THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE OLDEST AND THIRD LARGEST BANK HEADQUARTERED IN NJ EXPLAINS THAT, DESPITE RAPID GROWTH AND BOUNDLESS POTENTIAL, IT STILL OPERATES WITH COMMUNITY IN MIND
BY AMANDA McCOY PHOTOS BY ALEX BARRETO
Throughout his multi-decade journey in finance, Tony Labozzetta has overseen several institutional mergers and acquisitions, executed numerous succession plans, and weathered myriad economic crises, but March of 2020 would deliver an unwritten playbook to the 25-year banking veteran. Early in the month, Labozzetta and his longtime friend and colleague Chris Martin announced that SB One Bank (led by Labozzetta) would merge with the state’s oldest community financial institution, Provident Bank, marking a significant union that would propel Provident to the third largest bank headquartered in the Garden State. One week later, a global pandemic shut down the country, closing offices and eliminating in-person meetings for the foreseeable future.
“I had never seen anything like this in my career,” said Labozzetta, who was appointed president and CEO of Provident Bank on January 1, 2022. “Normally when mergers happen, you get into rooms, you start talking about where you’re going, and people get to meet face to face. All of sudden, we’re doing everything remotely. There were a lot of laptops and people Zooming in from home, but we were able to stay focused and close the deal.”
Though the situation was unprecedented, Labozzetta wasn’t a stranger to tumult. In his early career, he completed a two-year fellowship with federal regulators and gained firsthand insight into the complexities and rulemaking of banking in turbulent times during the Savings and Loan Crisis of the late 1980s. From there, he served as senior executive vice president and chief operating officer with Interchange Financial Services before relocating to TD Bank, where he spent several years as executive vice president before he was recruited to lead SB One.
“The bank was struggling at the time, so I went there to fix its problems and build it out,” explained Labozzetta of his tenure at SB One. “SB One wasn’t that large when I took over. I facilitated a couple of mergers, and we brought the total assets up to $2.2 billion and expanded across northern New Jersey and into New York. Chris and I have known each other for 25 years and thought bringing SB One and Provident together, which were two strong performing banks, would create an even bigger powerhouse.”
The 2020 merger was symbiotic for both institutions. SB One gave Provident Bank access to the New York market along with a robust insurance portfolio through SB One Insurance Agency. Today, Provident harbors the products and resources of a large commercial bank, offering personal banking services, business banking services such as commercial loans and treasury management, insurance, wealth management, and digital banking. The organization spans 1,200 employees across 96 branches and boasts nearly $14 billion in assets. But amid its continued growth, the bank is still small enough to be agile and provide clients with one-on-one services.
“We’re more diversified,” noted the CEO. “With our scale, we’re able to compete with larger banks in terms of products, but we’ve maintained that community bank feel. We still have the capability to be hands-on with our clients.”
Labozzetta’s primary ambition for the future of the institution is to position Provident as a high-performing commercial bank, and he described its growth potential as “promising,” citing $25 billion as an asset target. Plans include expanding the bank’s commercial and industrial lending program, ramping up the Small Business Administration group, and increasing the bank’s geographical footprint. His strategic roadmap for getting there, however, is far more emotive than dollars and cents.
“Any bank can put out a product and service,” he said. “The real differentiator comes from a culture of making people feel good.”
His plan is two-fold: increase employee engagement and elevate the customer experience to create “advocates for life.”
“Our plan is founded on the guiding principle that the employee and customer experience is essential to everything we do,” he explained. “We have a caring culture. We want our employees to tell everyone how extraordinary it is to work here and to create a customer experience where they want to bank with us, and to express how wonderful it is to be a part of Provident. It’s a lot of work to do that, but it’s a massive differentiator when you achieve it.”
Labozzetta explained that the customer experience follows the philosophy that each client should receive the same caliber of customer service, whether they are applying for a multi-million-dollar business loan or simply opening a checking account.
“We care about all of our customers, not just the big ones,” said Labozzetta. “It’s in our DNA. We want to become friends, then bank with our friends. One of my career’s biggest rewards is seeing customers achieve their financial goals and watching their business build. We also follow that philosophy on the employee side. I want each and every team member to feel valued and understand how they fit into the organization and be a part of its vision.”
Provident’s caring culture also extends beyond the walls of its administrative offices. The Provident Bank Foundation was established in 2003 to strengthen the communities it serves by providing grants in three key areas: community enrichment, education, and family services. Labozzetta also sits on the board of Oasis A Haven for Women and Children, a Paterson-based nonprofit particularly close to his heart.
“It’s such a great cause that helps local women and children,” said the father of two.
Two years have passed since the merger between SB One and Provident was initiated, and today the team is back in the office in a freshly renovated space in Iselin. Labozzetta said the energy and excitement over the team coming together to write the bank’s next chapter is palpable.
“Would I recommend initiating a large-scale merger in the middle of a global pandemic?” he said, laughing. “No, but it gives you a playbook in terms of doing things differently in times of crisis. We came out stronger in the end.”
111 Wood Avenue South, Iselin 800.448.7768 / provident.bank