At long last, Provident-Lakeland merger is official

Provident Financial Services announced Thursday that its merger with Lakeland Bancorp was completed, creating the premier super-community banking franchise in the region.

The merger, completed in accordance with the agreement from Sept. 26, 2022, will create a combined company with $24.5 billion of assets, $18.8 billion of loans, deposits of $18.6 billion and total stockholders’ equity of $2.3 billion.

The combined company will operate under the “Provident Financial Services Inc.” name — and will operate 140 branches across New Jersey and parts of New York and Pennsylvania.

Following the closing, Provident shareholders will own 58% and Lakeland shareholders will own 42% of the combined company.

The combined organization is strategically positioned to benefit from a diverse revenue and earnings stream; an expansive retail banking network; strong positions in several lines of business, including commercial real estate, residential mortgage origination, asset-based lending and equipment lease financing; along with a robust commercial banking platform. The combined company will also benefit from two fee-based business lines with its Beacon Trust wealth management subsidiary and Provident Protection Plus insurance subsidiary.

Anthony Labozzetta. (File photos)

Anthony Labozzetta, who will serve as CEO, said the merger creates a company with significant scale and capabilities with a strong capital base and low credit risk profile.

“In Lakeland, we found a like-minded partner that shares our vision, values and commitment to our employees, customers, shareholders and communities,” he said. “Our employees will benefit from greater opportunities and resources that a bank with nearly $25 billion in assets possesses, customers will benefit by having access to a wider array of products and services driven by enhanced technology, and our communities will benefit from our commitment to helping those in need, which dates back to 1839.

“More importantly, the entire organization benefits from having a dynamic and experienced executive leadership team selected from both companies. I am delighted to welcome Lakeland’s team members to Provident.”

Thomas Shara, Lakeland’s former CEO who will serve as executive vice chairman, also applauded the announcement.

“Our merger with Provident Bank presents new opportunities for expansion, innovation and excellence,” he said. “Our longstanding commitment to serving our customers and communities will remain unwavering as we build upon our combined strengths and focus on the future together as one united team.”

Thomas Shara.

In connection with the closing of the merger, Shara was one of five former directors of Lakeland who will serve on the Provident board, along with:

  • Brian Flynn, partner at PKF O’Connor Davies LLP;
  • Brian Gragnolati, CEO and president of Atlantic Health System;
  • James Hanson II, CEO and president of the Hampshire Cos.;
  • Robert McCracken, president of Smith-McCracken Funeral Home and Wood Funeral Home.

In conjunction with the closing of the merger, Terence Gallagher and Robert McNerney have retired from the boards of directors of Provident and Provident Bank. With these changes, Provident and Provident Bank’s boards of directors each will be comprised of 14 members.

“The company is privileged to add these five directors to its board,” Executive Chairman Christopher Martin said. “Each brings a unique set of skills and expertise to an already impressive and diverse board. I would also like to thank Terry Gallagher and Bob McNerney for their dedicated service to our company. I know I speak for the entire board when I say that their advice and business acumen have proved invaluable to our organization.”

In addition to Labozzetta and Shara, the company also formally named the other members of its executive leadership team:

  • Thomas Lyons, chief financial officer;
  • James Christy, chief risk officer;
  • Joseph Covell, general auditor;
  • Vito Giannola, chief banking officer;
  • George Lista, CEO, Provident Protection Plus;
  • Bennett MacDougall, general counsel;
  • Timothy Matteson, chief administrative officer;
  • Valerie Murray, chief wealth management officer;
  • James Nigro, chief credit officer;
  • Carolyn Powell, chief human resources officer;
  • John Rath, chief lending officer;
  • Ravi Vakacherla, chief digital and innovation officer.

“When the merger was first announced, I stated that our executive leadership team would be drawn from the combined company’s deep talent pool,” Labozzetta said. “The exceptional team we have assembled reflects our commitment to bring together a diverse group of leaders who are committed to delivering an exceptional employee and customer experience, and honoring our longstanding commitment to the communities we serve.”

Until the systems conversion, which is scheduled for early September, the Provident and Lakeland retail banking networks will continue to operate separately under their respective brands. Customers of both banks will not experience any immediate changes to their accounts, loan payments, use of debit cards, access to ATMs or access to account information, either online or through mobile-banking applications.