The historic National Iron Bank is looking to add a branch in Litchfield

When Steven Cornell started in banking over three decades ago, there were over 100 banks headquartered in Connecticut.

Now, according to the Connecticut Department of Banking, there are 25 state-chartered banks based here and seven other nationally chartered financial institutions headquartered in Nutmeg State. Cornell is chairman and chief executive of the National Iron Bank, based in Salisbury, where he has served for 30 years, the last 10 as chairman and chief executive.

National Iron will celebrate its 175th anniversary by opening its new Litchfield branch in the Village Green Plaza. Bank officials filed a request with the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency earlier this month.


“We have a loan office there and it’s done pretty well with mortgages and home equity loans,” he said. “A lot of people tell us that if you had a branch, I would do all my banking here. Litchfield is like the other towns we serve: small rural communities where people always want to see bricks and mortar. »

But National Iron is adding a branch at a time when many Connecticut banks are losing branches. A total of 59 bank branches in Connecticut closed in 2021, according to a report by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Serving the local community takes many forms, Cornell said, from donating to local environmental groups to sponsoring the local Little League team.

The comment period for National Iron’s branch application request ends Aug. 14, according to the filing with the OCC, which is an independent office of the US Treasury.

National Iron has shareholders, according to Cornell, but “the stock is well owned.”

“We are a community bank, we remember who our customers are and reinvest in the local community,” he said.

When the pandemic hit and the federal government responded with the Paycheck Protection Program, National Iron provided more than $20 million in forgivable loans, according to Cornell.

“A lot of that went to family businesses, including many restaurants,” he said.

John Carusone, president of the Bank Analysis Center, a Hartford-based consulting firm, said National Iron is “a boutique bank that is focused on serving a small geographic area.”

“They’re sort of an anachronism and I don’t mean that in a bad way,” Carusone said. “They are well managed and many banks would be interested in acquiring them if their shares were not so tightly held.”

National Iron “has an enviable track record of profitability, capital strength, strong liquidity and an impeccable loan portfolio,” Carusone said.

“While small in overall size, it is nevertheless a powerful and effective powerhouse and competitor in very select geographic markets in Litchfield County,” he said of National Iron. “They are selective about their customers, and it shows in the quality of their balance sheet.

National Iron is unusual, according to Carusone “in that it is a subchapter S corporation, which means that the bank’s profits go directly to the bank’s handful of owners for tax purposes. “.

National Iron was founded in 1847, the same year Samuel Colt sold his first revolver to the US government. Its name comes from Salisbury’s historic role in smelting iron for American armaments.

“We are one of the oldest private banks in the country,” Cornell said.

While Colt was making a name for himself in Hartford, many residents of the Housatonic River Valley in northwest Connecticut worked in ore deposits or at one of the many steel mills in the area. Others were farmers.

To serve these businesses and others, National Iron opened on October 11, 1847 with assets of $193,725.

The Civil War began 14 years later and the National Banks Act was passed in 1864 to help fund it. National Iron became a federally chartered bank on July 5, 1865.

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