July 23, 2021
New Jersey-based OceanFirst Financial Corp. has hired TD Bank's former Eastern Massachusetts market president to launch a Boston office focused on commercial lending, with plans for extended operations down the road.
Daniel Griggs has joined OceanFirst (NASDAQ: OCFC) as president for the Greater Boston region. He had been at TD (NYSE: TD) for 12 years, and at Citizens Bank prior to that.
OceanFirst has approximately $11.5 billion in assets. It is growing aggressively: The company has made a whopping seven bank acquisitions in a six-year period. Most of its retail branches are in New Jersey, but it now has a New York City presence, loan offices in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and a loan officer in Washington DC.
In Boston, Griggs is looking to bring aboard up to five bankers in 2021, with potentially five or so more to follow in the next few years. Shortly before Griggs came aboard, OceanFirst hired another executive in Boston, former BMO Harris and US Bank banking executive David Heller. It also brought on Michael Marcucci, formally chief credit operations officer at Santander Bank's business banking unit. as a senior credit officer.
Griggs was attracted to the job by "the idea of being entrepreneurial and starting something from scratch," he said in an interview. "It was certainly a big jump for me, something I didn't take lightly."
Focus on "middle market"
OceanFirst will target middle-market clients, with a lending "sweet spot" of $10 million to $50 million, Griggs said, thought it can go above or below that range. He foresees focusing more initially on commercial real estate lending before getting more into commercial and industrial loans as well.
Boston is a bit more fragmented than OceanFirst's other new markets. A big four - Bank of America, Citizens Financial Group, Santander, and TD - hold a slight majority of deposits, but the area is home to out-of-town commercials lenders like Wells Fargo and competitive regional and community banks like Eastern Bank and Rockland Trust. Those two are now in OceanFirst's neighborhood, in terms of asset levels, but they'll both zoom past $20 billion once their mergers with Century Bank and East Boston Savings Bank, respectively, are complete.
OceanFirst should "complement and fit into that $10 billion-and-above quite nicely," Griggs said.
"It does start with the Boston bankers and all of our contacts, and then it's about execution," he said. "It's doing deals and showing we can execute on those deals, that's how we get into the market and grow. We already have a bunch in front of us."
Griggs emphasized that OceanFirst is focused on organic growth. Still, the acquisitive bank's entry into the local banking landscape will loom over a marketing the process of digesting several significant deals.
"Typically you don't buy a bank but they sell. If the market's there and we've earned our right, you never know what might happen," Griggs said of potential future M&A activity in the region.
In Philadelphia, OceanFirst has followed a different path: It opened a loan office in the city in 2019 and the next year announced plans to open a retail branch there.
Regardless of the path it takes in Boston, Griggs said there will be more to come beyond the operations he's setting up this year.
"OceanFirst has a great residential mortgage program. Hopefully down the road we'll get (that)," he said. "There are going to be additions to the commercial lending platform we bring in. There's going to be more to come."