drexler of New Canaan told the 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, she’s done great things for the bank and our customers.”

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

Diane Knetzger, a Bankwell senior vice president and marketing director, told the Advertiser that Ms. Patterson does a lot of work with children in her spare time. “I’d like to emphasize that she goes to great length to mentor both young men and women here at the bank and throughout the state of Connecticut,” Ms. Knetzger said. “Her greatest civic passion is education reform and narrowing the achievement gap in Connecticut. She was formerly chairman of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. She is currently preparing a strategic plan for a very promising local not-for-profit in Stamford that helps underprivileged high school students reach their full academic and professional potential.”

Ms. Patterson came to what was then BNC in 2012 after more than 25 years of banking experience. She was chairman and CEO of NewAlliance Bancshares, Inc., headquartered in New Haven. She was named Community Banker of the Year by American Banker in 2008 and U.S. Banker named her one of the top 10 CEOs in banking nationwide in 2006. In 2004 and 2005, U.S. Banker ranked Ms. Patterson second on their list of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking.

Before NewAlliance, she was the executive vice president of Consumer Financial Services for Dime Bancorp, headquartered in New York.

She received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Kenyon College and a master of business degree in marketing from George Washington University. She served on the boards of the Consumer Bankers Association, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, The NewAlliance Foundation, The Greater New York United Way, the Greenwich YMCA, and is on the executive committee of Yale New Haven Hospital.