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Bridgehampton National Bank President And CEO Kevin M. O’Connor: Community Banking In Action

Kevin M. O'Connor high fives the scouts at a recent BNB sponsored outing at a Long Island Ducks game. (Courtesy Photo: BNB)

Since 2008, Kevin M. O'Connor has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of Bridgehampton National Bank (NASDAQ, BDGE) and has helped bring the more than 100-year-old community banking institution into the future. With current assets of $3.8 billion, BNB has experienced steady growth both through acquisition and organically, expanding its reputation and its footprint across Long Island and into New York City.

A home grown success story, O'Connor was born and raised on Long Island, earned an Associate's Degree in accounting from Suffolk County Community College, and a Bachelor's Degree in accounting from Adelphi University. After college, he made his way to several local banks including the former North Fork Bank, before taking on the role of President and CEO of BNB.

His tenure has been one of both honors and active community involvement. O'Connor was named one of Long Island's top CEO's by Long Island Business News, reflecting the dramatic growth and strong performance of BNB over the course of his tenure. Along with BNB, he has also been honored for his proactive role in helping the non-profit community by organizations such as McGann Mercy High School, Eastern Long Island Hospital, Suffolk Community College and Boy Scouts Suffolk County Chapter. He is a past president and board member of Suffolk County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He was recently appointed to the American Red Cross on Long Island Board of Directors and is a former chair of the executive committee of the American Heart Association Heart of the Hamptons Gala. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the NYS Society of Certified Public Accountants. Additionally, he sits on the board of the New York State Bankers Association.

Under O'Connor's leadership, BNB has continued its mission to support the success of local business and their communities, while building a dedicated team of bankers and employees that number nearly 500. With a grass roots approach, bankers know their customers, are familiar with their business challenges and work in partnership to help them achieve their financial goals.

Today, when so many large money center banks are becoming more impersonal, BNB has maintained a high touch approach in a high tech environment. The BNB community banking model is relationship driven, with a focus on personal service, access to decision makers and engaged involvement in the community. The bank operates 40 branches across Long Island, including one in Manhattan and one in Queens, as well as lending offices in New York City and Riverhead.

Hamptons.com recently caught up with the always busy O'Connor to answer a few questions:

Given your extensive background in banking and finance, and the results of the recent presidential election, can you comment on what, if any, impact there may be on local residents and businesses?

KO'C: We are already seeing a direct impact, as interest rates have increased .5 percent since the election. This has increased borrowing costs for consumers and businesses.

What encouragement would you offer to a potential (or existing) customer who may be considering launching a new business, and just how hard is it for a local small business to secure a loan?

KO'C: The most important thing you can do is to be your own best salesperson and advocate. Create a detailed business plan that allows your banker to have a solid understanding of the business and its potential for success. Creating your own niche and expressing it is fundamental to success. If the business does not qualify for traditional bank products, which is often the case with a start-up, consider an SBA loan. BNB is a preferred SBA lender and has a number of programs to support small business.

What small businesses have you observed to be doing well and enjoying success on Long Island, and what sectors do you feel are the most challenged?

KO'C: There are successful businesses of all kinds on Long Island, from manufacturing to tech to services, we are a diverse business community. We recognize that seasonality is the most challenging issue for most businesses, especially on the East End where there are many successfully operated family owned businesses. These businesses serve not only local customers, but also the second homeowner. Ultimately, everything feeds off of the real estate market. This is our barometer, and when real estate is doing well, everyone does well.

What difficulties, if any, do you perceive potential first time home buyers may encounter in the New Year, and does BNB offer residential loans?

KO'C: The obvious issue is the increase to interest rates. However, we are still in a historically low rate environment and it is still a very good time to buy a home. The additional challenge on the East End, however, is the cost of real estate to the everyday working person. Housing prices are high. BNB does offer a residential mortgage product and we are proud to work with local residents who are purchasing their first home or a vacation property.

What is the overall outlook, from your perspective, for business on Long Island?

KO'C: The economy of Long Island is very stable and we enjoy low unemployment. We need to focus on keeping industries on Long Island that are attractive to the Island's educated young men and women allowing them to thrive here - make a good living and afford a home. We are seeing communities such as Riverhead and Patchogue embark on proactive revitalization programs to incorporate downtown living that is attractive to our younger working population.
Long Island has a history of entrepreneurship and business ownership. That is still true today and I think it is one of the strengths of our marketplace.

What does 2017 look like for BNB?

KO'C: BNB is on solid ground, having just raised an additional $50 million in capital allowing us to grow and support Long Island businesses and consumers. The increase in interest rates over time will help us to better manage our balance sheet. We are very proud of our work force, which currently is around 500, and we expect continued growth in terms of loans and deposits. We will continue to look for strong, enthusiastic qualified bankers to become part of the BNB team. And we are finding a real niche in New York City for community banking. While New York is a big city, it is like Long Island in its concentration of owner-run operations. We have a great proactive team of bankers working in New York and Queens. 2017 for us will be a continuation of the foundation we have put in place and our mission to foster business success.

For more information on BNB go to www.bridgenb.com.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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