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May 15, 2008
Mt. Washington/Roxbury Highland Merger
By Rick Winterson

The announced merger of the Mt. Washington and Roxbury Highland Banks will be formally completed on Friday, May 16.  The merger allows Mt. Washington to continue its growth as a major community bank.  When the banks’ existing systems are reconciled late in June, South Boston bank customers are welcome to use the Roxbury Highland Branch if they wish.

 

Early this year, we reported on the intended merger of the Roxbury Highland Bank of Jamaica Plain with South Boston’s Mt. Washington Bank (South Boston Online, January 10, page three).  The Boards of Directors of both banks had reached an agreement to merge under the Mt. Washington Bank Charter.  The newly merged entity is to be called “The Roxbury Highland Branch of Mt. Washington Bank”.

In addition to an agreement between the respective Boards, approval was also required from the regulatory authorities and each bank’s depositors.  These tasks have been completed; formal signing of the agreement – the “passing of papers” – takes place this Friday morning, May 16.

The merged banks will have combined assets of $525 million, and six branches:  East Broadway, West Broadway, and Andrew Square in South Boston; Adams Corner and Codman Square in Dorchester; and (now) the Roxbury Highland Branch at 515 Centre Street on the corner of Lochstead Street in Jamaica Plain.

The 515 Centre Street location is in the middle of a neighborhood filled with small businesses, according to Jim Morgan of Mt. Washington Bank, who has overall responsibility for the Roxbury Highland Branch.  He says, “We’re really excited – it’s a great spot and Jamaica Plain fits who we are as a bank.  We expect to really grow.”  Morgan has been with Mt. Washington for seven years, and has worked in banking since 1991.

Part of the Mt. Washington Bank’s mission is to become known as “Boston’s Community Bank”.  Last year, an article by Sam Allis, the Globe columnist, highlighted this effort, which involves a program of careful mergers and expansions while retaining the Bank’s traditional focus on retail, small business, and commercial banking efforts.  In this case, “retail banking” simply means banking “for you and me” as individual depositors.

And size does indeed make a difference.  Mt. Washington Bank can now offer Roxbury Highland’s customers in Jamaica Plain many new services, including online banking, bill paying, tele-banking, and business checking.  The Roxbury Highland Branch offers Mt. Washington the opportunity to expand its commercial banking services into Jamaica Plain.  It appears the merger is a classic win-win business situation. 

In an interview with Mt. Washington CEO Ed Merritt, he said, “We like to go to places where a good community presence is beneficial.  We have always been attracted to active, diverse communities like Jamaica Plain.”  The success of the Bank’s branches in Dorchester support that claim. 

Both Merritt and Morgan hope that all of the existing Roxbury Highland employees stay on (they have all been offered jobs).  “The Roxbury Highland people are competent and have great relationships with their customers,” in Morgan’s words.  In fact, Wayne Gove, who was the Roxbury Highland President, will soon join the Mt. Washington staff as the Bank’s Treasurer.

When the formalities are completed this Friday, the systems at each of the banks will be rationalized and reconciled.  The target date for this is Friday, June 20.  After that, South Boston customers are invited to stop in at the Roxbury Highland Branch to do their banking and meet the people there.  The interior of the Roxbury Highland Branch will be renovated over the summer months, followed by a public Opening Day ceremony.  In the meantime, the community activities currently supported by the Roxbury Highland Bank will continue unchanged, including Little League and local events of many kinds.

At the end of his interview, Merritt said, “It’s important to state that we won’t forget our roots in South Boston, but expansion is essential to our long-term viability.”

Incidentally, the name “Roxbury Highland” goes back a way.  Jamaica Plain was once a part of Roxbury/West Roxbury.  Its hilly parts were called “highlands”.  These highlands were actually glacial drumlins that served as Revolutionary War fortifications, as well as being the source of that unique building material known as “Roxbury puddingstone”.   

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Mt Washington Bank merger

The homey façade of the Roxbury Highland Bank at 515 Centre Street on the corner of Lochstead Street in Jamaica Plain.  The formal merger of Roxbury Highland with South Boston’s Mt. Washington Bank will occur on Friday, May 16.